Thursday, March 31, 2011

Commanding Officer

Today while I was driving home, and this happens a lot, my mind began to wander and flash through the days' events.   Today was an interesting day as I was involved in a J/I ( Junior/Intermediate) TLCP (Teaching Learning Critical Pathway) meeting at my school.  Interestingly enough however, after all the planning, hashing out scenarios, and questions, which was all very informative (and I learned a great deal from it), my greatest learning of the day happend after we returned to the classroom post meeting.

For TLCP meetings, as it goes, supply teacher coverage is provided for the teachers in the school  so they can attend the meeting.  This is really great as it facilitates the time needed for teacher preparation and it gets those teachers on the supply list into a school and working.  Two birds, one stone.

About half way through the afternoon at nutrition break, the teacher on duty came to the staff room to inform my teacher associate Steve (@superock66) and I (as well as the grade eight teacher) that the grade seven and eight students we wildly out of control and acting "inappropriately".  Ok.........I am thinking that is very strange. The grade seven students that I have been teaching are sweet, kind, caring, mature and lovely adolescents.  What is she talking about???  (Side note: we are at the TLCP meeting and just happened to be in the staff room at that moment = not in a position to go and deal with them and also remember above, supply teacher coverage. :-) )

Time lapse........meeting continues............end of day.......return to the classroom.  Just before the bell rings, we are standing outside the classroom door and low and behold, we can hear rowdy, loud, obnoxious grade sevens!!!!! (As well as the supply teacher yelling "shut up", "be quiet" in a clearly frustrated tone).  Needless to say of course, I was in total disbelief then Steve and I entered the classroom. The students, almost immediately turned totally silent and gave US their full attention.

So, after the long premise, here is my key learning (/revelation) for the day: My teacher associate, Steve, (@superock66) has created an aura in his classroom.  An aura that resonates respect (mutually), care, compassion and facilitates a whole lot of learning when HE is THERE.  He created it and had this classroom environment all established and flourishing before I got there.  Thankfully, the students because of my connection to Steve, act the same way for me.

This got me really thinking and wondering.  HOW has he achieved this phenomenal level of unspoken understanding between teacher and student.  How in the world I am going to create this in my own classroom?  And more importantly, in the beginning years of my career, how in the hell am I going to do it as a supply teacher???!!!!

I think this is the magical part of teaching.  The part they don't and can't teach you in a faculty of education classroom or that you can't read from a textbook.  This must be the kind of thing you learn through years of experience or perhaps are lucky enough to have a natural "way" with students.  I am not sure which one it is or if its something else. I do know though that tomorrow I will be having a really long conversation with Steve.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Getting My Feet Wet

On Friday, I finished my first week of teaching (for my second block) at a lovely rural school in east Hamilton.  I have to say that I feel lucky to have been placed there.  I think it is a good match for me and I really lucked out with my Teacher Associate @superock66, Steven DesRoches.  He has been nothing but supportive, helpful and understanding as well as great at providing pivotal and helpful feedback on my lessons.  I am learning so much from him.

So far in the class, I have been able to introduce a unit on poetry to the grade 7 students; an intro to New France in History; Fractions in Math (which, I don’t think I would be as successful at without Steve’s help); and a few formal/design elements in Visual Arts.

Throughout our poetry unit, the students are encouraged to explore our big idea in their writing:

How can learning about others around the world, help us to be more empathetic and grateful as Canadians?

So far, their poems have been pretty successful and I think the students are starting to get the idea that areas around the world experience things that they themselves wouldn’t even dream of.  I am hoping not to scare them, but to help them to be a little more altruistic and a little less narcissistic……not an easy feat for Grade 7’s.

The introduction of the “Big Idea” mentioned above is my first step in attempting to achieve some of the things I mentioned in my last blog post.

It’s a small step, but a step.

Never look down to test the ground before taking your next step; only he who keeps his eye fixed on the far horizon will find his right road.
~Dag Hammarskjold~

Needless to say, after March Break, we will be looking at the horrifying tragedy Japan is dealing with and thoughts on what can be done to help here in Canada.

The video below is an example of one of the poems the students wrote.......... A Two-Voice Poem