Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Nope. Can’t. Not right now. Thoughts as I read this week's blog challenge. 
Tell the story of one specific child, who walked into your life and changed everything.
In a week of midnight accidents, ambulances, trauma, hospitals, and decisions. In a week of support, sounding board, stress and release. This is something I could let go of. Brain too busy.  Heart too heavy.  
But then I sat, down time, at MacD’s, writing in longhand no less. Cathartic in itself.  Because of that idea of changing everything, and how tiny that can be. 
I also had chosen not to write because I couldn’t focus on “the one” without another “one” creeping in.  I couldn’t write about “the child”, but today, I can write about this child. 
Unknown to me, a little weed from my class saw me go into the same grocery/pharmacy store that she was in. While I was preoccupied with prescriptions and consults, messages of medical jargon, she bided her time, poking down aisles, peeking. When she saw me - a long run, a huge hug, and a made-for-me bracelet fashioned from her pocket of craft bits she always seems to have. Dangling as well, a green grocery bread tag. More hugs, giggles, I miss you’s, a chat with mom, and off she went. 
She left me able to breath. Able to think. Able to continue to do those grown-up things that need to get done. Because now  I look at my pink plastic loop with Betty Boop and a bread tag and I smile. 
No other job on the planet matches mine. Take my work home? Sure. Homesick for work? Yep. Because my work hugs me in a grocery store and changes everything. 

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Hey, It's Me!

Blog Challenge 3

Imagine that a parent of one of your students, stumbling around the internet, happened to land on your blog. Not your class blog with your cute photos of all your munchkins and their amazing brilliant work. Your personal teacher-reflection blog, the one where your intended audience is mostly other teachers. Pretend that parent managed to figure out exactly who you were, and that you were their child's teacher. What would you want that parent to know? What would you say to that parent? Write the letter that you would want that parent to read.

I guess I would say, Hello.  

I take what I do seriously. It is important. It matters.  People are sometimes surprised by the passion and intensity with which I approach the education of young children.  That can irritate me.  Parents appreciate that bit of crazy. Because it is not just about any child.  It is about their child. 

So if a parent found my blog? I would say read on. Read the old posts, read the new posts. The kinders are always so thrilled to see me out of the school.  In real life.  This is no different.  This is me. Thinking out loud.  It can get messy : )  

Friday, 15 July 2011

Blog Challenge 2 Training Pants

Tell us about the teacher preparation you attended. (You don't have to name the school if you don't want to.) Did you love it at the time? Did it prepare you adequately for teaching? How did you feel about it as you were in it? Does it look different now, looking back? Would you change it if you could? What did get out of it? What did you not get that you needed?

I am starting to love writing. Blogging is the first writing I have done.  I have always preferred story telling. But writing expects reflection, invites connection.  Tangents. So.  Thinking back to last week’s topic of being a “teacher”, I have wrestled with my career long reluctance to be called a teacher.  Now I see why.  I was never trained to be a teacher.  I went in blind and young. I went in with a suitcase of life experiences from a childhood of freedom, expectation, imagination, and self reliance, given to me by my parents, my family, and the farm. 

I was woefully unprepared to teach actual children.  My major was Shakespeare,  and my minor was Urban Geography.  Education focused courses were in my last year only.  The science guy taught us how to fold paper to easily cut out letters for bulletin boards. Our language lady was reported to be excellent, but that year she was writing a book. The class was run by us - groups of 4 students took on what felt like a random topic and presented it.  We had to take a media course. Nope - longer ago than that.  I was taught how to run a mimeo,  filmstrip projector, opaque projector, and the dreaded Film projector.  Gimme an “oh ya Baby” if you can still hear the thwoop thwoop of the film end,  or smell the burning of improperly fed film . . .  The math sessions were gold. I inhaled her way of thinking, her approach, her philosophy, but I only appreciated a tiny bit of her at the time, in the moment.  
Thank heaven for the student teaching program at this university. My first teacher was a Grade 4 sweetie who wore his heart on his sleeve, and was a Town Crier (in full costume) on his weekends. He was accessible, caring, firm, and adored by those kids. And me.  He read the BFG out loud, and read to himself during the daily school reading time, wagging a finger at anyone who interrupted something as important as reading. I was only in his room for half a day a week, half the year.  What a treat. He taught me more in a quick aside on the way to the gym than any university course ever had. 
And then I got to do my first 8 week practicum. Miss Swann. Grade One. It was her first year teaching.  She was told when she was hired that she would be a Cooperating Teacher.  That 16 weeks would be given over to Student Teachers.  She was brilliant. Quiet, serene, she looked into a child’s face, and they believed in her. Trusted in her. Like Santa and the Tooth Fairy.  Regardless of the swirl of responsibility and chaos that had to be a part of her life, she put the kids, then me, first.  My first on-my-own-evaluated-by-a-bigwig lesson started beautifully,  and then workers came and began removing the massive windows that filled one wall of the classroom. From the back of the room she at me like she looked at her children. She smiled, shrugged, and raised one eye brow (I am not making this up!) She leaned in and her whole body said “What will you do?”  with utter confidence that I would figure it out.  I have no memory of what I did. It is on some University form somewhere.  Doesn’t matter. Someone believed that I could, so I did. 
My final practicum had it’s own hard lessons. Grade 5. All the stereotypes - inner school,  19 boys, 5 girls, disengaged teacher who introduced me the first day and left the room.  I tend to “misremember” things.  I know I went into high gear. I know we did tonnes of hands on, build it, create it, model it stuff,  and I found myself in it.  I know that I heard Barbara Coloroso speak, and adopted her say it-mean it mannerism, combined with what I had learned from Miss Swann. I know I looked like a 12 year old and bought “teacher” clothes. I know my cooperating teacher liked what I did,  but could only stay for evaluations because he found noise distressing.  I know that I got reprimanded for not spending enough time in the staffroom : )  I know that I learned a lot.  

Teachers trained me, not the university. Good or bad. Teachers continue to train me.  It always comes down to the relationship an adult has with children.  Always. The trust that children, reluctantly or willingly, place into your hands.  Santa and the Tooth fairy.  And Miss Swann.  And me.  
And you. 

Friday, 8 July 2011

Blog Challenge

When Amy thunk this up,  I was excited!  Once a week writing?  Never done it. Reflection matters. Mostly just to your own self,  but it matters. So Blog Challenge Begins!

Tell us the story of the first group of children for whom you were "Teacher." Maybe it was at a school, but maybe it wasn't. Maybe it was a childcare centre, or a daycamp, or a swimming pool or a dance studio or a hockey rink.  Maybe it was in your own home, or their home. Who were they? Who were you? What did it FEEL like? Maybe it was amazing. Maybe it was terrible. Either way, there is a story there. Tell it.
I roll the children, classes, schools, situations thru my head and wonder,  have I ever been the “teacher” . . . really?  I am big on “moments.” Those times that define you and chart your course.  But I do not have a “teaching” moment.
Decades ago, I was a horrible babysitter.  Disengaged, routined, hohummity. One would not have pegged me as a teacher in training. 
During University summers, I ran the 5 to 12 yr old day camp in my home town - focused, committed, “fun” but again, disengaged.  Too busy, too committed to the next moment to watch kids enjoy that moment. 
My first teaching job was unique and wonderful, frightening and freeing.  A fly-in reserve in Manitoba.  I think of those kids so often.  I was given beaver feet and tail in a plastic bag my first day with the Grade 4’s. The tail was so heavy, solid, unlike anything I had ever seen.  Like teaching can be.  But unyielding,  as my teaching was.   Certainly,  I taught at children rather than to them and yet, they taught me to look at them - Craig, Amy, Wade, John. Years later I can name that entire class, see them in my mind’s eye. 
When I moved to the grade 2 class, meeting curriculum challenges was low on the list. Letting Terrence sleep in the big chair dressed in his favourite dressup reindeer costume after spending the night sleeping in a truck seemed more important than curriculum outcome 1.2.5.  I told him a story as his eyes drooped closed, and he taught me the power of dressups in a difficult world.
Moving thru settings, schools, wrestling with philosophies and pedagogy, the kids never change. 
Allison,  when asked to create a math problem about santa peered thru  translucent pattern blocks and said matter-of -fact “What if he doesn’t come? That’s a problem. ” She taught me to look deeper and think harder. 
Goeffry, who saw math as we dream kids could now.  Intuitive, reflective, connected, beyond me.  I said “show me what you know” and he taught me how to leap - eyes wide open - into the unknown. 
Jacob, a grade seven student who taught me that small moments add up and matter. 
These moments, these aha-slam-into-you moments, happen over and over, year after year.   Ryan and Natasha, Nicole. Reid.  Caleb and Mike - figuring it out for themselves.  The fierce look of pride and triumph that flashes across a child’s face.   None of them feel like teaching moments.  They feel like learning.  My learning.  So.  
Now what? Re-reading this at a reasonable hour after a decent nights sleep,  I realize that I once again took a tangent. No one asked me for that moment when I felt like a teacher - just that first experience. The queen of tangents would like to say it is all connected. That every class feels like a first class. I would like to believe that in all that learning, perhaps there was some teaching going on. But really, who am I 
kidding : ) I have had the privilege of being schooled by amazing children for many years,  and I hope no one comes calling for back pay!