Monthly Archives: September 2012

Something I’m Sometimes Good At

Sometimes, I’m good at stuff.

The students don’t necessarily notice, so I need a forum in which to share my successes. Isn’t that what blogs are for?Bragging? Sharing ideas?

In Grade 9 English, we are learning about reading strategies. For each strategy, we teach the student what it is, model it (I do), go through an example together (we do), and then have the students practice it on their own (you do). We also talk about criteria for ‘simple’ and ‘higher level’ answers. For example, yesterday we (and I don’t mean the royal we, I mean myself and my teaching partner, Ms.S) took the students to the lunch room for the “we do” phase. The students asked questions about pictures posted around the room, then in partners classified the questions as ‘simple’ or ‘higher level’. We then asked the students to come up with criteria for what makes a question simple and what makes it higher level. It was so interesting to see that they could almost alway accurately identify which questions were simple and which were higher level, but they had a lot of difficulty understanding how they knew, and were totally confused when I asked them what the criteria for a simple question is.

This is where the thing I’m sometimes good at comes into play: explaining stuff. I asked the students if they knew the difference between boys clothes and girls clothes. They looked at me funny, but nodded their heads. I asked them if I gave them a bag full of clothes, how could they tell which were men’s and which were women’s? They listed all sorts of things: size, colour, pattern, brand, style, fit, amount of jewels on it, etc. How we recognize men’s clothing or women’s clothing is based on a criteria for each. Bam (do you think I can say that in the classroom, or does it only apply when cooking?).  Now we apply that to questioning – how do we recoginze a simple quesiton, and how do we recognize a higher level question? What’s the criteria for each? Considering they came up with some answers, I’d say my explanation was a success.

I also can’t wait for the “Digital Citizenship” unit coming up in Grade 9, mostly because I’m going to compare them using their smart phones just to text to using your car just to listen to the radio. Bam.

Back in the Saddle

Welcome back to another school year!

The year kicks off with the usual jitters – will they like me? Will I like them? Will I say or do something awkward that will mar me for the rest of the school year, and result in an embarrassing nickname that I won’t be able to shake? The back to school outfit is scrutinized – it needs to be professional, stylish, comfortable, and resistant to any possible mishaps that would result in the aforementioned mar and nickname. Shoes are critical – the first few days of school are spent giving many tours, finding classrooms for new students, opening stubborn lockers, and going to and from and to and from the office and photocopy room. By the end of day one, my feet were blistered, I had talked for over an hour giving four consecutive 20 minute “welcome to class and here’s what it’s about” speeches, and been told by the photocopier that I had “insufficient funds” and so my job was deleted. And I was in love.

For some students, it takes more than one day. But for some, it takes only a few hours of their smiling little (or sometimes pudgy) faces and sparkling personality for me to feel that familiar twang that I know will result in unabashed love, of the students and of my job. My throbbing feet were somehow eased when a student thanked me for helping him find his classroom. My scratchy voice didn’t matter so much when I overheard a student say of me, “You have Evenson for English? Oh, she’s good.” My latent desire to push the photocopiers off a bridge was momentarily forgotten as I witnessed a Grade 10 boy extend his hand and offer to show a Grade 9 boy where the woodshop was.

I’m well aware that this is the honeymoon phase. But it’s a necessary phase. I will look back on this week in the cold of November – when lessons I was excited for have flopped, when students I like have clearly established it is not mutual, when hearing “you never taught us that” results in tiny rage blackouts – and I will find the desire to teach another day. I will rework my lesson plans, keep smiling at the students who roll their eyes at me, and explain once again what ‘infer’ means. But I may still push the photocopier off a bridge.