Sunday, July 01, 2007

Conclusion to Year 2 of My Teaching Career...

Where have all the readers gone?
Long time passing.
Where have all the readers gone?
Long time ago.
Where have all the readers gone?
Facebook has picked them every one.
Will they ever return? Will they ever return?

All this to say, I had absolutely no response to the U of A poster of a guy who is a spitting image of a TBay'er. Maybe I should post it on Facebook, which seems to be the new "in" place to be online (I'll succumb eventually -- I always do: first Hotmail, then Yahoo Chat, then ICQ, then MSN, then Mindsay, then Blogspot... did I ever mention the time Kevin Kuchta posted my picture on Hot or Not?).

For those who remain with me at The Retreat, I concluded the school year teaching a Grade 2 class for the month of June. I was called to fill in for a maternity leave.

Before I even got to my class, the bug was being put in my ear about some of the challenges I would be presented with. The cautions I received weren't idle either: some of these kids could just as well have been in Grade 7 or 8 with some of the things they would say and do.

I had already come the first day with my suit coat and some ideas about classroom order and routines that I gleaned from watching "The Effective Teacher" video series by Harry Wong. The heads-up I was getting from everyone moved me to implement with boot-camp fashion what I had been learning, with the priority being the establishment and re-establishment of strict routines of students getting down to business immediately after entering the class. Fellow teachers were very helpful in receiving uncooperative students into their classes for time-outs. My modus operandi was strictly one of not seeking any kind of personal appeal or popularity, and keeping the students on task with work-related activities to keep them out of trouble.

It wasn't all boot-camp. One thing that Harry Wong pointed out was the lack of culture in our society, that by and large gets fostered around the family dinner table. When I noticed that the school had a daily nutritious snack program, the penny dropped for me. I began having the kids assemble on the carpet and engage them in conversation or read a story to them while they ate their snack -- kind of a makeshift "family time." Needless to say, alot of kids in our culture don't have family meal-time. I have had to send a few students to their desks for being disruptive, but by and large, I noticed a kind of calm that would settle on the kids during this time. Some kids even alarmed me by calling me "daddy", albeit with an air of some humour (I made it clear to the students that I am no replacement for their parents, yet this kind of response is pretty telling).

As providence would have it, the year ended successfully with many of the kids actually showering me with hand-made gifts and adulation.

Two children stick out in my mind: one was a girl who was defiantly making spitting noises almost right off the bat when I began the first day. I took her outside and made it very clear that her behaviour would not be tolerated. But when I told her "I want you to succeed in my class, but if you continue doing that, I will remove you to another class," the eight-year old's iron countenance just seemed to melt. While she was still a challenge from time to time, she right away sought to please me, constantly asking if she could be my helper (As it turned out, most of the students were very eager to be helpers -- I gladly obliged by outsourcing alot of my classroom maintenance tasks to them).

Another student was so blatantly defiant, that I immediately removed him to another class when the first day had barely begun. This boy turned out to have the most brilliant mind I've ever seen for that age. For the most part, this only enhanced the craft of his treachery, and the fact that he finished all his assignments with lightning speed put him on the fast track to having time and opportunity to create trouble. But like the aforementioned girl, there were windows of calm and positive contributions of his aptitude. What absolutely floored me was how he had taken to reading Robinson Crusoe. I was in the midst of finishing the book myself when I got the idea to put it in the boy's hands. He was soaking it up in a way that would be amazing for some adults (it's a book with language and themes that are above most contemporary minds). So that helped to occupy him somewhat.

As already alluded to, the staff was extremely kind, helpful and supportive: everyone from the custodian to the admin. assistants to the principal. They reminded me of the staff at the two schools I have already spent longer periods of time in: my practicum placement in Burnaby in 2005 and my first teaching assignment in North Vancouver in 2006. I've been in enough schools as a substitute to have a sense that this kind of collegial environment cannot be taken for granted. I don't know why God has blessed me so. But as with all blessings, much is expected of those who receive them (Luke 12:48). May I impart to others what I have been given.
(Click here for the source of the cartoon contained in this entry)


Erin said...

hi renny. i noticed on facebook :) that you said no one reads your blog anymore, so now i'm here reading:)

Carla said...

Our family tea time where we drink tea, eat goodies and read poetry and stories is still a highlight of the week. I can see why your students enjoyed their snack and story time. That's fabulous!

I remember reading a book called "Table Talk" by Mimi Wilson and Mary Beth Lagerborg about rediscovering the lost art of family meals and being floored. In my small little world growing up the idea that family meals were not normal was jarring to me. Now that my world has expanded I know that is a reality for many people, but it still makes me sad. There is nothing like breaking bread together to foster community--family or an extended group of friends.

Renny said...

Thanks ladies for dropping by. :)

Carla, you're very fortunate for family meals being a fixture growing up. While some might tend to attribute the lack of such to being "poor", the reality is that it is pervasive across the socioeconomic spectrum. I count myself as one who envies you in this regard.

marla said...

...just to let you know that I drop in here to read...

shroomAzoom said...

Hey Renny. I check your blog every day (well, every day I check blogs, which is most week days.) I can't think of who that guy looks like. You'll have to tell us.