While I clean shelves and wipe down cupboards, readying things for those little bodies and minds, I ready my own mind. Clean out the cobwebs, so to speak. I need my head to be in the game, need my thoughts to be organized. Need my mind to be clear. For when all is said and done, it's not the classroom that houses the potential and possibility to make this year the best one ever for my incoming class: it's me.
Be kind to yourself -- don't hold yourself to ridiculous standards. Try not to stress about the little things that no one will remember anyway. Get more rest. Go for walks. Exercise. Recharge. And although it might be unreasonable to ask that you leave your work troubles at your desk, try not to become a slave to your work.
As a teacher, this time of the year is one where my mind drifts to 'what ifs' and 'how abouts'. Summer is the time of year when teachers are finally afforded the time in which to breathe, take stock and think about what is yet to come. So while I am not ready to cash in on summer yet, here are five wishes I have for the upcoming school year, set to start in a few short weeks.
When the shirtless jogger encountered Rob Ford at the Canada Day parade he took the opportunity to do something the media had been forbidden to do the day before: He asked the mayor questions. Like it or not, our elected leaders should expect to be asked hard questions -- and they should be ready to answer those questions, because in a democracy, we expect accountability. And we should be relieved that teachers like Mr. Killoran are demonstrating the courage it takes to stand up and hold politicians accountable.
Research in pedagogy shows that children learn much better in smaller classrooms. Tim Hudak, if elected, has promised to increase classroom sizes and the student-teacher ratios. The Ontario elections could very well be a vote on the learning outcomes for millions of school-going children. Tim Hudak, the leader of the Ontario's Progressive Conservatives, is campaigning to increase the classroom size by two to three students and the student-teacher ratio, in addition to numerous other proposed cuts to the Ontario's education system. This may require parents to learn more about learning before they vote on June 12.
"You'll never amount to anything. You'll never be much. You're a problem child." So he was told. And I had all but forgotten when she reminded me yet again, as we were talking just the other day, about the cruelty of words and how shattering they can be when ill-spoken. And he'll never forget those words.
The Toronto Star and other publications have touted the success of Ontario's Africentric school system. The problem is, one would expect higher test scores and improved behaviour from students who attend such a school, as the program will self-select parents who care more about their children and are engaged in their education. The fact is, as confirmed in countless studies, that the collapse of the black family within a segment of the black community is the primary reason so many of our children fall through the cracks of society, to be broken against the hard, unbending steel of racism, prejudice, failure and depression. No amount of "specialty schools" can change that.
As much as I am passionate about what I teach, I am more passionate about the people I teach. I am more interested that they are content and happy -- that they are not under undue duress or strain; what is the point of spouting out facts and figures, as important as they might be, if the students' heart is not in it? If their belly is empty?
I found your letter and it does not fall on deaf ears. In fact, it falls on desperate ears. I need you to tell me that I can explain an assignment in three different, well-organized mediums that address all types of learners and that it's okay that there will still be a student who raises his hand and asks, "So what are we supposed to do?"
After moving when I was 16, I was enrolled in a brand new school, close to our new home. My new teacher, Mr. T, was unforgettable. What I remember now as a teacher myself was his smile. His laughter. And I remember that he saw me. There are times in our service as teachers when we set aside the habitual act of doing for the sacred work of being.
I don't know if your face fell. I don't know if inside you crumbled into tiny little pieces. I don't know how many times you've heard those words before. I don't know if you even believed them. But I got the feeling that this might not have been the first time. And in the instant it took to process what just had happened, a million memories flashed through my mind.
Having been held hostage by the whims of the cutest sort of five-year-old juvenile delinquents and lived to tell the tale, I have given some thought to the unlimited number of things I was not taught in teacher training, so as to prepare me for these uncertain days in which I find myself now: as a real teacher.
Imagine your child's favourite teacher. This teacher is known to provide her students with an enriched classroom. Now imagine that this exemplary teacher is a person who subscribes to a religious faith for which she dresses in a particular fashion. Should she remove the outward signs of her faith so that she can keep teaching?