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Thursday, October 27, 2011

What I have learned part 9: Teaching is more than standing in front of a class... be a school teacher

Classroom Teacher vsSchool Teacher

A classroom teacher teaches his or her class...that's it. They might do amazing things in that class but they don't involve themselves in the greater community.
A school teacher does everything a classroom teacher does and makes his or her school an amazing place to attend everyday. These are the people that volunteer hours upon hours of their own time. They measure grad caps and gowns, chaperone dances, organize school trips, coach multiple sport teams, go to games and events, start clubs, dress up like an elf for the community Christmas dinner, etc... the list is endless. These are the teachers that make a school go from good to great. They pillars of the community, always relied upon to do that one extra thing. People like Carlo Muro, Bryan Gee, Jen Nelson and so many others, who walk our hallways and stop and talk to every kid they know. They ask about the basketball game on the weekend and make sure the student is getting help for their maths even though they are PE teachers. They are the teachers you remember, the ones who changed your life.

Yesterday, the CBC did a TV spot which included a picture of me in front of a class with a list of things teacher's aren't doing during this strike action (Click here for the article/video). The piece went on to talk about how the employer wants a 15% clawback on wages for work not done. To tell the truth I thought it was rather funny... because they never tell the other side of the story My question is this... despite knowing that the threat of a clawback from the employer is rhetoric, isn't it kind of dangerous putting a monetary amount what teachers do other than teaching? How does that inspire the new teachers or even the more "experienced" (don't say old) to become School Teachers?

Beyond the mess we are in right now, my advice is this: Get involved in your school. Becoming part of a staff and a building will reward you in so many different ways.  you will get everything you put in 1000 times back.

And CBC... why couldn't you use this picture?

Friday, October 7, 2011

Dear Uncle Harry... and to all the others battling cancer

This post is personal and its about connections. Sometimes in this job, things connect in such an such profound way that you really need to share them. Let me explain:
My Uncle Harry

Over the past month my grade 9 Digital Immersion Class has been studying cellular reproduction, mutations of DNA and inevitably cancer. As we learned about all the science behind the disease, stories about loved ones with cancer started to be shared in our little class.

September is also the month that we celebrate the life of Terry Fox and the lives of all those that we love who have been stricken with this disease. It is an especially profound time for those of us who live in Terry's home town of Port Coquitlam.

So, as a class we decided to honour Terry, our grandparents, dads, sisters, cousins and in my case, my Uncle Harry. We ran the run and raised over $5000 as a school for Cancer research. During this process we decided as a class to document both Terry's life and the lives of their loved ones.

Below are some of the videos, I hope you enjoy and are inspired by the stories told by these 13 and 14 year olds. As a personal note, please donate to Cancer research and our prayers are with all of you (keep fighting Uncle Harry!).

Bryan and I running for the cure

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

What I have learned Part 8: If you don't love what you are doing.... do something else

I love this little clip. Every time I watch it I go back and examined my own teaching practices. Sometimes I catch myself falling into the some of these patterns. It's easy to stand in front of a class and yap, hand out worksheets and "teach the same thing 25 times". It reminds me of Dr. Seuss' "Oh, The Places You'll Go". Especially the following quote:
You won’t lag behind, because you’ll have the speed. You’ll pass the whole gang and you’ll soon take the lead. Wherever you fly, you’ll be best of the best. Wherever you go, you will top all the rest.
Except when you don’t.
Because, sometimes, you won’t.
I’m sorry to say so but, sadly, it’s true that Bang-ups and Hang-ups can happen to you.
You can get all hung up in a prickle-ly perch. And your gang will fly on. You’ll be left in a Lurch.
You’ll come down from the Lurch with an unpleasant bump. And the chances are, then, that you’ll be in a Slump.
And when you’re in a Slump, you’re not in for much fun. Un-slumping yourself is not easily done.
You will come to a place where the streets are not marked. Some windows are lighted. But mostly they’re darked. A place you could sprain both your elbow and chin! Do you dare to stay out? Do you dare to go in? How much can you lose? How much can you win?
And if you go in, should you turn left or right…or right-and-three-quarters? Or, maybe, not quite? Or go around back and sneak in from behind? Simple it’s not, I’m afraid you will find, for a mind-maker-upper to make up his mind.
You can get so confused that you’ll start in to race down long wiggled roads at a break-necking pace and grind on for miles across weirdish wild space, headed, I fear, toward a most useless place.
The Waiting Place…for people just waiting.
Waiting for a train to go or a bus to come, or a plane to go or the mail to come, or the rain to go or the phone to ring, or the snow to snow or waiting around for a Yes or No or waiting for their hair to grow. Everyone is just waiting.
Waiting for the fish to bite or waiting for wind to fly a kite or waiting around for Friday night or waiting, perhaps, for their Uncle Jake or a pot to boil, or a Better Break or a string of pearls, or a pair of pants or a wig with curls, or Another Chance. Everyone is just waiting.
No! That’s not for you!
Somehow you’ll escape all that waiting and staying. You’ll find the bright places where Boom Bands are playing. With banner flip-flapping, once more you’ll ride high! Ready for anything under the sky. Ready because you’re that kind of a guy!
Like the poem says,  I'm just not content with doing things that don't excite me any more. I want to try new things. This is one of the reasons I started the Digital Immersion Program at Riverside. I didn't want to be a "teacher" in the traditional sense. I wanted to be the "lead learner" among a group of inquisitive people. It's like Dufour's community of learners but with students as the primary inquiry group.

During this process, admin, parents, students and other teachers were are all very supportive and eager to join in. I think it helped revitalize some of them as well. The support is there... but you need to try/ask/beg to do what you love to do.

Passion, perseverance and planning will go a long way :)