Moments.

It’s Saturday, and I don’t have anywhere that I need to be. I don’t have anything I need to do. I don’t have anything that I should be doing. I’ve already done a couple loads of laundry, and have put away the odds and sods around my place. I’m sitting here at eleven thirty in the morning on a Saturday, with my second cup of coffee wondering what to do. I’m not used to having free time, empty time – if you will. It’s an unusual feeling not having guilt about needing to do some work or homework. I usually have chapters among chapters of reading, along with papers and projects begging for my time, of which I procrastinate against with all my might. But today, I’m sitting here with a great array of things I could be doing swirling in my head, and not one ounce of motivation to do any of them. Instead, I’m enjoying my second cup of coffee in peace, with Ted curled at my side, as I sit in bed and type aimlessly away.

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I had a loss about three weeks ago that has reminded me to appreciate the moments because those moments are what you remember. Those moments are what you can hold onto forever. Just little laughs, or shared smiles. Those are the important things. We get so caught up in needing to have this or that to make ourselves look good. We spend such a grand amount of time dwelling on what others have that we want. We put so much value on the materialistic items in our lives – but why?

 

Has anyone looked at the world lately and seen how people in the developing world appear to be happier than us. Why is it that we are so unhappy? We have so much, yet we have so little. We are so obsessed with things. Things don’t make people happy – if they did we’d be jumping for joy right now. Instead we’re lonely, and unsatisfied. We need to value the people around us – our friends, family, coworkers, the lady at the checkout, the man who holds the door for us, and the stranger who smiles at us in the street.

 

We need to care about each other.

We need to listen to each other.

We need to help each other.

We need to forgive each other.

We need to smile with each other.

We need to laugh with each other.

 

It’s time we changed our focus to each other, instead of the piles of stuff we are filling our life with. That stuff isn’t helping anything – it’s just filling space that could be filled with guests enjoying time together instead – laughs, smiles, and memories.

 

I lost a twelve-year-old student. She suddenly left this world, much too soon, and grieving with my class of grade sixes and sevens has taught me more than any other experience I’ve gone through. Kids are resilient, but they need to feel safe and supported; they need understanding, listening ears, and to know we care. They need to know that the moments were important to us too. We need to appreciate each other and the time we have been granted. Leaving behind a car or brand new tv doesn’t mean nearly as much as an extensive movie of memories that can play on in those who you have loved forever.

 

Make sure you’re making every moment you have count – you never know when they will end…

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Where I’ve Been & Where I’m Headed…

I cannot imagine a more terrifying and exhilarating moment, than the one where I open my classroom door and invite in my very first class. The children filled with the anticipation of a new teacher – stomachs full of butterflies, the parents faces coated with excitement and worry for their children on this first day of school and I with a huge smile and a gut stirring together nervousness, fear, and my dream coming true. These parents are entrusting in me to teach, nurture, coach, discipline, excite, engage, and create a love of learning for these young ones, who are the most precious and important people in the world to them. When this moment comes, it will not be my first time teaching, or in a classroom, but it will be different from all my other experiences, and I want nothing more than to be in that moment – clammy hands, a sick stomach, and all. I believe I am on the path to being a great educator, who will continue to learn and expand my horizons along with my students each and everyday. While I have already had many different pedagogical experiences, which have given me a vast amount of knowledge, I still have many fears and much to learn about becoming a classroom teacher, but I know that I have multiple pedagogical strengths that will assist me in a successful journey to that first day in my classroom.

I am a strong believer that life experiences can make a person a better version of themselves. The more experiences one has endured, the broader one’s view, and in turn the more open to new ideas one is, which is of utmost importance for a teacher. Through my different pedagogical, and not directly pedagogical, experiences I have been in touch with a variety of countries, ethnicities, cultures, religions, socioeconomic statuses, models of schooling, subject areas, and extracurricular activities. I have also received education in a variety of ways, studying an array of subjects, at different levels, with different age majorities, in many different landscapes. I feel the opportunities that I have been granted and have taken advantage of, have allowed me to be more aware of the distinct differences that are present in education, especially in the multicultural mecca that is the lower mainland. Teachers need to take advantage of this mosaic environment. Every student is different, every instructor is different, every class is different, and every day is a new one. I have learned through my journey that an educator needs to be able to leave their baggage at the door; a good teacher can forgive, empathize, sympathize, and move forward with students – never holding onto a grudge, or preconceived impression. These differences are what make education such an amazing career field. Each day is different than the next – you never know where your day might lead you when children surround you.

Through my experience as an Educational Assistant I have gained a multitude of skills, one of the most important is listening, something I feel is often undervalued. As a teacher, it really is not about you; it is about the learner. Often students need someone to talk to, the circumstances are always different, but working in a school you become a trusted adult for a large amount of pupils. I have learned that I always need to have the time to listen to a student, no matter how insane my day might feel. While listening, I always make sure I try to make appropriate eye contact, nod, and allow my students the time they need to put their thoughts together. Depending on what the content they choose to share is, I aim to direct them to an appropriate person in the school whom has an expertise in the situation, that could be a counselor, childcare worker, or principal. I know from my experience as a student that when I have had teachers who I feel care about me as a person and as a student I have enjoyed education much more, and have been motivated to work harder. I feel those teachers were ‘good teachers’; they were student centred – always putting their students needs first. I want to take this way of thinking with me, through my teacher-education program and into my classroom. Students should always come first, that begins with simply listening to what they have to say.

I spent one year teaching KG-1 (pre-kindergarten) in the United Arab Emirates at an International School. I came back to Canada after that year abroad having learned more about educating and who I am, than I ever thought possible. I think the most important lesson I gained in that time overseas was the importance of a well thought out plan for each and every part of teaching. This includes, but is not limited to: curricula, units, lessons, breakdowns, assessments, evaluations, breaks, management, expectations, and recording. I was placed into a classroom of three year olds who had never been to school before, most of who spoke no English, and was expected to teach them. I was not given curricula or expectations of the educational outcomes, or resources to complete this unknown goal with. I struggled through, spending my nights creating resources from construction paper, computer printouts, markers, glue, and searching for activities and worksheets online. I talked to the other teachers, who were the best resource, and slowly pulled my classroom together. I was missing one vital piece of information though: at the end of the school year there would be a test (the same for all twelve KG-1 classes) to see how your students were performing. Coming from North America, and a limited amount of experience with this age group, I had no idea there would be a standard test for preschoolers! I had taught my students the sounds and the names of the alphabet, along with the numbers from one to ten and what they stood for, a variety of animals and the sounds they make, and my students learned through my speaking, so could speak some English! I thought I accomplished a fair bit. Did I teach about seeds growing? Did my students know all different types of vehicles? Simply, no, and their test results showed that. I learned that I always need a plan for all aspects of my classroom, gain all assessment policies up front, and a back up plan will never hurt.

I believe one of my biggest fears stems from my experience in the Far East; I do not want to be in such a situation again. I want to be prepared, know my curricula, know my units, know my lessons, know my assessments, and provide my students with the education they deserve. I never want students going into the next grade worried that they are not prepared somehow because of my lack of attention to the expectations for the grade. I want to be sure that all PLOs will be covered sufficiently. I feel anxious when I think about all of this since I know, having been in classrooms, it can be stressful trying to fit everything into the school year, especially while trying to create opportunities for exciting projects, and allowing time for special events and field trips. I do think this ‘behind the scenes’ part of teaching becomes easier with practice and familiarity of the curricula, which I will gain in time.

Another fear that I am confident will fade with experience is creating clear and concise rubrics for myself to be a fair and consistent marker for my learners. I feel with language arts specifically being so subjective, it can be hard to not pick on one issue that they student may have difficulty with and mark accordingly. I feel sitting with experienced teachers and drawing from them on the expectations they have for students, and how they translate that into a marking scheme will be an asset. The more time I spend engaging in marking writing assignments, the easier it will become. I feel this is the case for many of the other fears I have as well, but I am confident I will overcome them all in time – I just need to remember to allow myself the time to get in a rhythm, and not stress about it. I need to remind myself that it is normal and healthy to have fears about new endeavors.

I know that I have pedagogical strengths that will allow me to become a great teacher. I believe teaching is a combination of natural talent and putting science to work. I know that I have a natural presence with children, I am drawn to them and they respond to me – this comes to me naturally. My time emerged in different cultures has expanded my understanding of many different ‘normals’, which will no doubt be an asset in a multicultural classroom. This natural ability and exposure will assist me along the way. I do not doubt that I can put the science to work well, as long as I make sure I am continually organized and I allow time for myself to plan.

Along with connecting to students, I am skilled in being aware of multiple things going on around me; I can pick up on body language quite well. This will, most definitely, help me in the classroom, since teachers need to be extremely aware of all levels of socialization in their classrooms. I feel this being an ability that comes to me naturally, will make keeping aware of situations in my classroom easier since I will not need to think about it as much, and can focus on other teaching duties. This is not to say that I am overconfident; I know that I need to try with every aspect of managing a classroom, even if I feel something does come fairly easily to me.

I want to continue to learn and by being a teacher, I have the opportunity to learn from my students everyday. I want to share my passion for education and exploration with future generations. Children think in ways that adults are incapable of – their experiences are more limited so they can imagine, dream, and create in ways adults cannot. I want to be surrounded by that curiosity and excitement for life. I look forward to using the knowledge I have gained during my pedagogical experiences, facing and overcoming my fears, and allowing my strengths to grow in my journey as an educator. I want to be a teacher who inspires, and touches lives – if I can make a difference for one child, I will have succeeded, if I can make a difference for many, my dream will have come true.

bangalore…

I have many mixed feelings about this project in Bangalore. I nearly cried leaving the kids today – there were a few that I really would love to bring home with me to give a good life but I’m also happy to be away from the worst ‘teaching’ (more like dictatorship) I’ve ever seen…

This organization – Samarthanam Trust for the Disabled – really does have an amazing story. It was started in 1997 by two blind men and is now quite a large organization, and is connected to many international organizations. It’s mission is ‘To empower visually impaired, disabled and underprivledged people through developmental initiatives focusing on educational, social, economic, cultural and technological aspects.’ I unfortunately didn’t see this mission taking place..

Filed under horrendous teaching:

– The teachers hit the kids. They have sticks and use them – a lot. Students might get hit for talking, not sitting properly, making a mistake reading, writing something incorrectly, no reason at all or not looking the right way. Honestly it was for anything, everything and nothing. I often couldn’t figure out why a kid was getting hit – and I think I’m generally pretty on the ball. I was constantly cringing and the kids were constantly in tears.

– The teachers have no respect for the students. Not paying attention when a student is reading. Leaving the classroom when a student is reading. Having a conversation with another teacher while a student is reading. Having a conversation with another student is reading. Trying to talk to me while another student is reading. Letting the students talk, play with each other’s hair, draw and/or work on other work while a student is reading. Keep in mind this student is about grade three age – learning to read and is standing in front of the class.

– A teacher is absent – no one goes in the room all day to check on the kids, never mind give them something to do.

– Teachers would ask me to come and take their class so they could have some more socializing time – they were instructed by my coordinator to not leave the class with the volunteers alone as it’s not our job to be taking their classes. They were supposed to stay in the class to learn from us – teaching skills and English – clearly they didn’t get either.

– I would be teaching a lesson, talking to the students or marking what a student has done and the teacher would try to start talking to me about my clothes, hair, makeup etc. – interrupting my time with the kids.

– The blind, deaf, disabled and students with mental issues were left to wander aimlessly or sat in class doing nothing. There was NO effort to teach these students… Isn’t this a school for these kids? I often found myself thinking…

Now I could go on, but I won’t as I’m quite sure you are getting my point and are disgusted it, as am I. My frustration level would go up day by day, as more and more of this came to light for me.

Overall the kids at the school were happy, having fun and orderly in their routine. Their days would start at five – they would roll up their mat (they sleep on the floor that is later their classroom), shower, help the younger kids get sorted, finish up homework and play a bit. Breakfast would be at eight-thirty, after prayer that lasts fifteen minutes. The kids all get their plates, wash them and sit on the floor in four long lines (two of girls, two of boys) extending from ones end of the school to the other. Some of the ladies that cook, some of the teachers and some of the older boys start to serve the food. The kids are well fed, but there is no choice – you eat what goes on your plate – all of it and you get however much the person serving you feels like scooping. A little four year old would often have as much at a ten year old and would have no where to stuff all the rise on their plate.

School would start at nine-thirty and at twelve-thirty there would be lunch, with the same routine as breakfast – long lines stretched out. School would start again at one-fifteen and at three-thirty the kids would be done. Two hours of free time was alotted after school, though ‘free’ wouldn’t really be the way I’d describe it.

First thing most kids would do is change out of their uniform! The school would suddenly turn into a colourful array of traditional Indian clothes (generally tattered and not fitting properly) mixed with cheap western clothes and many kids in what you could tell were hand-me-downs-downs-downs-downs. Laundry would be next on many children’s list.

Most of these kids have one trunk (the size of a large carry-on suitcase) that holds all their possessions – a large wardrobe does not fit in that trunk. They handwash all their clothes – buckets, scrub brushes and a flurry of clothes being whipped against the ground is all you can see out back of the school, where the taps are at this time of day. Can you imagine your six year old scrubbing his own clothes and hanging them out every afternoon?

At five-thirty ‘reading’ starts. This means the kids have to be in the main area, with their backpack and schoolbooks. They sit in the same lines that they have breakfast in and do their homework. They aren’t allowed to move for two hours. Some of the younger kids often fall asleep on their bags, but they get smacked awake when someone checking on things walks by.

At eight-fifteen prayer happens again followed by dinner at eight-thirty. The kids eat and scurry off to lay their mats out for bed. They sleep in whatever they are wearing, many cuddle together and the older ones tuck in the younger ones.

As much as these kids get to be kids way longer than the kids at home – in terms of maturity and things, they are little adults – all of them, in the way they take care of themselves and each other. They were always trying to take care of me too, making sure I had eaten and had tea.

Most of them couldn’t speak English at all. English is part of their curriculum, but there were no teachers that could speak better than extremely broken English – so clearly it’s not happening. These kids are learning the local language of ‘Kannada’ – a language only spoken in and around Bangalore. A language that cannot take them anywhere. Most people in India that I’ve interacted with (so have reasonable jobs) speak decent to quite good English. These kids don’t have much of a chance.

Between all my disappointments with the system I had many wonderful time with the kids. I had my hair fixed – my messy bun is not acceptable. I was fought over when I brought my hot pink dollar store nail polish to share. I was dressed up in a saree for Independence Day. I was laughed at for wearing jeans with rips – ‘fashion’ they’d say and point, giggles erupting from all the girls and boys. I was praised when I came in Indian dress and instructed only one anklet is no good. They tried to teach me Kannada and make me dance with them and they made ma laugh a lot.

My little ones from Bangalore will not soon be forgotten.

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