Sunday, October 17, 2010

Feel like a trip to Africa?

I just have been reading my friend, Honey's blog, written as she volunteers in a school in Uganda. I think many of us, well at I at least, wonder what we will do when we retire. Honey has never really retired and has done many interesting things and this is the latest. This school is different than most African schools, aimed to be student centred and started by another Vancouverite.
I am behind-busy weekend. Big event for 18 students in my class was We Day on Friday. Most of my class belongs to our very active Me to We Club and our school has raised 3000 dollars towards building a school in India so that although not all club members were able to attend, quite a few were able to do so and even got front row seats.
I missed the main event but I went to a follow up that evening, thanks to my friend, Susan. We didn't really know what we were going to see but we ended up being able to spend an inspiring evening with We Day speakers Al Gore, Martin Sheehan, and Jesse Jackson as they were interviewed by Craig Kielburger for the program, Shameless Idealists, that will be broadcst on CTV. More later... Happy week!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Second month...

It's the second month of school. It's so nice to be there for a second year. So much easier. All ten of my sixth graders are with me for a second year now in Grade Seven and nine more of the students I taught French last year. And even most of the students I didn't teach I knew. Also now everyone knows me and what I am like. My former students are very good at explaining routines and expectations.
I find it hard to believe that in my first four years of teaching I changed schools each year. After my first year of teaching I quit and went to Europe arriving back in late September and managed to get a job within a week. I think it had something to do with my willingness to teach special education. I didn't seem to really find it difficult and although they were really challenging teaching positions and I really wasn't well prepared for what I was doing, each job taught me a lot and I had some wonderful colleagues. And the last six years I got to live in Montreal. Youth is definitely resilient. After that I had longer stays. My last job in Montreal was four years long and I only left to move to Vancouver thirty years ago where I have taught at five schools with a bit of subbing when I first moved here.

I think this year is probably the last but I honestly am having a really good time. In a strange twist of fate I spent my first 20 years of teaching, teaching special education or doing learning assistance from high school to primary, and then I was integrated. And I honestly fell in love with teaching Grade Six as tiring and challenging as it can be (the class size alone). I became a consultant because I think it was something I thought I should do but though it was a great experience I can't say I loved it. I wanted to go back to the classroom but it really wasn't easy. It was exhausting and I sure wasn't always feeling as if I was doing it as well as I should. It's so much easier telling others what they could do as opposed to doing it yourself.

Now I haven't hit report cards yet this term, but this year is good. I have a great class, not without it's challenges, but that is of course part of the fun. I never seem to have enough time to teach all that needs to get taught for one thing. And I miss Wednesday early dismissal and those lunch hours sure are short, but I am coping much better with having to make lunch every day!

I have a class that honestly loves to learn. They are enthusiastic. They are captivated by learning about rocks and Early Man. They work together well. Right now they are preparing projects on different aspects of life in St. John's, Newfoundland (I figure these West
Coast kids need a little Eastern Canadian knowledge.) They love our novel study of Charlie Wilcox set during the First World War in Newfoundland. They are excited about starting buddy reading where they work with grade one students. Most of them are involved with our Me to We Club. They are fun (even if a bit chatty). And technology though our class moodle actually is enhancing the learning experience. Plus now I am familiar with the Grade Seven curriculum (and I even have reports my former students feel well prepared for Grade Eight math). I don't have to try to teach grade six and seven curriculum though I my old grade sixes enjoyed being in that split.

In teaching like life there are definitely the good days and the bad days but you need to celebrate the good.

By the way I need to apologize to my followers (I still find it hard to believe this blog actually has a few followers) I tend to publish posts and then realize that my editing was imperfect. Then I go back and reedit! Just regard it all as practice in your proofreading skills!

The Help

First happy Canadian Thanksgiving! Four day weekend for those of us in the Vancouver School Board, not sure it makes up though for losing my early dismissal Wednesday afternoons. I miss them! Oh well! While I was in a yoga class Friday morning someone nicked my car backing into a parking space. Fortunately he left a note and actually still was there so my car will be repaired free of charge but a bit of a bad start to the holiday. To cheer myself up I went off to the local library and in the fast read section found a copy of The Help by Kathryn Stockett. The book had been recommended to me about six months ago by a friend so I was pleased to find it. My approach to libraries tends to be, "let's see what looks interesting on the shelf" rather than methodically putting in requests on line.
It was a perfect read, the kind of book you can't stop reading and because it is a holiday you actually can keep reading. I tend to be a late night, early morning reader.
It is set in the early 60's in Jackson, Mississippi. It is told from the point of view of three woman. Skeeter has just graduated from university and badly wants to go to New York City to work as a writer and editor while her mother thinks she should be finding a husband like her friends. The one job she finds is giving house cleaning advice in the local paper and she turns to her friend's maid, Abilene for assistance. In the meantime, Abilene's best friend, Minny, has just lost her job and can't get another due to a run in with one of Skeeter's friends. The book is told from all three women's points of view. With the assistance of these women, Skeeter ends up writing a book about what it is like being the Help. Although it seems doubtful to Abilene the times are changing. It's definitely a morality tale to some extent, and Skeeter's old friend, Hilly, has to be one of the nastiest women fiction has seen for awhile. Again the book tries to describe a situtation that seems almost indescribable to someone not brought up in this time and place. The book is soon to be made into a movie.