May 15, 2013 § 4 Comments
I can’t believe it’s already the middle of May! Less than two more weeks and I will have finished (and survived) my first year of teaching – I am so stoked.
I’ve been scribbling daily reflections in my notebook of things that have gone well, things that I could improve on, and things that have just gone horrifically wrong. Out of all these experiences, I’ve learned some very important lessons on how to survive and be effective as a first year teacher.
1. Make phone-calls home. I was nervous and anxious about calling the parents of my students at first, but after I saw what a huge support they were and how much students’ behaviours improved the day after, this has become an enormous help. When it comes down to it, we’re all on the same team!
2. Use positive reinforcement. Like any beginning teacher, I tried just about anything under the sun to find ways to motivate my students and to get them to listen – and for me, point systems (both as a whole class or team effort) have worked wonders. I have a chart in my room of how students can earn points so they know they need to be quiet when entering the class, on-task when working, and ready to listen. Positive reinforcement focuses on the good.
3. Freedom to sit with one condition. I actually borrowed this idea from two other teachers. I give students the freedom to sit with their friends, but I also tell them that with this freedom comes the responsibility to not distract each other and to listen when I am talking. If they are unable to do this, I tell them that I will move them. I asked if they thought this was fair and it was a unanimous “yes” from both elementary and junior high classes. When I do move a student, everyone else automatically becomes extra focused because they don’t want to be next. This is great because it’s their choice and their responsibility.
4. Mean what you say. This one I am always trying to work on. The key for me is to think very carefully before I say something. For example, if I say: “This project is due on Tuesday, no exceptions!” But I forget that students lose one class to work because there is an assembly on Monday. So what do I do? I can keep it on Tuesday, but students will be stressed out because they’ve had little time to work. Or I can move the due date – but then my words lose credibility. There is more power in my words when I always carry through what I say.
5. Collaborate with colleagues. What a life-saver! I am so thankful that I work with such a wonderful and open team of colleagues who are always more than willing to share with me their ideas. I in turn have done the same – even if it’s to help another colleague brainstorm ideas on a lesson or activity. This is something I strongly believe in – sharing and collaborating. It lessons your workload and I find it creates a warmer and more exciting atmosphere at school.
6. Use a non verbal signal for call to attention. It took me half the school year to realize my verbal calls for attention were a huge contributing factor to me constantly getting sore throats. Finally, I switched over to using a desk bell. It’s quick, it’s clear, and it gets the students’ attention. I began conditioning students to react appropriately by adding points to their team for whichever team is the quietest and quickest to respond. This has completely removed the stress I had at the start of the year and I am a much happier teacher because of it.
I am sure there will be more important lessons that I will be sharing with you in the near future. This is why I love this profession – there’s always more to learn and there’s always room to improve. I’m so excited that I’ve begun to find my niche and polish my teaching philosophy a little bit more each day.
May 13, 2013 § Leave a Comment
I am thrilled that the weather has at last decided to warm up after what seemed like 7 months of winter up here in the north! I was finally able to do summery things on the weekend and it was so wonderful to do so after being cooped up indoors for so long.
Friday night was spent at a friend’s backyard where a bunch of us got together for a barbecue and a couple of beers around the fire pit. We got our firewood by scouring the “furniture dump” in the Sports Palace parking lot. It was a messy job, but in the end we gathered 2-3 hours worth of wood burning. It was a clear night so we could see all the stars perfectly. Combine that with roasted marshmallows, good music and company – I’d say it was my kind of idyllic evening.
On Saturday, I spent most of the day out on the patio reading “Wild” by Cheryl Strayed. Reading outside is one of my favourite summer things to do. Oh it’s the best! Especially with iced coffee. Gladys’ son and daughter-in-law came up to visit on the weekend and they stayed with us along with their adorable shorkie pup. The last time they had come up was Christmas. I had really missed them – they are such laid back and friendly people. After a full day of people on Friday, I really just needed Saturday to be quiet and relaxing – and it certainly was.
Sunday came ’round much too soon, but after church service, Gail and Chuck invited me over for their family’s Mother’s Day barbecue. They have a beautifully secluded backyard of age-old trees and a ravine – it really didn’t feel like we were in town at all. It was a bit gusty that day, but after the wind died down, everyone sat in the patio to enjoy a delicious lunch of steak, potato salad, greek salad, and two gorgeous cakes that Brontë had baked. One was a rich chocolate cake with caramel sauce and the other was a layered white cake with whipped cream, raspberry jam, crushed pistachios and blackberries.
Friends, bonfires, reading and cake time outside – this is just the beginning of summer!
May 7, 2013 § Leave a Comment
I love how long the days are up north – it is past nine in the evening and the sun is still golden and shining. I am sitting at the kitchen table with tea and a beautiful bouquet of roses that a neighbour had dropped off and I am on my last leg of planning for the day.
My theme song for this evening is Madeleine Peyroux’s “J’ai Deux Amours”. What is yours?
May 6, 2013 § Leave a Comment
I dabbled in watercolour again on the weekend. Inspiration: my sister.
I love these verses – I can almost feel David’s wild joy.
May 1, 2013 § Leave a Comment
Today I gave my junior high students this writing assignment:
Select a memory from your own life, but tweak it so that it becomes fiction. You can make it sci-fi, add new characters, change the setting, etc. but it has to be based on a true life event.
Here is a story that had me laughing out loud:
*Note: I have left the grammar/spelling untouched and all names are made-up.
Once on a very foggy day a man named Ray decided to go fishing with his friend Gavin. So he called him and Gavin said he would so ray picked him up.
They drove out to the nearest lake which was Lake Superior. When they got their Ray took the boat for a test run while Gavin got the fishing rods ready. When Ray got back Gavin was ready so they got on the boat and went out.
Ray remembered that time Gavin pulled a prank on him to he was going to get revenge. So when Gavin was off guard he pushed him off. Then Gavin yelled he couldn’t swim and Ray jumped in and got Gavin on the boat.
The Ray said that he saw sharks to startle Gavin. Gavin just hopped out to help Ray but when Ray got on the boat he said “I lied there no sharks here”. But Ray was thinking of a different lake and Gavin was attacked by a shark and lost one of his legs.
So as soon as Ray got Gavin out he took him to shore and hopped in the truck and left everything behind. When they got to the hospital Ray felt really bad and he never got over that day he and Gavin were messing around.
Sharks are serious business. Especially when they live in lakes.
April 27, 2013 § Leave a Comment
As you may or may not know, since the beginning of the school year I’ve been living in house with a lovely 92 year old lady. She is one of the sweetest people I have ever known and she has a beautiful spirit. It was a miracle how we met, and you can read all about that here. The week I moved in, she shared with me her testimony of how she came to know Jesus.
I discovered recently that she had typed out her testimony many years ago. It wasn’t until this morning that I took the time to read it. It is printed on yellowed paper with a typewriter and is about three pages long. I asked her if I could share her story with you – she said yes:
In everything give thanks for this is the will of God, in Christ Jesus concerning you. Quench not the spirit. Despise not prophesying. Prove all things. Hold fast that which is good. 1 Thessalonians 5:22-28.
As a child I remember many times mostly Sunday evenings when my Mother gathered all ten of us around her knees. She sat in the rocking chair and played the mouth organ while we sang hymns. We only had one hymn book and one Bible in our house. After singing Mother would start reading the Bible to us, but after so much fooling around and not listening she finally closed the Bible and closed her eyes and just sat there a long time. I know now she must have been praying as we quickly ran out to play. I know now that Mother was a born again Christian and Praise God! I’l see her again someday. She tried to get us to church whenever possible but Dad used to say that the horses needed a rest on Sundays after working in the field all week so we didn’t get to church very often. Of course it was a long way with horse and wagon.
When I was ten or eleven my Dad died of a heart attack so Mother really had it hard then. I grew up and did many things I shouldn’t have done but Mother’s words were always with me. “I’ve taught you right from wrong. I can’t go with you, you have to make it alone.”
I got married on my nineteenth birthday to the one I thought to be the best in the world. And do you know after thirty-four years of married life, I still think I was right. When Edwin was two and Gail was four months, George enlisted and was finally sent to England. Three long years went by and in that time I did a lot of thinking. I remember coming home from church and a verse that says “Come unto me all ye that are burdened and are heavy laden and I will give you rest” kept going through my mind and I did need it so much that time but I didn’t have any idea how to get it. I remember putting my face down on the Bible and crying until I could cry no more.
There was a dear old, Christian man by the name of Mr. Brown or Grampa Brown, as everyone knew him, who ran the post office and if I missed church, he always told me how he missed me and the children and how I needed to keep on coming to church. If there was no letter from George there would be a little note with a few encouraging words on them. George did come home after three years in the service and what a welcome he received. Edwin took to him right away but Gail kept a barrier between her and her Dad until she grew up. How my heart aches for other like children and there must be many. I tried to get our children to Sunday School like my Mother had as I felt it must be important. It seems funny now but George would drop us off at the church and go to the ball game. Then he would pick us up after the game as he said and thought church was for the old and ladies and children.
Then a Christian school teacher came to our school and he had prayer two times a day. My, we thought he was sure a queer one. When camp time came around he was busy gathering up children in his old green coupe. I think he must have taken 25-30 the first year. When Gail came home from camp she was a different girl. She kept asking a very embarrassing question, “Are you and Dad saved.” Not ever hearing that we needed to be we didn’t know what to do so we started going to church more often and started reading a Bible story book to the children trying to find what it was all about. Then one day we heard that this young teacher was even visiting the homes and talking about Jesus, and I wondered what will I do if he comes to my door as some said, “Keep him out”. Well he did come and asked me point blank if I was a Christian. I said, “No” but I was trying to do this and that. Then he showed me what I had to do. He had prayer with me and started outside.
Meanwhile George was working in a field across the road from the house. The tractor had been giving him trouble all afternoon and now it couldn’t go on so he thought maybe he could go into the yard and get what he needed before the teacher and other gentleman came out of the house. God’s timing is so right. It was at that very time that they came out the door so of course they went over to speak to Dad. It wasn’t long until George knelt by the tractor and gave himself to Jesus. At the same time in the house a terrible heaviness came over me so I sat crying and saying over and over John 3:16.
Gail had taught this verse to me since she came from camp. And then it was as though a light flashed in my mind and I remember saying “I guess that means me too,” and then a great peace and joy which I can’t describe came over me. Then Dad walked in and Gail said I know why Daddy is smiling, he’s been saved. I did have doubts for a few years after, but Jesus so sweetly led me back to His Word to reassure me time and again. For a long time, Jesus was only a spirit to me, but now He is much more for He is a real person and someday I’m going to see Him. As I look back on my life, I see how as I have grown spiritually in Him, He has planted my feet on higher ground where cares and things of this world don’t get me down anymore. Praise God! What a Saviour!
When I think of her character, the words “gentle and quiet spirit” come to mind. God makes all things beautiful. He makes beautiful things and beautiful people. I am so grateful that I am a witness to that.
April 15, 2013 § Leave a Comment
After talking with a couple teachers today, I felt really disheartened with the apathetic attitude and defiance of many students at school. I was even more saddened that this behaviour is beginning to spread to affect students that earlier in the year were very excited about learning. For some of my students, their attendance is faltering and their grades are below passing. For others, they are beginning to hang out with the wrong crowd and their new found attitude reflects this.
I decided to write out my thoughts in a letter addressed to my students (particularly junior high). I don’t know if I’m going to show them this letter or reiterate it in speech, but these are my words for those that I am most concerned for.
You really need to ask yourselves: “Where do I want my life to go? Who do I want to be? Who or what will help me get there? Who or what will prevent me from reaching my goal?”
Then, you need to make this decision: “Will I allow myself to fall behind? Or will I strive and fight for what I want to achieve?”
Ask yourself – “What is important to me? Are my dreams so worthless that they deserve to be ignored and forgotten? Am I going to allow myself be led astray?”
What do you want your life to be like? You have one life. You are capable of doing big and beautiful things. How are you going to make the most of it?
Once you’ve decided what you want, find out how to get there. What are the steps you need to take to get yourself to where you want to be? It won’t be easy, but I promise you it will be worth it.
How badly do you want it? How determined are you to fight for it and to guard it?