Day 22: Value

I value the time I have spent with children of all ages during my teaching career. Working with these children, I have grown as a teacher and as an individual person. I also value their parents, no matter what their background or experience.

I appreciate it when parents come to me at the end of the school year and thank me for what I have done for their children. Their words are a source of encouragement and give me the motivation to continue doing what I do. Everyone likes to be appreciated for their hard work, and I am no different. The cards at the end of the year warm my heart – esecially those with a heartfelt penned message.

The bonus is when the children value the time they have spent with me – even though they may learn to value it a few years later. It always brings a smile to my face when I see my former students greet me with a big grin.

photo (52)© Colline Kook-Chun, 2015

(This post was written for the FMF 31 day challenge hosted by Kate Motaung. Today’s prompt: value)

Missed a post? Click here to read all my memoirs for the series titled Blackboard Scribbles.

Day 21: Wave Goodbye

The end of the school year always arrives with mixed feelings. I feel thankful for the upcoming school break and always look forward to the rest. However, as I wave goodye to my students on the last day of school I do feel a little sadness.

During the school year I get to know each child as well as I can. I help them through a learning discovery for a year and encourage them to develop their skills. I get to understand their personalities and figure out a way in which to motivate them. When April comes around, we are all used to one another and have found a way in which to work together.

As I wave goodbye and wish my students well for their summer vacation, I wish that I could continue with them on their educational journey. But it is not to be. I reconcile myself that we will meet in the hallways.

photo (52)© Colline Kook-Chun, 2015

(This post was written for the FMF 31 day challenge hosted by Kate Motaung. Today’s prompt: wave)

Missed a post? Click here to read all my memoirs for the series titled Blackboard Scribbles.

Day 20: Temporary Posts

After working at Qhakaza for nine years, I had to leave the school. It was no longer receiving funding and had to close down. It was a sad day when I said good-bye. My experience had been a positive and fulfilling one – and was one I would not experience at another school. I left the halls of the community school and entered the buildings of the Gauteng Education Department.

My experience at the government schools were were all temporary because South African school boards at that time were not hiring permanent staff (in this way they saved on benefits). My experience at these schools were stifling and, because the high schools were so large, I did not interact with all the teachers working at the school.  I was expected to follow many rules and fulfil expectations that had not been asked of me before. In addition, I was told what material to teach by the Head of the English Department. This did not sit well with me. I was used to planning my own lessons and doing group work with the children.

I worked in the South African government schools for a total of 18 months. After working at a post in a primary school, I married, had children, then became a stay-at-home mom.

photo (52)© Colline Kook-Chun, 2015

(This post was written for the FMF 31 day challenge hosted by Kate Motaung. Today’s prompt: temporary)

Missed a post? Click here to read all my memoirs for the series titled Blackboard Scribbles.

Day 19: An Honor to Serve

I enjoy what I do. To me, my work is more than just a job: I find it to be a pleasure and an honour. I have been entrusted with the care of young children by both the parents and the school board and currently have 20 young minds in my class. Within my hands I have the power to build and develop these children’s persona and learning skills. I do not take my task lightly as I know how fragile a child’s self-esteem and confidence are: they can easily be destroyed with careless words and thoughtless actions.

I do not look to receive any outward manifestations for the work that I do. No badges, no ribbons, no trophies nor accolades. Seeing the children improve in their skills over the months and watching them develop their self-confidence is enough of a reward for me. As is knowing that I have done the best job that I can do.

photo (52)© Colline Kook-Chun, 2015

(This post was written for the FMF 31 day challenge hosted by Kate Motaung. Today’s prompt: honour)

Missed a post? Click here to read all my memoirs for the series titled Blackboard Scribbles.

Day 18: Worthwhile

“Is it worth it?”

When I worked at the street school in South Africa, I was often asked this question. The reason I worked there was not for the money: I was paid less than those working in both private and government schools. The resources I had were minimal: a piece of chalk, a blackboard, and access to one photocopying machine. My answer, however, was always the same.

“Yes.”

While working at Qhakaza, I felt that I was making a difference in the lives of the children I worked with. I could not change their socio-economic situation nor the environment they lived in. I could help them improve their English and, hopefully, help them get a school leaving certificate. While they were with me, I could help them expand their thoughts through debates as well as expose them to different literary genres. It was definitely worth it to see the smiles on their faces when they connected with Shakespeare or a poem that we explored. It was definitely worth it as I saw them grow in confidence during the many debates and class discussions that we had.

My experience at this school did not only benefit the children that I worked with. I also benefited from it. I blossomed as a teacher: I was allowed to take initiative in my programming and in what I wished to do with the students both during class time and after school. I thrived within the walls of the old factory building. When the school had to close down, I was sad to leave it as I knew that I would not have the freedom to grow as a teacher and individual in a more bureacratic environment.

photo (52)© Colline Kook-Chun, 2015

(This post was written for the FMF 31 day challenge hosted by Kate Motaung. Today’s prompt: worth)

Missed a post? Click here to read all my memoirs for the series titled Blackboard Scribbles.

Day 17: All We Have to Offer

Stepping through the classroom door at the beginning of the year, the children and I bring with us all that we have to offer. I bring my hopes, my aspirations, and my commitment to do the best that I can for the children in my care. The children bring with them their abilities, their desire to learn (or lack thereof), and their idiosyncracies.

During the year we give all what we can to one another. Whatever we can contribute may change during the year as trust is built and a relationship is formed amongst the people in the room. Our willingness to give does affect the learning experiences that each individual child has in the classroom. What I hope for is that by the time the year draws to a close, the children in my class are able to offer more of themselves towards their own learning.

photo (52)© Colline Kook-Chun, 2015

(This post was written for the FMF 31 day challenge hosted by Kate Motaung. Today’s prompt: offer)

Missed a post? Click here to read all my memoirs for the series titled Blackboard Scribbles.

Day 16: The Other Side

My teaching experience has come from two countries that are on the opposite side of the world. Which experience is better, you may ask? Is one an experience of “greener pastures”? Is one the better, the more enriching?

When I compare the differences of the schools I have taught at, I realise that both have given me enriching experiences. At the street school I taught at in South Africa, I learned much about the hardships that many people of the country experienced at that time. My students helped me become politically aware. My gratitude for my childhood grew and I became aware of the advantages I had had growing up. I thrived in an environment that allowed me to take initiative and which fed my desire to change the world.

My experience at a government school in Toronto is vastly different. Working for a Canadian school board, I have access to more resources than I have ever had: books, mentors, workshops for teachers. In addition, I currently work at a school in which the parents have the means to support me with what I wish to do in the classroom. The result is that I work at bringing an even more enriching experience to the children in my class.

On which side is the grass greener? Neither. I believe the experience in both countries has led me to become the teacher that I am today.

photo (52)© Colline Kook-Chun, 2015

(This post was written for the FMF 31 day challenge hosted by Kate Motaung. Today’s prompt: green)

Missed a post? Click here to read all my memoirs for the series titled Blackboard Scribbles.

Day 15: A Time to Laugh

When one works with children it is not seriousness all the time. Often the opportunity to laugh comes unexpectedly – especially once the children know me and have learned to trust me. The chance to laugh might occur when a child is doing a Show & Tell, being silly in a presentation, or showing their comical side in a drama presentation.

The children may feel comfortable playing the clown at odd moments as there are times when I make them laugh too: when I do read-alouds, I may use a funny voice (for example sing “opera” when reading the letter O in an alphabet book); when explaining dramatisation, I may exaggerate actions and expressions a little to explain concepts to the children. The roars of laughter are infectuous, of course, and they set the tone for many sessions on the carpet.

In the classroom there is a time to work, a time listen, a time to read, a time to write and, of course, a time to laugh.

photo (52)© Colline Kook-Chun, 2015

(This post was written for the FMF 31 day challenge hosted by Kate Motaung. Today’s prompt: laugh)

Missed a post? Click here to read all my memoirs for the series titled Blackboard Scribbles.

Day 14: Learn to Fly

In my classes I have often had children who struggle with school work for a variety of reasons. Sitting at a table with pencil/pen and paper often leads to frustration as they struggle to read and understand what is in front of them – and battle to write down a response to the question. Often these children have accepted that they “will not get it”, or that they will have their paper returned to them filled with red marks.

My aim with children who struggle is to help them enjoy the activity – and to believe that they can do it! Often this requires personal attention, focus on only a few writing errors, and daily encouragement. Day by day, week by week, month by month, I have seen a shift in their belief in themselves. I have seen dependent children begin to work independently; I have watched students begin to believe in what they can do; I have observed boys and girls slowly learning a skill they have struggled with.

What a thrill it is to see growing self confidence, a mastered skill, a desire to improve and continue learning. Oh, how I love teaching children to learn how to fly!

photo (52)© Colline Kook-Chun, 2015

(This post was written for the FMF 31 day challenge hosted by Kate Motaung. Today’s prompt: fly)

Missed a post? Click here to read all my memoirs for the series titled Blackboard Scribbles.

Day 13: Learning Patience

“Be patient!” Growing up I often heard these words come out of my mom’s mouth. I wanted to do things “now” and waited impatiently for events to happen. I would get frustrated when I could not master a skill that looked so easy when others did it. As an adult, I have had to learn patience with people; and wait for the right time to do things.

And yet in the classroom I find mysef going over things more than once. I think of different ways in which to explain a concept if it is not quickly understood. I seem to have a well of unending patience as I sit with a child who is learning to read. I am not sure where the patience comes from but it is there when I need it.

As I work with the children teaching them new skills, I realise that I am teaching them patience too. I am teaching them that they will learn the new skill in their own time. I am teaching them to embrace their frustration while helping them realise that what they are experiencing is a part of the learning process.

photo (52)© Colline Kook-Chun, 2015

(This post was written for the FMF 31 day challenge hosted by Kate Motaung. Today’s prompt: patience)

Missed a post? Click here to read all my memoirs for the series titled Blackboard Scribbles.