In order to learn, we need to listen. Each day I have in front of me a few children who are learning to listen. Learning to listen on the carpet during a lesson. Learning to listen to instructions. Learning to listen to their friends and classmates during worktime and playtime. Take peek into classrooms at the beginning of the school year and you will see teachers, no matter what grade, emphasize the importance of listening. The long summer holidays have encouraged the children not only to forget their Math and French, but also the skill of listening.
But teachers persevere. And children remember – or learn. After a few months, listening attitudes have improved in the classroom and instructions are followed more carefully. My colleagues and I use the phrase “Il n’ecoute pas!” less often and are content instead when classes run with less interruptions.
Yes, listening is important to learn. And I look forward to the day when all of the members of my new class realise this.
It is never easy to start something new – to flounder in the unknown and the uncertainty of the future. Obstacles are imagined and magnified in the mind. The end goal seems far and unattainable. There are moments when you wish to give up, to change the path you have chosen (or has been chosen for you). And yet you plod on, taking one day at a time.
I reflect on September last year and the beginning of the new school year. Teaching a combined class of grade 1s and 2s was a challenge I had not yet experienced. The grade 2 curriculum was unknown to me; and I had worked through the grade 1 expectations two years previously. I was willing to take on the challenge and began the year with enthusiasm. There were times, though, when I felt overwhelmed and when I questioned my offer to take on the challenge. I have spent many hours after school and over weekends planning my activities, creating the games and worksheets to offer the children I teach. Now in the last months of the school year, I feel more confident and at ease with working in a combined class.
Difficult became easy. The unknown became known. Next year I will be teaching the grade 1s and 2s again – and the second time around it will be easier. I will improve on what I have done this year; changing what didn’t work and extending the activities that did. In addition, I will have two other teachers working with a grade 1/2 combined class. I will guide them through their experience so that their expectations of an difficult experience will change to that of an easy task. And hopefully, with collaboration, I will improve the aspects of my programme that did not address certain ccurriculum expectations in a creative way.
Which of your experiences have changed from difficult to easy?
I wish to go back to the diet I followed before I had my children. My diet at this time consisted of whole foods and a minimum amount of bread, meat and diary products. Getting back to work after being a stay-at-home mom has slowly moved me towards the easier options of eating bread for lunch and snacking on sugar-laden and factory-made treats. The result has been weight gain and a feeling of fatigue I believe is not only a result of my work, but also a result of what I am putting in my mouth. Getting back into the correct way of eating does take time and it is something that is to be done in stages. My first step is to eat fruit only for breakfast. This is no hardship for me as I love the juicy, sweet taste of this food.
Every morning I now eat a bowl filled to the brim with fuit. I eat until I am full. I eat until I no longer feel the pangs of hunger. My body is still adjusting to this meal in the morning (instead of cereal or porridge) but I know that there will be a time when this bowl will be enough until it is time for me to eat lunch. I now eat a snack at first recess (around 10am) when the children do and it consists of a fruit: a banana, an apple, or even a pear. The drawers in my desk are now empty of granola bars and I plan to keep them that way.
There are times when it feels good to be alive. You are reminded of this during the moments you stroll outside and the cool air brushes gently against your face. Today I think of a man who walked outside thinking not of his life, but of his death. I imagine the pain he must have felt, the physical and emotional agony he experienced as he walked down the streets literally bearing his cross. At that moment in his lfe, he would not have lifted his face to see the sun, or breathed in deeply to smell the scent of nature. Instead his thoughts would have turned inward, he would have wished for the moment to end, for the pain and humiliation to be over. And yet even though he experienced pain and physical death, his spirituality remained alive. He still called out to God with his last breath.
Centuries later, this man’s experience is remembered and kept alive in the hearts of many who believe that his death was a sacrifice for their spititual closeness with God. Unlike his birth, this man’s physical death was the event that shaped the lives of many who lived after him. For the Church, and the many Catholics who follow its doctrines, the Crucifiction is the event which shapes their lives, their beliefs, and often their actions. Today we reflect on what Jesus did for us: the sacrifices he made, the pain he experienced. He was a man who stayed true to what he believed even though he knew his actions would end in death.
To all those of you who believe as I do in the Crucifiction of Jesus Chist, I wish you a positive day of reflection.
My classroom is set up so that children learn to share. Pencils, erasers, rulers and glue sticks are stored at the writing centre, as are scissors and markers. At the beginning of the year, I am constantly reminding the children to share with those at their table. Now, however, they are used to not having their own and have learned to wait for their turn to use the grey marker, or even the glue stick.
I believe that sharing is an important skill for the children to learn. Even as an adult, I have had to share. I share a room with my husband, a home with my family, resources with fellow teachers. As a child I was taught to share and that skill has enabled me to share with others in my adult life.
Sharing is not easy for everyone. Many children come into school (especially those with no siblings) with no understanding of what it means to share. The teacher guides the young one gently into the understanding and skill set of taking turns and letting others use what they want. Teaching sharing is not easy and often leads to crying and a child’s disappointment. And yet those who share have friends because these children are able to collaborate with others.
Sharing refers not only to physical things such as a toy, markers, or a glue stick. Sharing refers as well to ideas. Older children are expected to learn how to share ideas; and adults are expected to know this skill. And yet I have found that many adults hug their thoughts to themselves and are not willing to share their ideas and methods. The result? A lack of collaboration and a mockery of the word “teamwork”.
Each day that I help children learn how to share, I hope that I am helping them to become adults that share. I believe that if adults share, great things can be done.
I remember a time when I knew what was being reported in the News. I read the daily newspaper as well as a weekly paper. I listened to the news every morning on the radio channel while getting ready for the day. I was able to participate in political discussions and in the issues of the day. South Africa at this time was going through a politcal change and much was reported everyday. While at University, I participated in informal debates with friends on where we thought the country should go. Later when I began teaching politically aware teenagers, I could lead debates and discussions secure in my knowledge and understanding.
Now, over twenty years later, I no longer switch on the News to hear what is being reported. I no longer buy a paper and peruse the headlines. Instead, I read the main headlines on the internet and I pass by many stories. Is it because I live in another country? Maybe. The news does not seem to be that interesting. But I believe my lack of interest stems from the fact my life is different. Now I have a family; now I have other things to do instead of spending time reading stories in print; now I work with people who have no interest in politics and what may be happening politically in their country.
Do I regret the change in my habits? No. The news reported either bores me, or focuses on the negative. If a person does not look beyond the news, one would think that the human race has no compassion and humanity. Stories focus on violence and sensationalism – not the ordinary people who go to work day in and day out in order to provide for themselves and their family.
I do not see my habits changing in the near future. Instead, I will continue reading headlines on my facebook and twitter feed. And the only newspaper I will open will be the school paper in order to read what my daughter has had published.
It is a time of quiet before the hustle and bustle of life begins. It is a time of reflection. A time of solitude.
Morning is the time I do my best thinking. My mind is well rested and filled with ideas and thoughts; it is not yet slowed by the fatigue that engulfs me as the day ends. Morning is the best time for me to write, to plan my lessons, to think about my goals. The beginning of the day is the best time for me to spend in reflection: about my life, who I am, and where I need to me.
I am a morning person. I get up and open the curtains to greet the day. During the winter, I see darkness and am blessed to observe the colours of the sunrise as I eat breakfast. During the summer, I greet the dawn with pleasure and listen for the sound of the singing birds.
The morning has come to be my “me” time. As the rest of my household sleeps, I spend time alone in quiet and reflection.
There are days when I feel I will never forget: the memories of my childhood, my loved ones who have passed from this world, the moments I glided across the dance floor, the children I have helped experience learning. There are days when I believe that the special moments in my life will be in my mind forever: the time I laughed so hard with my grandmother and godfather that the tears rolled down our cheeks; the time I walked up on the stage to receive my first university degree; the time I held my baby in my arms for the first time. As I think back on my life, the moments flicker continuously in my mind. Happy moments, exciting moments, moments of dread and anguish.
There are days when I feel I will never forget. Even though I forget to buy an item on my mental grocery list ,or where I have put away a sheet of paper, the memories of my dear ones and my past stay with me. In moments of solitude and quiet, I think back on my history. Do I have regrets? Sometimes. Do I long for those moments again? Sometimes. But each time I look back, it is with a grateful heart that I have been able to live my life.
There are days when I feel I will never forget. And I hope I never will.
I am exhausted today after the meeting-the-parents marathon. Yesterday I saw most of my parents in the afternoon and evening during back-to-back sessions. We discussed their child’s progress, their child’s learning in the classroom, and a few ways in which they could improve their child’s French. The sessions without a break were tiring but they did have a positive side: because there was someone waiting, I was able to halt the conversations after fifteen minutes.
I could see that for some parents viewed the limited time with regret. I could see their desire to ask more questions and spend more time with me. They do know, however, that they may come and see me again before school and after school to chat or to have a look at their child’s portfolio.
Now that the business of the report cards and parent interviews is done, I can go back to spending my time on planning interesting and engaging activities for the children.
Do you at times limit the time you spend with people?
Each day I deal with some children’s inability to focus. There are children who cannot sit still on the carpet and listen to what is being said. There are those who sit quietly but their mind is in another place. There are those who cannot help but chatter to the person next to them. There are those who disturb those around them continually throughout the day. I try to make as many activities in my classroom as interesting as possible, but there are those who cannot focus on completing even the fun tasks.
Often I try to figure out what it is about so many children in our modern world who cannot focus on anything for even 5 minutes. Is it over-exposure to television / the computer screen / the iPad or phone? Or may it be the environment they live in, or the food that they eat? I think back to my own childhood and think of all the things I used to do: play outside for hours; play imaginative games with my sisters and our friends; read for hours under a tree or on my bed; sit at my desk and draw for pleasure. I think back to my classroom experience and I cannot think of one person who had been labelled ADD or had had trouble focusing.
I often wish we could pinpoint the causes for the lack of focus so many children experience in our society so that we could help them. For I fear that children who are unable to focus, will turn into adults who are unable to focus. And as the number of children who have difficulty focusing increase in the classrooms each year, I fear what may occur in the working world in the years to come.
Do you experience the inabiltity to focus on a task?