There are moments when my students are “all at sea”: they look at me with faces filled with confusion and puzzlement. At moments like these, I need to think on my feet. When planning, you can never be sure whether a child will understand the way the information is presented or not. Nor can you be sure that they will understand the instructions that are set before them. With more teaching experience, it is definitely easier for me to come up with another way of explaining a concept.
There are times as well when I find myself “at sea”. When I look at the curriculum, there are moments when my understanding of what needs to be taught is vague. At times like these, I speak with my colleagues in order to get a better understanding of how to present the expectations that have been laid out by the Ministry. It is in teaching, however, that my understanding of the curriculum is cemented.
Thankfully it has never happened where both my students and I are in a state of confusion. Though if it were to happen, I believe the children would be forgiving.
Each day as I enter the classroom that has been assigned to me, I hope that it will be a day in which the children will learn something. It may be academic or social. If a child speaks up, it is a sucess. If a child counts by twos, it is a sucess. If a child writes a full sentence, it is a success. If a child waits patiently in line, it is a success. My hope is that each day a child will discover something new or master something old.
Sometimes it is this hope that encourages me to repeat the same thing over, and over … and over again. Eventually my message is understood. “Little steps,” I keep thinking. And eventually the little steps lead to the end goal.
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.
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!
Yesterday I had the opportunity to attend a day geared towards the mentoring of teachers that have been newly hired into the Toronto District School Board. The aim of this day is to encourage the new teachers and to give them guidance as they prepare to begin the school year in September. Words of encouragement were given by the Director, Donna Quan. A guest speaker spoke words of inspiration around the theme of the morning: parental involvement in a child’s education. Lunch was organised with the superintendents of the various school districts and I met a person I would see in the school corridors from time to time. Sessions were run geared towards the grade level of the teaching assignments. I, of course, attended the sessions on Kindergarten in French Immersion.
I am grateful for days such as these and have benefited from the ones I have attended in the past. Tips are given by the facilitators that are helpful in the first few weeks of school. Connections are made with other teachers. Ideas and concerns are shared. Assurances are received. Often the day ends with a small gift from the organisers. Yesterday I came home with a USB key (always helpful during the school year), a booklet on suggested art activities and a gift bag filled with catalogues, CDs and a book from Scholastics. My favourite gift, though, is the one handed out after the session with the Kindergarten facilitators: a book titled Are you listening? by Lisa Burman. I look forward to reading what she says about encouraging conversations with young ones.