Well, sometimes I truly fail to impress myself.
This morning I was supposed to be leaving on a brief ski trip with the school that I’m interning at. I wasn’t key to the operation or anything, but I was really looking forward to it. I have never been skiing! I enjoy taking on new adventures!
Unfortunately, last night I had some marking to do, and yesterday there was a death in Jason’s family. The end result? It was 1AM by the time I got to bed. (Spent a little time glued to my rotary phone last night. Yes, really.)
This morning, after shockingly little sleep, I got up, threw myself together and got out the door. I knew I was running late. Not good. Then I got detoured.
Like a bad movie, I became later still.
I managed to get to the school just in time to watch the bus leave.
Sigh. I had a moment of panic. Then I got in touch with some of the people on board the bus, (hooray for technology!) and everything is ok. At least it’s mostly ok.
Now I am at the school for the kids who didn’t go on the ski trip. This is fine, and even has some benefits, but I am here dressed in stretchy clothing which is more appropriate for the gym than a private school. (Push-ups, anyone? )
There yyou have it. Any students here get to see the real me today. This is Ms. Martin without refining.
The upsides? I can now get a lot of school work done today. Also, I probably won’t injure myself.
Sure, maybe that last part sounds silly, but I can be a bit of a calamity. In fact, Jason is looking forward to talking to me tonight, just to make sure I have escaped this adventure unscathed.
Ah well. YES. I’m ok. The biggest spectre in my day is a potential paper cut.
I guess I’ll just have to grab a slide and hurtle myself down a hill after school, just to make it up to myself. (Screaming ‘WOO-HOO!!!’ all the way, of course. )
I would love to take the easy way out. I would love to be very general about this, and say that effective teachers just have a certain “je ne sais quoi.” That said, I have a feeling that I would not get away with this attempt at brevity. I will endeavour to say something more constructive and well-defined than that.
In the first place, I am learning again and again that effective teachers have to be organized. They have to know their lesson plans, be able to connect where it’s headed and draw from where the students have been. It has to work with the curriculum and it has to be leading the students toward something. Teachers who seem to perform the best have a plan in mind all of the time, and they have communicated this plan effectively with students. In my experience, the more clarity and transparency, the better. (This goes for both teacher and student.) It takes a lot of planning for the lesson to appear effortless and cohesive.
The best of the most effective teachers also do well with giving students individual attention. This is not just correction, but can also be motivational, such as the right word at the right time or a smile of encouragement. The best teachers form memorable bonds with their students. Facilitating these bonds will help students to be motivated to learn. A community of mutual respect comes about when all voices are valued. This is supported by the teacher being respectful to all of the individuals in their classroom.
The most effective teachers I’ve ever met were also near-geniuses at questioning. I am not truly convinced that this skill can be fully taught, nor am I sure that I have the knack for it that some do. Questions that stimulate more questions and lead to a revelatory thought are a beautiful thing when well-executed. I have seen this done well, and it requires being challenging while also being encouraging. The teacher knows where they want the student to wind up, and through some magic that I haven’t quite mastered, they ask the right questions to gently lead the student to that outcome. This is not as easy as it looks!
Still, we know that no matter what, humour counts for a lot. A teacher who is informative but who also happens to be amusing can make learning more fun, and this can enhance the reception of their message. A welcoming atmosphere is supported by a teacher who values keeping a good attitude and a healthy perspective.
This use of good humour and a positive demeanor is not simply cracking jokes either. Attitude can also include the teacher’s display of inquisitiveness and curiousity. Learning simply must be accepted as an ongoing part of the job. A truly effective teacher will be consistently expanding their professional knowledge, including acquiring new skills and the application of those skills. The best teachers are willing to be wrong, to learn, and to investigate interesting new problems or ideas (whether from research or, more often, coming from the students themselves). Professional development is not something a teacher can opt out of! There could never be a stopping point; a decisive end at which time a teacher finally becomes as effective as they can possibly be.
While I believe that some measures of becoming more effective can be more or less cultivated, I do still find myself coming back to the idea of “je ne sais quoi.” I do believe that there is an unidentifiable “something” which some teachers possess. I think that this unquantifiable extra goes beyond mere interest and professionalism. This is something that comes from deep-rooted conviction, passion, and a belief in the importance of teaching. I’m tempted to say that this magic exists for those who see teaching as a calling. It’s a mysterious force that I don’t believe all teachers possess. All the same, I would love to someday be known as one of the educators who do.
So, here’s a fun little story…
A few weeks ago, I was walking along a snowy sidewalk on what was turning out to be a stormy sort of day. I was feeling pretty energetic. It was messy on the roads, but it was also so very pretty outside, and I quite liked the fresh air and layer of white. Plus, I had decent winter boots on, so you’d think I was good to go.
Along my walk, I came upon this slight embankment. Just this tiny hill of snow built up on the curb. I saw a flat surface on the other side. In a fit of girlish enthusiasm, I hopped over it.
You know the part where I said this is a “fun” story? Well, I lied. In the next, post-hop split-second, here is what happened: I touched down on the other side. My heels kept going, and, with considerable momentum, I fell, not simply on my rear, but fully backward, managing to hit my head. Lovely.
I hit my head with such force that my glasses wet flying off my face. This sudden impact pushed all the air out, and I got this strange and shocking aching sensation that pulled across the front of my collarbone. I saw stars. My head was ringing. I wound up sitting in the snow for a couple of minutes, trying to collect myself and verify that yes, I was actually ok. A man in an SUV stopped and asked if I was alright. I couldn’t see him, since my glasses were still some distance from me, but I managed to stand, smile and say that I was. (No other responses sprang to mind!) As is often the case with these things, the true impact of my fall wasn’t felt until sometime afterwards. I got myself together, even checked my pupils in the car mirror, waited 45 minutes until I really did feel fine, and drove home.
It was only later that night, after dinner, that things on the right side of my body got pretty stiff. My shoulder, neck, and head were very sore, and the incident kept replaying in my mind. Ouch. I found myself thinking of how much worse it could have been, and I still wasn’t totally convinced that I was ok.
The next day, Jason confessed that he had been watching me the previous night like a hawk. He’d been pretty worried too, and was relieved when nothing much happened. I was really fine. I mean, three days later I still had a headache, but I was fine.
Or, going to be fine, anyway. In the meantime, I had given myself a fright. I found myself a bit forced to stop, slow down and take stock. The night it happened I didn’t get any work done. What if it had been worse? What would have happened? Those questions soon took on a different tone. Where was I with my inner life? I was working a lot, and that’s fine, but where was my spiritual awareness, interest or curiousity?
As it so happened, my mother took me to see a motivational speaker the night after my fall. I sat there, stiff in my seat, while the buoyant blonde woman on stage bounced around and talked about the power of gratitude, setting intentions and getting out of your own way. A fine experience, and the testimonials were great, but none of it was new.
But then, if it wasn’t new, why weren’t these things part of my life? Like, you don’t have to convince me that meditation and taking control of your energy are generally good for you. I get it. I don’t have an excuse. This is old news to me. Yet here I am, every day totally living in the mundane day-to-day with my spiritual inclinations so far on the back burner…
I don’t know why it all got tied up in my head, but my knock on the pavement started to feel way more than physical.
Still, it let its physical effects be known! Over the few days I felt the pain more through my body like a wave. First my upper back was hurting the most. The next day the pain was more centered in the front of my body, including my jaw and collarbone. Then it seemed to be at its worst in the middle of my back. After that, I felt pain along the muscles on the right side of my abdomen. I honestly feel recovered now, but I also feel like I am very lucky it wasn’t much worse.
I am also feeling a little happier. I am now consciously making time for expressions of spirituality. I think I need things like meditation and remembering to breathe deeply and feel grateful. I have been pretty unmotivated about it, but I am now trying to get back in touch with my more spiritual self. I mean, you never know what could happen.
Next time, I think I’d just like a gentler wake up call!
Today I went to the gym. It’s Monday. I was tired. Because I was tired, I popped by a coffee place so I could get a big, bold, black coffee to take with me to the weight room. (Early mornings, eh?)
I had slightly messy hair. I had thrown on my gym clothes and had on my big cozy winter coat. It being 6:30AM, I most certainly did not have any makeup on my face.
That said, I feel like adding here that I actually did catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror as I was leaving the house around 6AM, and I still thought I looked pretty good. My skin is relatively clear, and I don’t think I’m like, hideous without makeup or anything. (In fact, there are many many days when I choose to forgo painting my face. Who has time every single morning?)
I go to buy the coffee, and the guy serving me is someone who I know on an acquaintance level, but not exceptionally well or anything. He says to me, after he gets my coffee, and I am quoting directly:
“You look like you need makeup this morning.”
Whoa, dude. Seriously?
This took me by surprise. 6:30. In the morning. BEFORE I go to the gym. BEFORE I am thinking about facing the world all prettied up. I’m sorry, was my appearance really up for debate at that time? This comment irked me on a couple of levels, and maybe not quite in the way in which you would think.
For starters, it’s not really about the insult. Fine. I looked not-so-good. I can accept that someone could think this. I am not really hurt by it, because I am ok with how I look. I also know that even at my best, plenty of people probably find me unattractive. No problem. We all have different tastes, and I already have a partner who seems just fine with how I look, thank-you-very-much.
It’s less about the insult of it and more the lack of tact. How the heck is this ever ok to say? Even if I was actually hideous swamp beast, and children ran screaming from my dowdy pock-marked visage, there is a line that the polite observer does not cross. It’s not about whether or not I look good, it’s just the idea of an insult like this being spoken aloud at all. Even though I’m confident, I would greatly appreciate people refraining from publicly judging me based on my freaking face at 6:30 IN THE GODDAMN MORNING. Just…no. There’s no excuse for that.
Beyond the lack of tact, I think that there is an implicit gender stereotype at play. I’m a woman. I didn’t look great this morning. Therefore I must “need” makeup. This is ridiculous, because even if this coffee dude got to work looking like he just rolled in from a 3-day hangover, he would probably never ever look in a mirror and think to himself that he really “needs” makeup. (Again, I do know this guy, and no, he is not a makeup-wearing male!) I also very seriously doubt that he would ever say something similar to a tired-looking male patron.
To compound the sexism, there is also a certain level presumption. Shockingly, some women (including myself sometimes), do not wear makeup. Maybe my face, as it was at 6:30 was as good as it was going to get for the rest of the day. Maybe I like how I look just fine without makeup, and all I do is slap on a little chapstick and go. Who is some person who doesn’t know me to tell me what I “need”?
In the end, I’m sad to say that I didn’t have a snappy comeback, and I wasn’t particularly witty at all. I was surprised and muttered something vague about being on my way to the gym. I think that my very non-”me” behaviour stands as obvious evidence that I really am in need of coffee at 6:30AM!
I’ll just be getting mine somewhere else from now on.
After a rocky start involving a three-day delay in schools reopening, classes have officially begun!
This time, however, I am on the other side of the podium. Now, my job isn’t to sit there and take notes. My job is to stand in front of the whiteboard and tell the grade 11′s to take notes!
The experience is already nothing like the brief two-week taste of the earlier internship. I am in the same school, but with a different teacher, and I am actually directly involved in creating curriculum.
Holy crap! Creating curriculum! Nothing like a bit of trial by fire, eh?
I have an absolute stack of novels to read, and I have lessons to plan. I have many opportunities to bring things in and suggest things. Frankly, I am both thrilled and overwhelmed by choice.
Oh, and I’m tired. I get up at 5:30 to get in my gym time before school, and of course I’m a nervous insomniac anyway, so…yeah…
Anyway, I’ve got a lesson to plan, so I’d better get gone!
P.S. OMG you guys I get to teach Dracula. Not even joking.
I had an experience the night before New Year’s Eve.
But wait, I should backtrack. Yule is the winter Solstice; on December 21st. As luck would have it, I had been invited to a Pagan ritual to mark it. The promise of food, drink, and merriment loomed large in my mind. I could really use to foster my spiritual connection, and reconnect with these friends. However, something came up, and our little ritual had had to be cancelled. This, on top of a bit of a persistent case of the blues made me honestly feel kind of ‘meh’ about the whole thing. Lately I hadn’t really been feeling particularly spiritual or in tune with nature. No big cosmic anything. No big resounding connection. Just stress, worry, and a generally anxious feeling. I didn’t plan a ritual to do on my own. I didn’t really do more than to mentally acknowledge that the 21st was Yule. While there were some definite nice moments over the next few days, I was really missing that peaceful feeling that I associate with the season.
On the 28th, we took a little road trip to see my partner Jason’s grandparents and a lot of the rest of his family in Marystown. By the time we got there, nearly 4 hours later, I was feeling cranky, cooped up, and was probably not the nicest person to be around. Really, I was just hoping that I’d enjoy a day or two outside the city, and maybe arrive back home feeling less tense.
Well, I remembered on the first night out there what happens when I try to sleep in a bed that isn’t mine. (I do wish I wasn’t so particular about sleep, but I am.) If I could go elsewhere and always just sleep untouched and undisturbed in absolute perfect darkness and pristine silence every night, I might do all right, but since I don’t have a sensory deprivation chamber to haul around with me, sleeping well was not about to happen.
One night without much sleep is not so bad, and hanging out with Jason’s very awesome, loving, and generous family was really fun. They have always been wonderful to me. Still, after the second night I was feeling the effects. As well, I had some things on my mind. It was all compounded by the fact that we wound up having to stay a little later than anticipated due to stormy weather.
As we approached that third night, I was definitely not feeling myself. I quietly extracted myself from the shed, where the rest of the adults had gathered, and went back inside to lie down. I felt less-than inclined to be around anyone, and I really didn’t want my bad mood to rub off.
As I lay there, I heard the others gradually come back inside and made their way to bed. I was still wide awake, and I began to feel quite restless as it grew later and later. Finally, I got up in frustration. I shoved on my new winter coat and my boots and ventured outside. I needed…something. To clear my head, maybe. Whatever I needed, I wasn’t going to find it lying in bed wishing for sleep.
My new winter coat. I love it. My Mom picked it out because I really didn’t have anything so functional before. It’s black and cozy, nice and long so it covers my bum, and has one of those wonderfully deep hoods that you feel like you can hide in.
Well, I did feel like hiding, and I also felt like keeping warm, so the deep hood was in full-effect as I walked a short distance from Jason’s grandparents’ house. The cold was bracing; so fresh and clean, yet so harsh and unrelenting. At first, I simply stared downward, feeling glum and keeping the wind out of my face as I trudged along a little ways.
Soon I began to warm up. I also began to feel a familiar pull come over me. I felt compelled to toss back the hood, take in the sky, and accept the assault of the wind full-on. The stars shone with the increased intensity that they possess in the country, and as I stopped, I found myself before a stand of trees, heavy with snow.
Is there anything prettier than glistening winter in the starlit dark? If there was ever a sight to call out to the Pagan in me, this was it. My mind was brought to the metaphor for life contained within those trees remaining green in snow. Hope, beauty and growth were staring me in the face. I was taken by an urge to sing a Goddess chant into the frosty night. Being alone, and it being quite late, I did so.
Singing with freedom in a wide-open space is its own bliss anyway. I enjoyed this impromptu performance in the wilderness very much. Slowing in certain places, allowing my voice to swell and then die away… It took me a few repetitions to realize what I was doing.
This was Yule.
I was celebrating it. It was Yule for me, in the dead of night, alone with those trees. It was unplanned, and there were no candles or fancy decorations in sight, but as far as light and celebration were concerned? I was positively thrilling with it.
A connection restored. And not when I was expecting it or looking for it, either. A kindness extended from the Universe to me. A little peace in the midst of my inner turmoil. A deep calm took hold of me, and my anxieties were washed away.
I stayed there a while, meditating, considering a few things, and finding that I already truly knew the answers to the things I had been questioning. (Egos can make things difficult sometimes!) I enjoyed the night and remained in awe of the trees, stars, ocean and snow.
It was really late when I made my way back in through the door. I was more tired than ever, but so much more content. I made myself a little snack, and crawled into bed with a smile on my face. I felt guided, protected, grateful and connected. For the first time all season, I finally felt it.
Happy belated Yule everyone.
I hope you felt it too.
First of all…
Holy sweet merciful jumping JESUS on a pogo stick, THANK YOU.
I am used to a few views for every post, but the attention that my last writing received was unprecedented and was very exciting for me. Seeing it get shared, and having people reach out to me was really, really cool. At one point I was even recognized in public (!) by someone I didn’t know who found me through my writing! It really made me feel inspired, I feel like I really connected with some of you, and I have about a MILLION ideas for things that I now want to write about here. (I don’t have much time, since I am right now finishing up a school term, but I have the ideas.)
In fact, I am working on a a post titled “My Super-Secret Diet Secrets” in response to some of the questions I received. (I promise to be totally honest, and give you the low-down on what worked for me.) It’s not where I want it yet, and I am trying to make sure I don’t leave anything important out. It’s coming soon, for real!
Anyway, what I have for you today isn’t about any of that. Instead, I am sharing with you my “Philosophy of Teaching.” I had to write one for my Education program, and I enjoy the idea of having one anyway. I’ve gone back over it a couple of times, and I think it’s pretty decent. It’s a bit idealistic, I’ll admit that, and it can seem a bit braggy, but I get the impression that that is just kind of how these things (like cover letters) are structured.
You can take a look if you’re curious. It’s further evidence that I’m a total sap:
It is true that I would like to be a teacher. I firmly believe that I would make a good teacher because I am a compassionate, supportive and creative person. I feel drawn to this type of work because I care deeply about others, the future that we create for ourselves, and the transformative capacity for young people to grow and develop. I am passionate about the importance of being a lifelong learner, and I believe that discovery is one of life’s greatest joys. I am addicted to the intellectual buzz of sharing new ideas and of pushing the old ones forward. What could be cooler than knowing that someone left your classroom a little bit changed? What could be greater than knowing that because of you, someone left with more knowledge in their head, an idea brewing, or something, at least, to think about?
I have become increasingly concerned with the importance of children receiving a quality education. I am especially concerned with young people learning in an environment that stresses creativity and allows for different styles of learning. Our schools should expect nothing but the best in leadership qualities, knowledge, empathy and overall teaching ability when a teacher applies for work. The instruction children receive has to be thorough and accurate, but it should also be well-presented, and done in a way which leaves children feeling engaged, fulfilled and empowered. There is joy to be found in learning, and I believe that I am the right kind of person to share this experience with others.
I have played a part in many positive and educational experiences with children. I have worked extensively as a seasonal tour guide for Parks Canada; entertaining, teaching and leading busloads of children around nationally historic sites in both official languages. I have taught children about respect for the planet and biodiversity during my time working at the Fluvarium. I have also spent my recent summers coaching junior-high aged girls to run distance, which is secretly also an effective way of promoting health, wellness and positive self-esteem.
Apart from my direct education, I have other skills which I think would be highly valuable as a teacher. I have honed my public speaking skills through debate, speeches and a brief foray into stand-up comedy. I have been a lifelong reader, and I yearn to encourage others to develop a great love of books. I have also spent a great deal of time learning how to connect with people through my experiences in marketing, tourism and communications. I believe that I have led a life which has properly groomed me to take this next step.
I am aware that our constant social media and internet connections mean that we are now not just local citizens, but citizens of the world. Of course, knowledge of technology isn’t just understanding computers. Being technologically adept also means being able to innovate, to create with your hands, or even just having the ability to deal with household inconveniences. These are hugely valuable skills. The better students become at being functional, independent, and resourceful, the better their sense of self and their confidence will be. This is why I am also pursuing Technology Education in my path to becoming a teacher. I am motivated to help others to learn and explore technology, and develop as technologically literate and savvy persons.
If I need to summarize all of this with a single statement, then let it be this: I want to be a teacher because I am foolish enough to still believe that I can actually change the world. I know that it is time for me now to put my ideals into practice and start doing my part.
Anyway, back soon, with more foolishness!