Curriculum Messages from “The New Teacher Book”

One of my assignments for my ECS210 class was to read a number of short stories from “The New Teacher Book” (edited by Terry Burant et al.) and to reflect on parts of those stories that resonated or dissonanted with me. Considering the nature of the stories and the way that they may spur discussion, I felt that it was most fitting to post what I have read about and my thought in hopes to begin the conversation. Please enjoy ūüôā

My learning experience so far in the Faculty of Education has been nothing like I expected it to be.¬† I had expected to learn more about the ‘ins’ and ‘outs’ of the teaching profession and not about myself and what I believe. ¬†The more I read, write, and am taught, I can see that my own personal ideologies, beliefs, and understandings will have an immeasurable impact on the students I come in contact with.¬† Being a teacher is not just about making lesson plans and ensuring that what needs to be taught is taught, but is also about being a role-model who will help to shape (for better or for worse) the ideologies, beliefs and understandings of children as they develop into adulthood. The New Teacher Book (a collection of writings by new teachers) gives stories and lessons for future teachers by current or past teachers.¬† I connected with these readings on both positive and negative notes which helped me to better understand who I am as a person and helped me to think about who I want to be as a teacher.

The main issues/topics discussed in the ten stories we were instructed to read dealt with teachers trying to foster an inclusive environment.  Included were stories about first-year teachers dealing with issues related to  racism, sexual orientation, religious instruction (or lack thereof), and presumptions about family structures.  I resonated and dissonanted with all of these at different points.

Racism is a topic that needs to be discussed in the classroom setting.  I desperately want to believe that racism is no longer in existence in Canada, but I know this is naive and unrealistic. One quick visit to www.cbcnews.ca, or any other news site quickly reveals comment sections riddled with racist comments (in some cases leading these sites to remove the comments section all together).  I was saddened to read a story about children who were excluded by other children based specifically on race.  Maybe it is because of my own childhood experience as a white upper-middle class child raised in suburbia, but I honestly did not realize that this happens in classrooms today.  I need to learn how to appropriately deal with this type of situation if and when it occurs in my classroom.

Teasing and bullying of students should not be tolerated in any instance.¬† Personally, my gut reaction would be to punish students who are caught in this type of behaviour.¬† One of the stories in this reading package suggested using this type of incident as a teaching moment… as a bridge by where this issue can be brought out and discussed in order to make those involved understand the implications and impacts of their actions. This will be¬†a stretch for me, but¬†I can understand that this type of learning¬†will be more beneficial to the classroom as a whole and will help to¬†ensure that future incidents are less likely to occur.

One of the stories I reacted to the most was one where a new teacher was trying to teach about all the different holiday traditions associated with the winter season. The teacher, who taught on Christmas, Winter Solstice and more, did not intentionally attempt to  offend anyone one party but was simply trying to be inclusive in her teaching.  Other faculty members, however, did not see it this way.  Instead, they saw it as an attack on their school traditions that had been going on for years. An attack, mind you, by a first year teacher.  What I can glean from this is that I need to be very careful when trying to do things differently and to expect there to be those who challenge or detest my actions when I may come in with new ideas.

There was also a story about a teacher who, on Fathers Day, had her students create paper ties for their dads.¬† This is something I myself did as a student and I would have never thought that¬†doing this type of a craft would be an issue.¬†One student in this teachers class completed the assignment and took it home to her mother, who became very upset at the issues that we’re going to follow. Mother and daughter took the gift to the father’s grave and had a very hard time leaving it there.¬† This teacher did not have any intention of hurting this family through the creation of a tie on Father’s Day.¬† A seemingly harmless activity ended up causing pain.¬† From this, I can learn that I need to be sensitive to the children that are in my classroom and aware of their family situations.

All of these situations kept bringing me to the same point.  A spot where I can see that in order to be an effective educator, I need to know more than just the written curriculum.  I need to learn how to interact with the students and the community around me.  I need to speak with my colleagues and hear what they have to say regarding different scenarios.  I need to connect with teachers who have been there before and learn from their mistakes and their stories.

If you have any stories about being a new teacher and would like to share, please feel free. If you have an opportunity to read The New Teacher Book, I highly recommended it.  I have also posted this question on http://www.reddit.com (here: http://www.reddit.com/r/AskReddit/comments/kud7h/teachers_of_reddit_what_were_your_best_worst/) and will reflect on their responses in a later post.

Take care out there.

D.

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Sullivan Issac Gupta Vaughnderbragon Wachal (or Sully for short)

One of the biggest decisions I have had to make in my life is choosing to get a puppy.¬† I had dogs when I was growing up and knew that I always wanted one of my own.¬† Megan and I had been living in our house for 5 months and knew that we wanted to get a dog BEFORE taking out our old carpet and putting in hardwood. So we went one day to the Regina Humane Society to “just have a look” or to “get our feet wet.”

We came home with Sully.

How could you not take home this face? Sully quickly introduced me to the razor-sharp teeth he possessed as a puppy and we had to quickly learn how to train this dog.  We watched countless episodes of The Dog Whisperer, read countless articles and blogs about how to raise the perfect dog. After a few short months (and more walks then I can count) Sully transformed from a demonic creature with sharp teeth to a perfect companion for Megan and I.

Often, on walks, people will come up to Sully and pet him saying how cute or handsome he is.¬† Then, the inevitable question, what kind of dog is he.¬† Upon learning that Sully is a Pitbull, these same people do a double-take (or in one case a spit-take) and fear enters their eyes.¬† “Is he safe?” Yes. He’s safe.

Pitbulls, as a breed, often get a bad rap. In some provinces they are even banned.  This is due to poor owners and not the breed or the dogs themselves. Pitbulls are a great dogs.  In England, Pitbulls are the most common housedog (citation needed). Sully does, however, have some, what we like to call, meathead qualities. On a couple of occasions, we have seen him carry 5lbs weights out of one room into another simply to chew on them.  And he has a really big head.

Big head = Big Brain?

Getting Sully was one of the best decisions I have ever made. He keeps me active (and on my toes), he keeps our feet warm at night, and is always there if your feeling low, lonely, or stressed.  I love him.

D.

Being Blue in a Sea of Green

Growing up in Winnipeg, I have fond memories of attending Bomber games with my grandpa, dad, and brothers (and I guess with mom/grandma if they were to join).  I have always been a Bomber fan and always will be.  This has been a place of contention in my life from a number of different areas as a result of my moving to Saskatchewan to marry a prairie girl and living, working, and going to school in Regina.

Typically, small talk consists of shooting off about the weather, talking about pets, or other non-threatening, light hearted topics.  I like this type  of small talk.  In Saskatchewan, however, I have learned that small talk also includes the Riders.  This does not bode well for me.

Harassment typically follows once the person I am speaking with finds out I’m originally from Winnipeg.

Now, I know this is all in fun (or at least that’s what I tell myself), but when a person who I have literally known for 5 minutes begins to bash the Bombers and my hometown it hurts a little.¬† Not a lot… just a little. My secret hope is that Saskatoon will get a CFL team so that Saskatoon and Regina can hate on each other and leave Winnipeg out of it.

Megan, my wife, and I we’re relatively newly dating when the Bombers and the Riders went to the Grey Cup in 2007.¬† This led to an ultimatum whereby if the Bombers won, Megan would leave me.¬† Football certainly is something else here.

Being a Bomber fan in Regina is hard at times, but little glimpses of joy are seen when I wear a Bomber jersey to Rider Day at work and on my walk to the office, some random person yells out “Go Bombers!!”(admist a sea of furrowed brows and angry stares of others, I might add)

D.

B50 Vitamins

With thoughts of summer now well in the distance and the reality of another school semester hits, one feeling escalates quite quickly… stress.¬† As looming assignments, and their due dates, are tacked onto what often already feels like a chaotic life, I am left wondering how I am going to survive.¬† I even found myself in the vitamin aisle today looking at purchasing StressEase multi-vitamins (like that will work).

This is not to say that I do not enjoy the learning environment.¬† I really do.¬† I love knowing that pushing my mind to new levels of understanding is creating new neuro-pathways that are literally ‘making me smarter’.¬† That part I like.¬†¬† What I don’t like is the constant feeling that there is something I should be doing.¬† When I am drinking my morning coffee and watching sports highlights, I should be reading from my text.¬† When I am playing mini-golf with friends I should be at the library doing research.¬† You get the picture.

I have been a student for six years now and have learned a couple of tricks along the way. Some of these may seem cliché, but they are handy reminders:

1.¬† Be Organized.¬† This is something have always struggled with, but luckily I married a gal who was an amazing student and is a super organized person.¬† So my advice?¬† Get married.¬† If that’s not an option, or something you’re not into, I would say go down to the Student Union and pick up one of those day planners.¬† You could also set up something on Google Calender.¬† Both are free, easy to use, and will keep you on task throughout the semester.

2. Take time for yourself.¬† It’s good to take breaks from school.¬† Watch some T.V, hang out with friends, or play some video games.¬† I personally have to schedule in break time for myself, which happens to be Friday afternoons. No work or school. I look forward to this time more than almost anything in my week.

3. Go for a walk.  Walking is one of my favourite activities.  I recommend walking without the aid of your Ipod.  This allows your mind the chance to be quiet and process all the other activities of your life.

These three little tricks have helped me get through semesters before, and I know they will help me continue on.  What tricks have you learned that get you through stressful times?

All the best ūüėÄ

D.