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 🙂
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.