Share a photo or photos of things / people you are grateful for.
Today is my birthday. It is also my gorgeous daughter Rachel’s birthday – best birthday present I ever received. Despite having so many people in my life for whom I am lovingly grateful, because of the date, I am posting photos of Rach and I – birthday girls. Rach is teaching in a small, remote aboriginal community in the Northern Territory of Australia. The second photo is one of Rach and I together, on top of Ubirr Rock on my recent visit north. Rach does an awesome job with her class of 25+ aboriginal children – and one “white fella” and keeps me laughing with her anecdotes and sense of humour. So happy birthday my darling girl xoxo
What is the most important “lesson” you want to teach your students?
This one is simple – the most important lesson I want to teach my students, is this:
“Promise me you’ll always remember: You’re braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.” AA Milne
I want my students to believe in themselves; to see themselves as learners, problem solvers, collaborators, and be 21st century thinkers who finish school and have choices. I want my students to value themselves, their skills, their strengths as well as being resilient, assertive and proud of who they are. I want them to be able to bounce back, manage change and change direction without a meltdown. I want plan B to pop into their heads naturally, and without stress.
As I write this, I am reminded of a young girl I taught in year 7, 3 years ago. Helen has an intellectual disability which put her in the category of “special needs” in a mainstream school. She had few friends, not for the want of trying and her self esteem was crumbling in a large class of loud, boisterous, sometimes cruel, year 7 students. I made a connection with Helen and developed a warm relationship with her, based on respect. I believed in Helen and I encouraged her to write as this was her strength. I bought her a writer’s notebook and I read all her stories with genuine interest. I gave her feedback and confidence. Helen still emails me now – even though I moved schools and haven’t seen her for over 3 years. I know that Helen developed a belief in herself as a learner and I believe that it will stay with her forever. I want her to Promise me that she will always remember: she is braver than she believes, stronger than she seems, and smarter than she thinks.
Share a quote or verse that has inspired you and tell us why?
“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” Albert Einstein
With the annual implementation of the NAPLAN assessment (nation wide standardised testing) this quote rings louder and clearer each year. How ridiculous to think this sort of testing, gives us a true picture of the individual child. How demoralising, at a very young age, is it to see that large red dot glaring at you from way down in the “below expected level” zone. My daughter teaches in an aboriginal community in the Northern Territory. Her ESL students have to sit these tests. For some of them, filling in the name and grade on the front, is an achievement. Let’s celebrate the whole child without the judgement. Lets enjoy the differences, the strengths, the quirkiness and the abilities of us all and stop judging genius by one’s ability to climb that tree!
What are your strengths? What are you most grateful for?
I have a passion and skill for literacy and my strength is in passing this onto my students. I am really grateful for the opportunity to light the fire, pass on skills, give voice to students who previously considered themselves unable to write or express themselves. In particular, I taught a difficult group of year 8’s at a country school, mostly boys, who thought writing was for the fairies. I introduced Writer’s Notebooks into our weekly routine and then shared a multitude of writing strategies which were engaging and fun. We had a bumpy start to the year and ended up with some switched on, enthusiastic students who told me that they LOVED writing. They actually didn’t have to tell me, because it was really obvious in the quality of work they were producing as well as their focus in class. I am really grateful to be able to share my passion with students, which in turn, gives me the greatest joy. 🙂
What was the nicest gift you received from student, parent or colleague”
Without a doubt, the nicest gift I ever received was from my friends and colleagues, when I left one of my last schools. I didn’t want a fuss – it was a very emotional time for me leaving – so they took me to the Port Fairy Day Spa and shouted me a pedicure. A group of 6 of my closest friends, had a pedicure all together, with a glass of wine and loads of talking, which we followed up with lunch at one of the many lovely restaurants in Port Fairy.
What are you most proud of to date, in your teaching career?
I think I am most proud of the way I can build relationships with the children in my classes. I am able to get the children to see themselves as learners and that is particularly evident this year, in my first year in Special Education. Most of the children in my class, came to me with no expectations of being able to learn. They had met failure on so many levels, for so many years, that believing they could learn to read or do “hard” maths, was not in their thought processes or behaviours. Just today, I completed some end of year testing with my students. One non reader, had 7 high frequency words in February. He tested out today, at 22. He has also improved by 2 reading levels and has a completely different attitude towards himself and the possibilities that lie ahead for him. His dad told me that his son often stands beside him when he reads the paper, and says “dad, I know that word”. That makes me really proud.
What is one small delight in the day that you always look forward to?
I came to Special Education just this year and my brief, from the Principal, was to help steer the culture of the school, away from Behaviour Management, and more towards teaching and learning. As I have always taught in mainstream schools, tackling the new school year with an academic focus came second nature to me.
Without doubt, one of the small delights in the day, which I always look forward to, is seeing the children working away with a real sense of choice and purpose, at the Daily 5 – something I introduced to the school this year. It begins the day and sets the tone to help them settle into the learning, with engagement and enjoyment.
“Our profession is one of the most rewarding on the planet but sometimes it can be hard to stay positive and enthusiastic with all the outside pressures. This month’s blog challenge is designed to focus on the exciting and rewarding aspects of what we do, and promote a little Attitude of Gratitude along the way.”
Prompt number 1
What are the best aspects of being a teacher?
Honestly, there are just so many aspects of being a teacher which make our job the best in the world. No one day is the same as the next; we get to make a difference on many levels, for so many children and we get to build friendships and relationships with some wonderful people. I love supporting children to be the best they can be, to believe in themselves and to see themselves as learners.
This year, I am working in Special Education. Everyday presents me with challenges and joys. I have learnt so much from the children and from the staff at this school and I know that my mainstream strategies have been effective with the children in this setting. Child first – disability second – has been my motto all year. I have expected the children to achieve and they have – albeit at varying levels of competency – but achieving none the less.
I come home every day with at least one story that makes me smile; at least one unexpected incident which caused my planning to take a detour; at least one incident which required me to think quickly, change tack and tailor my plans to suit the children. I came home on Friday, grinning from ear to ear, after one of my little firecrackers told me that I was his best teacher – because I made learning fun.
Despite the long hours; wet weather yard duties; not being able to remember if you have been to the loo that day or not; sometimes tedious meeting schedules; snatched lunches of dubious nutritious value; report writing; hours spent trawling pinterest and teachers pay teachers for amazing ideas; that indescribable fatigue after camp and all the other little joys which are distinctively peculiar to teaching – I wouldn’t change my career for all the money in the world.
Teaching is less a job, than a “heart thing”. “The best teachers are those who show you where to look, but don’t tell you what to see.” (Alexandra Trenfor)