Tag Archives: teaching

Lil’ Johnny

downloadWhen I was a student-teacher one of my facilitators used to forever give us scenarios with the fictitious trouble maker Lil’ Johnny. It was a source of great amusement and I must say it helped to spice up her class.

We all had, of course, had a Johnny before. And we had all pretty much already come to the conclusion that Lil’ Johnny was a kid with issues. Hey, who doesn’t have issues in this world today? Why would we think Lil’ Johnny was any different?

The problem, though, seems to be that 7 years after laughing and role-playing and scheming strategies in that classroom, I’m now faced with a culture that is almost completely alien to the one presented to me in that room.

I find myself daily in a classroom that wants very much to look like this. giphy (4)

It seems like instead of having one or two Lil’ Johnny. I’m faced with 45% Johnny’s and even some Lil’ Janes to compliment them. Which makes me feel like my classroom is

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It’s not a great feeling returning to the staffroom feeling like you’ve just starred in a scene from some world war 2 movie. You know the ones where the men are cornered in the trenches and can only throw the occasional grenade out and hope it hits the right target.

It’s ‘noice’ to imagine that all those fancy strategies like “Ignoring unwanted behavior” and “calling on the student once” or my personal favorite” waiting for the class to settle itself” etc. etc. etc, are always the answer. Unfortunately, they aren’t. Unfortunately they seem to be completely inadequate in the face of some of the cultural and social problems we have in the Caribbean classroom today.

(Yes, I’m singling out the Caribbean classroom because I feel like it is sorely neglected in the field of modern psychology, especially given all the pedagogues who lecture and self promote but do precious little to help us to establish the psychological base that we can work off of to better aid our students)

It’s enough to make a girl…rxf3oLt

Alas, that isn’t the answer either. Sigh, what is a girl to do? It was during a guilt trip my youngest tried his very best to lay down on me, that it occurred to me. A genuine, authentic eureka moment! Empathy as a classroom management tool!

Hold on, relax. It’s not as messed up as it seems.

I started with the class with the most and most outrageous set of Lil’s. I set up the class to do a cooperative learning exercise. Each group got an objective, an outline of their content and time to plan. I watched and listened, maybe cackled a little as some elaborate presentations were planned. Skits, lectures, song sessions, you name it, they planned it.

Then came the presentation day. And boy, did my babies put out. Some of them performed some works of educational art. I loved it, and for each act of greatness, there was an act, by the Lil’s spread among the groups, to disrupt the wonder.

Little faces turned to me in dismay, little hands were thrown up in exasperation. Until the biggest Lil in my class stood up and delivered a speech for good behavior so inspirational that even I was taken aback. Dude!! something might even have gotten stuck in my eye.

After class, a few of the Lil’s cornered me. I was made to listen as they said things like “Teacher wha mek dem sooooooo rude?” “Teacher ah so you feel every day?!?” “Teacher me sorry bad jack.” “Teacher nar do it again, me cyan teach nobody again.”

I chuckled, it was fun. A little revenge, a little life lessoning, and the next week even though there were some minor disruptions I never had to look at anyone like this…

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I find that with a little heavy complimenting, and a few sweets my classroom is a bit more civilized. It’s not pristine, I didn’t solve anyone’s life angst, but our learning environment might just be a little more heavy on the learning.

 

And for that maybe I might spend a little more time thinking of that class like this…

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What to do when there is nothing else to do?

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One would think that this face is the worst face a student can give you when taking a test. It’s not. It really isn’t.

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This is the worst face I can get from my students in the moments before collecting the papers after a test.

A little context.

For the last few weeks, I have been teaching the periodic table and periodicity. Not hard really, it’s a lot of recall and a few trends. Easy peasy. NOT

Why not? Because human beings do not generally absorb information simply by just being told. I know this, I can even relate. So knowing this and understanding that for the 22 people I have to teach this to, this whole education thing is a bore and thus not priority number one. I set out to make one of the most boring sections of my syllabus fun.

With skits and demonstrations, minimal lecturing, handouts, and practice exercises. By celebrating when the one kid in the class who hates me, the classroom, the content, the school compound, the lab and the world outside of football in general, interact with me and the class and is even leading the charge when it comes to answering the questions.

I’ve linked the lesson sections to that song that was soo successful in the previous section. Singing it in tandem with the lesson, having them relate relevant lines and explain why these lines are relevant. I’ve had them demonstrate physically the trends and reflect on the demonstrations. I’ve reviewed and felt completely justified in assessing.

I’ve even managed to get a few peeps out of the reclusive students who usually don’t answer and grabbed the attention of the new kid, who literally just joined the class last week (best believe there’s gonna be a rant about that).

So when I got that confident face at the end of the test, despite years of experience telling me to go hide under my bed and not mark anything, I still strutted confidently to the staffroom to mark.

 

efb5431c91d587f5a6bcc998994d86d7.gif Literally me after marking. Because despite using varying methods, having them orally review the definition for electronegativity, discuss how and why it increases up the group, having a small mountain of written evidence that they should know, that electron shells are gained down the group and that valence electrons remain the same down the group. Despite having them correctly demonstrate the ease of ionization going down the group and relating it to the trend in ionization energy. In spite of seeing them correctly demonstrate and explain the shielding effect and how it affects ionization.  The vast majority of my students have told me, through their scores, that there was not enough information transfer for them to effectively navigate 20 multiple choice questions.

So now the question is, what to do next?

For now, the answer lies in an hour of sleep and a few episodes of Umbrella Academy. If anyone out there has any other ideas, please HELP.

 

This isn’t a rant…

So a few weeks ago I sat in a staff meeting all nervous about my last year CSEC results, well not mine, not really. I hadn’t, after all written any exams. I had however, pulled my hair out at the root, planning lessons, planning experiments, meeting deadlines, giving extra lessons and so on. I had given up weekends, and evenings and countless hours that should have been spent with a glass of wine and a pair of strong arms wrapped around me. Time spent almost in tears in the staff room, while on holiday, and in the Principles office, because those same students weren’t taking me seriously.

I was nervous because despite all that, all my prayers, my hopes and my bald spot, I knew thanks to a little birdy, that the results weren’t great. I sat and I listened, sucking in what I perceived to be, judgement. I had failed, not that the certificates in my bag with my own grades didn’t say different, my worth from the time I said I would show up, was based on the performance and motivation of others.

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I listened as colleagues received thanks and accolades for work well done. Hours way past the closing of school, I’m talking wee into the early morning hours, spent doing data entry and such. In my mind I pictured the classroom I admired most in the school, with its well made charts and teacher sponsored equipment, and mentally kicked myself. Would I ever have that kind of cash to spend on my job? That kind of time to dedicate to my job? That kind of tireless praiseable energy to give to my job? Dammit I wanted to know that that happy glint in my boss’s eye was because of me.

Then I caught myself. What the hell was I talking/thinking about? I needed a drink or six.

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I looked around me at the folks paying rapt attention in the crowd around me and wondered if I was alone in the thought. Maybe at heart I’m just a selfish person to value free time and the ability to raise my kids, and grow my marriage. To feel, for all my efforts, that I had accomplished something. My students after all are not measured in terms of me, and while I love being a part of their success, it’s theirs.

It also occurred to me at this point that my boss had to be the best one in the business. I love him dearly I must say,. and not because he hypnotized me either. He’s actually really good at his job, very respectable and very down to earth.

But good traits of our leader notwithstanding, we were all really really stressed out people, trying to be even more stressed out!!!! on Purpose!!!!!

The question is, should this state of frazzle be something to aspire to? Knowing my capability, responsibilities, efforts and circumstance, should I be striving to spend the same time and cash as my, also very awesome, colleagues?

The answer is no. No I should not. As a matter of fact at the end of glass of wine number 4, I was wondering if they should have. The same way my family would miss me, wouldn’t theirs miss them? Would their situations and circumstances not be made better by being able to focus those same resources on them? Would we all not be better off if we could function within the confines of our specified time of work and provided equipment?

We sure as hell would complain less, be less stressed, in my case have long, flowing, luxurious hair, and few less pounds stress fat.

My point is, this, while yes we get praised for our above and beyond efforts, and yes there are times when these things might be necessary for whatever unforeseen circumstance, but not on a regular. The road to success really shouldn’t be paved with broken households, neglected kids and spouses and a complete lack of personal fulfillment. No, No it shouldn’t.

And it’s not just teaching either. This misguided idea that we are slaves to our work has spread across all professions. One only need look on the Facebook or the Twitter to see droves of zombie friends lamenting their own struggle. Using hashtags like badges of honor, because you know the realer the struggle the more life cred we got, or something.

Nope this is not a rant, this is a declaration, that I will not work harder but I will work smarter. I will use all the opportunities/technology/aptitude afforded me to trailer my life into a well oiled efficient machine, which will not keep my away from my family, genetic or bloggosphereical. I will learn to laugh again and not the kind that comes from being the only alternative to tears. Belly laughs people, deep and bone jarring. I’m gonna do that pin-up shoot, even if it only graces the pages of my bedroom walls, and I’m gonna finish that book because it’s fun.

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Ok so maybe I am ranting a little, but I’m also smiling  genuinely without any hint of sadness for the first time in a long time. So maybe a little ranting is what the body needed to get the fingers pumping. Plus I’m all ranted out now.

Thanks for reading. I’ll see you tomorrow I promise.

 

About which there may or may not be cause for celebration

download (5) Today’s a special day of sorts in my life. Today marks an anniversary for me. You see 9 years today to the very day, I joined the ranks of the teaching fraternity, and let me tell you it’s been on hell of a ride.

Now I want to share this experience, as is the case with most experiences, but as I contemplated what to write about my time in this profession, I must say I was rather perplexed.

On the one hand I’ve been lucky enough to work in a place where I’ve found a sense of community if not family. Sitting and working beside some really interesting folks. Some of whom have been an inspiration, others who have toppled me constantly to a state of disequilibrium which has forced me to learn and learn and adapt. I’ve been bent and molded by this thing and all the things that it’s swept into my mental space along with it. But if I only wrote about those things, I might give the impression that all is always well, and that is a pitfall I am trying to avoid.

On the other hand I could write about all the bad, all the folks, colleagues, students, administrators and administrations which have taught me that I have an amazing propensity for the receipt of abuse. From the whole sale criticisms of ministry officials, or those shadow officials who speak under the guise of the protection of us. I could render tales for over crowding and inadequate resources, of sleepless nights and thankless efforts. All of that would be true and I could write it all and not lose a wink of sleep knowing that it has been set free.

I did tarry in my thought process and spare a thought to the offence that either discourse might cause. That some of my “superiors” and even colleagues might feel offended if I were to point out the inadequacies of the thing, or that public would feel vindicated in the vilification of not only me but all those persons with backs similarly fractured by the efforts of providing education. But I’m in a frame of mind at the moment to not be bothered. You see the truth is that this thing called teaching has it’s own unique highs and lows and to dwell on either is to detract from the other.

One of the highs I’ve had, and it makes me smile even now as I sit and think about them, are my students. Well some of my students. The ones that stood out and made and impression on me, and even to a lesser extent the folks with whom I was a ship in the night passing. Those ones who only years later, maybe in passing or in the course of casual conversation reveal that I really did help, inspire, comfort, or encourage them. There really is something to be said for the personal satisfaction of teaching. It’s almost enough to make me forget the headaches, the sleeplessness, the heartburn from stress. yes Almost.

Another had been the unique position it has afforded me to watch my country grow and develop, to tap the eb and flow of social and cultural changes. The ability to envision a future based on my observations of the unfiltered opinions of the people as viewed through our filter-less youth. It has inspired action, and change, ingenuity and drive.

Tonight when I lay my head to rest, closing the day, the day that marks 9 years since I entered this thing. I’ll do it knowing that I would have done some good. That I would have been taught that I have strength and patience beyond even my own expectations. I will do it knowing that I am in full possession of the vitality to continue and maybe to surpass my expectations of myself.

And I owe it all, to the fact that I have worked 9 years in the most testing job of them all. Now I”m not sure if this better-sweet occasion is cause for celebration. I haven’t done anything special, have I? Nothing outside the scope of being what a good human being ought to be. Right?

A promise made, a comfort to whom?

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Hi there,

Today is July first, you probably already know that, but what you didn’t know is that today is the 4th July since a batch of about 60 teachers would graduate from the ASC department of teacher education.  Joining  the ranks of over a hundred who would have done the same.

You’re probably thinking: “What makes that significant at all?”

Well, today is the fourth July 1st since those teachers would have gained their qualifications. That day, that first July first would have been the beginning of a travesty. The beginning of a time when we realized that being sent to undergo mandatory training, training which we were told was made necessary by the OECS education reform agreement, really only meant that the expectations of our performance and nothing else would increase.

This 1st of July marks the anniversary of our three year sentence in thankless, compensationless servitude the government, children, and ideal of Antigua and Barbuda. Yes, you see this scholarship was by no means free, we spent hundreds on tuition and thousands in books, manipulatives, teaching aids and countless man hours in study, ending in a three year bond to service. Time spent away from children and spouses, siblings and other loved ones, all in the name of educating ourselves in order to provide better educational services to the youth of the nation. For many not because we wanted to, but because we were told that this was the way to further employment, the preservation of our livelihood, blackmail.

But the insult did not end there, since then we have been commanded to alert the ministry of our qualifications, the ones they sent us to get, in order to be updated to our correct status in the teaching system, note we are now expected to put these tools into use, to function in a capacity in which we are not being payed to function. Our reply, not verbatim, was:

“Congrats on the qualification. But we regret to inform you that there are no positions available at this time.”

It’s an interesting reply, all things considered isn’t it?

The ABUT took it upon itself to help us, they negotiated for over a hundred and fifty new Trained Teacher positions to be made available. They, in effect, did the job of the administration for them, they in effect took it upon themselves to soothe the sting of the lack of foresight that had led us to this destitute place. The very thing that had disillusioned so many in the teaching industry.

That was 2014.

Now here we are in 2015, and those positions are still there gathering dust. Those positions, in which we must function, without compensation, have not yet been appointed. Even though there was a promise of April, then May, then June and now… And now?

I for one, find this the height of irony. Especially after sitting through two days and several hours of professional development and conference, where the stress was on getting qualified, honing our skills, so we could offer even better service. So we could offer more diverse teaching, cater to more complex students and their needs.  To grab with gusto the opportunities for personal, professional and financial growth.

Today is the first of July, the fourth one since I started to contemplate if the field I work in, is one that will provide those very same opportunities. If this was a place to settle, and make a career, if this was really worth the demands on my time, health, and family. Today, without word, or compassion, I think I have my answer.