Friday, October 2, 2015

Day 2: When I was a teacher...

     I was tough.  I loved the academic part of teaching.  I've always loved to learn more detail about different topics, and I could endlessly learn new thing when teaching History.  I taught for the International Baccalaureate program, and as the senior year teacher was able to compile & chose what topics I wanted to teach to my students from the extensive list of choices.  I had no textbook for that course; I bought different college textbooks, resources, commentaries, and created my own reference materials.  The program offered some guidance on what questions would be asked & rubrics of the best answers.  I wanted to make sure I gave my students the every opportunity to score as many points as possible, and probably taught them more than they needed for the sake of being thorough.

     For those students, my gift to them was to push them to learn, grow, become a better writer.  To work myself like crazy grading their papers, studying to prepare lessons on topics I had never studied in depth before.  I taught the History of the Americas, and I did not have an extensive background on Latin American or Canadian History.  I am at my core a rule follower, and graded them based on the rubrics that would be used to grade their finals.  I did not award points for 'trying' really, because it didn't help my students become better.  I did not hesitate to award poor grades for work that was sub-par, and I did not feel that was inappropriate.  In my opinion, it is a disservice to the students to award them 'feel good points' on topics which they will later be graded rigorously.  I awarded 'feel good points' for small weekly assignments or for wrote memory work.  I wanted to award 'good grades' to my students, but I did not give all my students an A.  Very few of my students earned those As!

     My regular ed classes I treated slightly differently, but not much.  They did not write extensively, but rather were challenged to learn the material in their text books & apply it in a more standardized test application.  In their class, I had them read out loud so they could learn to be more confident in how the textbook presented the materials.  We created a 'word of the day' which I would let them chose from the text, we would define it on the board, and I would create & laminate a small poster of that word to hang around the room like a border.  I awarded extra credit on all their tests for sentences they wrote using a word correctly.  My goal for them was to not feel the material was 'too hard' but rather to empower them in thinking all they had to do to understand it was try & take it bit by bit.  I taught them to outline the text & take notes.  Wow, for my 'easier' class, I'm sure my students may not have felt they had it easy.

     I think it is important to outline the style of teacher that I was, because it sets the stage for seeing how I could not have been my students' 'favorite teacher' because I was tough.  I did not become their friends in class as a goal, nor did I ever connect with them outside of class or coaching.  I cared for my students; I cared about helping them succeed in their goals, whether it be earning college credit or being more fluent reading & studying the text.  I very rarely saw 'trouble students' in my class, but maybe that is just my memory?

     As a very young teacher, who started out at 22 years old fresh out of college, I worried about being taken seriously as an authority figure.  I set myself apart very deliberately, and perhaps to a fault, in order to protect myself in a world where we see in the news all the time that teachers are not always trustworthy.  I wanted to be above reproach in that arena, and I purposefully distanced myself from my students.  In hindsight, I did begin to wonder some years later, how it would have been different for me if I had not?  Although I still believe it was a very sensible & cautious position for me to take.

I cannot wait to walk through more of my memories- I am amazed at what I have really been able to recall when I stop & picture my classroom.  I can see my desk, my file cabinets.  My white/chalk board, my 'word of the day' border, my desk arrangement, my maps of random places, my Salvador Dali wall calendar, even my computer & desk calendar.  Oh my planner!!  How I loved planning out my lessons & organizing myself.  I'm hilariously type-A.

Thanks for reading today.  Blessings!

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