Tuesday, December 22, 2009

A Difficult Place to Stand

I have now been teaching for eight weeks. What an eight weeks it has been! Hard work, long hours, many hours spent in the car, and few evenings spent outside of my house. Time, effort and reward and I wouldn't trade for anything.

It is really hard to wrap my head around the fact that I am living my dream. I have spent some of my time reflecting on that simple fact and realizing that a part of me feels lost because of it - what's my next goal? what do I dream for now? I have since realized that it has only just begun - I intend to move out of my parent's house within the next year, have my car put into my own name and the ultimate goal being to own property. Those dreams are definitely big enough for now!

Put aside the daily trials that I face with my classes, working with others, managing parent contacts, keeping people safe, etc and I see myself standing in this system we call "Education" and realizing that I am not sure what it is supposed to accomplish anymore...realizing I don't know how to stand within it. It's difficult, everyday.

When you are preparing to be a teacher you spend a lot of time trying to figure out who you are as a teacher and what aspects are important to you. You make those things your focus and design your classroom, lessons, etc around it. Afterall, if you cannot be natural in your classroom it won't seem sincere. What I have come to realize is that we spent no time figuring out what to do with that information! So I know who I want to be as a teacher, and what I want to try to inspire my students to be...but can I really make this Education system work?

I have honest fears about where our province is heading. It is a frightening realization that this generation of kids lack the skills to think for themselves. And only we are to blame. Even as a first year teacher I know that what I am sitting in is different than when I was a student. I am not oblivious to the fact that there were struggling students 10 years ago, that is a fact, I am aware of it. What I do know is that the students in the Academic streams get to high school without basic skills in mathematics. The cannot add integers, never mind add, subtract, multiply and divide fractions. So how I am supposed to expect them to be able to think about problems and to learn how to solve them (and I walked into teaching with the goal to teach these skills to kids, not to teach them Calculus! so how can I not feel lost??).

You could argue that I am overreacting, and I wouldn't necessarily argue with you - but we NEED to over react to this! Something in this "new" curriculum isn't working! Whether we have somehow worked to scare elementary teachers away from math or we have changed things so much that the way in which it has to be taught isn't working, SOMETHING NEEDS TO CHANGE!

We have this amazing idea of "Pathways" - they are often referred to as "Pathways to Success". We definitely have been working to change the definition of success in our schools to recognize that not everyone can accomplish the same things, and that going into the work force, an apprenticeship or college are just as successful as going to University - and I love it. But if the Pathways don't work they way the should even before high school, we have a problem! An applied class is supposed to be able to take a more hands on approach to learning for students who don't learn as well from books. They should, in theory, be learning similar material to the Academic stream...but this is impossible. The applied classes end up being a mix of students with various abilities, most who have fallen so far behind throughout elementary school that they cannot maintain the standards we want to have for them in Grade 9 (and we think it is good for the egos to not allow students to fail in elementary school?????? on what planet does all of a sudden failing in Grade 9 make for a positive ego???).

Anyway, this update has turned into a serious rant. So despite the fact that I have more to say on the matter I will leave some of it up to you. I think our system needs a serious change from the bottom up. Our future is certainly uncertain at this time...question is, how can us pawns (the teachers) make what we do have work for these students?

Any input, questions, or comments you have will be appreciated.

Or heck, write your City Councillor, the Mayor, the Minister of Education and your MP. We've got problems in our own backyards...we need to make SOMEONE realize that the problem exists and we know it!

For now, I will enjoy some Christmas music and a skate at the neighbourhood rink.

Merry Christmas and cheers to a safe and happy New Year!