Float on …

It is 6.55 am and I am still sitting in my PJs trying to get my mind and body ready for the craziness that is teaching for another year. My tea is brewing, my clothes drying and my family quietly sleeping in their beds. The sun is beginning its slow daily climb above the ocean out my window. My limbs ache having only had four hours to recuperate from yesterday’s Big Day Out. At 31, I’m starting to feel the ill-effects of long days of standing in the sun, dancing to bands amidst a crowd of strangers.

I am dreading today. Well, maybe not today. Maybe Monday when the students resume. Today is just the teachers and a little time to panic quietly and alone in my classroom.

I’ve worked hard for the last two weeks of the school holidays – planning wonderfully rich education experiences for my students in all classes – except for one. Year 12 Advanced English. Why? Because I’m fearful. I fear the big 6 – and I’m not too proud to admit it. The pressure I feel to help my students achieve the ideal – the elusive Band 6 – has tensed my shoulders more than jumping around for an hour an a half whilst progressive rockers TOOL systematically dismantle my perception of reality.

I’ve been moaning with my head in my hands. Crying on the inside at my own lack of knowledge – my inability to teach well, to think critically or to teach thinking critically and independently. My failure to create/mould/shape great writers. It’s been making my heart beat too fast and it’s been upsetting my husband and my kids. This huge summative, state-wide assessment has made me depressed – and I haven’t even stepped foot in the classroom this year!

So I asked some of my ex-students if there was anything I did when I taught them that they liked – no compliment fishing either, just raw honesty I’d expect from these kids. So here’s a couple of words they said that helped me ‘about face my way of thinking’ (Fugazi lyric for those of you playing spot the music geek):

‘you made us think outside the box and come up with original and insightful ways of looking at texts, you challenged us’

‘You have such a gentle approach to your teaching and you are really switched on when you are teaching.’

‘You inspired with your own thoughts and assisted us in reading a text differently and building our skills at actually reading a text. So while you did so much for us in some parts, we were able to take it a step further.’

These comments have meant the world to me. It’s what I thought I couldn’t do – that I needed to take a course in how to do this. But I guess I did it just by liking my subject, my students … They’ve made me relax (and yes, I’m still tense and anxious a bit but hey, that’s my personality – can’t do much about that!) and I’ve decided just to get into the texts I’m teaching – get excited. Get out there!

One student gave me great advice: Get them to talk to each other.

So I’m going to … passion drives a quality lesson. From me, or from them, or from the text – or all three. So that’s my goal for 2011 – enjoy it, relax, float on … especially for my most mature kids. They need me to be there as a whole person. To be strong and model learning for life, not just a test.

PS: I am now going to be late for Day 1. Oh well …

9 thoughts on “Float on …

  1. Best of Luck in your new year. We are half way through our year here in Ireland and about four months away from the Final State Exam. As a young English teacher too I know exactly how you feel and have the same doubts myself. But as your students articulated you’re doing a great job by just being you, being passionate about your subjects and your student’s progress as is evident from the very fact that you wrote this blog! That’s all we can do, be the best versions of ourselves and show the students that what the say matters. So keep the faith, keep up the good work and know that all over the world you have kindred spirits!!

    • Thanks for the comment Brighid :0)

      It is so hard to keep your chin up sometimes when you feel like the punches are flying from all corners … we teacher take an ego battering constantly – something I think holidays can’t really counter.

      You’re right thought – being true to ourselves is essential to surviving for our students – being honest for them and staying true to their education, not the most current dept/govt policy.


  2. You can only do what you can do and from I can see of your online efforts and presence, that is more than many can deliver. I am sure your students will rise to the challenge. You want them to aim high, you expect them too and they will. Perhaps not all but some will. Take heart, the very fact that you care enough to share these thoughts shows you have empathy for your students, all will be well. Spoken from the heart of a year 5 teacher only facing NAPLAN this year!

    • Thanks Henrietta :0)

      My son was in Year 3 last years and we quite distressed by the impact NAPLAN prep was having on his classmates and learning experience as a whole.

      Bring on PBL – embed numeracy and literacy skills in real-world, meaningful and engaging tasks!

    • I’d be pretty confident in saying that EVERY staffroom in NSW had to Band 6/NAPLAN conversation today 😦

      Standardised testing = standardised students.

      Mind you, I’m of the opinion that testing is fine – the data can be very useful for teachers, parents, schools. Also I’ve found our focus on the finer points of spelling, grammar, punctuation has been quite good for our kids – the ‘Language’ syllabus denied the students the deeper understanding of why language works the way it does. Of course, we don’t need national testing to get that stuff taught.

      As you can see, I’m divided on the issue. As I said in my comment above – I’m keen to see literacy and numeracy (as well as digital literacy) embedded into PBL. THEN we can get some data on T&L!

  3. Pingback: How can we teach critical and creative thinking? | Love2Learn

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