Thursday, September 9, 2010

Teaching stories two

As the stories over lunch, flowed about how we learned our craft, I thought about when I was a student teacher, in Port Coquitlam, working with a Preston. Preston became a good friend and was a wonderful mentor to me. I was sure of myself, some might say arrogant, others might say I was caught up in my own importance. I thought I was serious, dedicated and going to change the world. I prepared my lessons I was confident in front of the students. I had learned the rule of the day for new teachers. The rule was (Do Not Smile until Christmas). The thinking at the University was that if you wanted to maintain classroom control, you had to be strict and unyielding in the use of your power.  I followed that rule in my first week of teaching the classes and I thought Preston and the other teachers were impressed.

What I did not know at the time was that I was too serious, too unyielding, and forgetting about the reason I was there, which was to reach children and help them learn, I was not there to just teach the curriculum. The first day of my second week at lunch, Preston said he wanted me to try some multimedia in the Consumer Ed class I was teaching. He had this record that he wanted me to play for the students. I wanted to preview the material, but Preston and the others said there was no need. All I needed to do was to impress on the students how serious they should take what they were about to hear and to pay close attention as Preston would test them on what they heard when I left.  Feeling full of self-importance for being given such an important task so early in my student teaching, I did what I was asked to do, and I really laid it on thick. I then put on the record. The recording was of a serious of jokes about passing gas with all of the prerequisite sound effects. The class started to laugh and I did as well.  I lost control of the class, but I did reach the students.

Preston told me after class that he believed I needed to relax and to focus on the students, which I did and I also learned to not take myself seriously either in the class or in life. One of my other classes a grade 12 accounting class was first thing in the morning and every class I had a student fell asleep about 30 minutes into the lesson, the first time it happened I woke the student up and gave him a detention at noon. After the class I talked to Preston and he told me that the young man was working two jobs to help his family and he only had classes in the morning. By noon he was finished. The young man worked  from 3 to 11 at a gas station in town and then worked from 12 to 8 at the mill but since this was his final semester and would be the first to graduate high school from his family, Preston had allowed him to sleep. Preston said that we were lucky that the young man could make it to school.  I thought about that and when I talked to the student when he came into detention, I said I would allow him to sleep but the only condition was that if he snored I would have someone wake him up.  The rest of the time I was teaching him, the student always fell asleep after about 30 minutes, and I learned that my voice had some power, but not the power to keep one awake if tired.

I was able to enjoy the time I spent with Preston as his student teacher and whenever I saw him in my professional career, I was reminded that as teachers we always have to put students first. I only regret that I never did get a copy of that record.

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