Week in a Glance: Reflecting on Teaching

I’m starting to see myself as a ‘full package’ – for lack of a better word – at work. A few notable events this week:

  • Ran mini-experiments on optics with the Secondary 2s and 3s: All the hands-on activities were fairly successful and got a few eureka moments. That’s what teachers work for!
  • Setting the expectations for classroom behaviour: I made the mistake that this is something that would naturally happen and still have issues with the Secondary 1s arriving late. I put down my science curriculum and set 75% of a class aside to lay out some new ground rules, using SLANT from Ms. Noonan on The Teaching Channel. I made an anchor chart on the front wall with the acronym and we used American Sign Language to spell out each letter. In conjunction with that, I set up teams for the students for some friendly competition and gave them one key piece of homework – show up on time for the next class. Wow! It worked beautifully and only a few straggled in late; if only I had figured this out earlier and not in March!
  • Giving effective and scary death stares: I had to single out a kid who tried to pocket my wooden splints. I stopped my entire lesson and stared out the kid until he put my equipment back. His classmates were definitely watching it play out, knowing that I was not joking around. And seriously, of all the things one could still in a science lab, skinny popsicle sticks?!
  • Using pet names: I have been struggling to get to know a Secondary 2, who was causing a lot of trouble at the beginning of the year. His mother is in the bush a lot; he wants attention, but tries to get it the wrong way by swearing, putting other people down and causing trouble. Only now, in March, is he starting to warm up to both I., the homeroom teacher, and I. This week, I started calling him “my grumpy bear” every time he lashes out. Funny enough, he doesn’t say anything back as he is secretly enjoying the attention. Giving appropriate and positive feedback can make difficult students to feel more valued. I’ll keep using this while it works!
  • Dealing with issues with other colleagues: I had a minor accident in the science preparation room, when equipment was left out and an unknown substance spilled on my hand. It was a bit upsetting and I ended up asking the administration to handle the conversation with the colleague who had left it out. The frustration has been building up over the past few months; an untidy and dangerous workplace is unacceptable. As I rarely have tension with fellow coworkers and also considering that there is a language barrier, I asked the vice-principal to act as both a moderator and translator. At the end of the day, the three of us had a meeting where we identified the issues and clarified the expectations of both parties in a fairly professional manner.
  • Giving pretty blunt and frank conversations: I had a rather public conversation was with W., in Secondary 3, who has been, for sometime, refused to do any work in class. At the beginning of the year, he was probably the most interested and the strongest student, but he has been on a downhill slide. On Friday afternoon, I saw him trying to pull out a chair from another student, who was quietly working. I refuse to let bullying happen, so I called him on it publicly and set him straight. I pointed out that everyone in the room was working and that while he was entitled to having a bad day, he did not have to shit on everyone else*. He didn’t say anything in response. At the end of the day, as I was entering the library, I dropped a bag of plastic chips by the door. W. happened to be inside and actually came by and helped me pick it up. This is a kid that normally won’t even put his binder back on the shelf! The fact that he helped me meant that he was trying to apologize. Perhaps?

This week, I’ve been reminded again that I’m overall fairly happy and comfortable with my job. I strive for the small successes here and there. I’ve been viewed as an integral and important part of the school.

This is a good place to be. Life is good.

*Not the exact words I used.

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