I started teaching at a new school two days ago. It’s always a challenge to learn the new rules: where’s the photocopier? where’s the bathroom? who can fix my computer? which printer?
But, this week, I tried to see this change through the eyes of a grade 9 student at South Carleton and I realized that my anxieties are small compared to theirs. Watching the fear on their faces as they entered the gym to meet their cheering Link Crew members, nearly brought me to tears. Some of them needed some quiet, some space, more time for such a big change in their young lives.
I feel fortunate to have two classes of grade 9 students and the four days of this week will focus on making them feel welcome, and creating a caring environment where they know they will be supported in learning.
I started my classes sharing information that I thought they should know about me.
I then asked the students to complete a few short questions on a handout. I asked them what they felt I needed to know (do they play competitive sports, or music, or travel between their parents’ homes). I also asked them what they would study if they could study any topic possible, what they are concerned about in English, and what they are really good at.
Most had difficulty answering questions about themselves, and even though this task is not directly linked to an expectation in the curriculum, the observations gave me information that will shape my practice around meta cognition. It’s the first time that I have used this questionnaire, and I’m glad that I did it. I’m glad that I decided to follow the Finnish model and take time to learn about my students. All change takes time.
I am an English and Media Studies teacher, and Department Head of Fine Arts at Nepean High School in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. I am concerned with equity and antiracist practices while recognizing that I am speaking from a position of privilege and continuing to learn.
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