February 1, 2011

First day of work!

The first day of work!!  School doesn’t start until Friday, so until then we have professional development sessions.  Today all the teachers met for some planning and goal setting.  We calculated there was 4790 hours in total of classroom teaching experience (!) in the room.

Initially, it was a rather sobering experience as the general atmosphere was really cynical.  “What are we doing here?  I just want to be back on holidays…”  “At least I have books to read right now.”  “What’s the point?  What a joke.”  “Hellhole”  “Expletives…” 

I gulped down my shock and stayed quiet, thinking, oh jeez what have I gotten myself into?  I’m surrounded by a bunch of cynics who have just come back from 6 weeks of holidays!  In the morning tea break, I went up to the other associate with me at the school and whispered, “Thank God you’re here…”  After all the drive and determination we had shared during the initial intensive, actually hearing what the teachers were saying was incredibly disappointing.   I suppose it would be a bit like going into a kitchen and seeing what the chefs really think and do to the food. 

Then the principal singled out the TFA associates in front of everyone else and I could have really just sank into the ground.  I think there are immensely high expectations for what we can achieve and, while it’s flattering, I’m very hesitant to accept and live up to impossible goals.  There’s a balance between expecting great outcomes for myself and my students, and being overly ambitious and failing.  But of course, until I actually begin teaching, all this is a hypothetical.  Only three more days and I’ll be in the classroom though.

But this atmosphere changed after my initial hesitation.  We shared a moment when we had a great teaching experience that was especially meaningful.  It was a real turning point seeing all the teachers change from being disengaged, apathetic, tired to talk about their teaching experiences.  I saw how excited and passionate they were about changing kids’ lives.  Celebrating successes through building skills and confidence in another human being is such a special experience.  “I started a school garden with 3 kids and by the end of term we had 15.”  “You get a warm fuzzy feeling in your stomach” “Helping the student understand how much he could actually read when he thought he couldn’t at all…”  “Pushing them to perform despite their initial hesitations and they achieved”  It was just bloody brilliant!  And the collegiality and hope amongst everyone, despite the region being “disadvantaged” – it was incredibly exciting.

It got me thinking, what kind of career can truly be this fulfilling?  I am so grateful that teaching and education have provided me with a new career path where I can really make a difference.  I know, I know, it’s a total Gen Y clichéd line but only for a reason.

The school wants so much to create a community that is literate, numerate, articulate, resilient and passionate.   I think those are traits we should all live by – and I’d add in kindness, generosity, respectfulness and humility.  It starts with me though because as a teacher I have to be a good role model.

OK, back to a uni assignment and then lesson planning…

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