Tuesday, September 23, 2008

je ne comprends pas

Yesterday I went to pay a little visit to my old stretch math class.  The one that when I think about it it hurts just a little bit that I don't get to teach it.  It was my baby.  Those kids, I miss them.  True I was super frustrated with them at times, but I love them.  Really wanting to understand their learning issues taught me so much about being a better teacher.  (gag, I'm sorry, I'll stop now.)

So I visited.  And observed a lesson by the teacher who is not me.  Typically the same resource teacher who was in with me would be in the class but she had meetings so I opted to fill in.  Since the beginning of the year we have been trying to support the teacher who took over for moi - securing planning time, bringing in experts who really helped me out in the beginning, etc.  I have been very pleasantly surprised with how easy my replacement has been to work with.  Considering all possibilities, we've had an excellent working relationship.

Now, I'm trying to wrap my brain around what I observed and how to best approach the issue, if I can address it at all.  Said teacher is going through notes with the students, but the vocabulary is way out of their league.  The examples and speed are excellent!  The notes, they are making little to no sense for the kids.  Teacher keeps bringing focus back to how they don't need to worry about the notes, about how the examples are what are important, but is still having them copy out the notes.  The ones that make no sense with the accompanying explanations, and will certainly make no sense later without an explanation.  

So after the lesson we are chatting, this that and the other thing.  I decide I should lightly give a little critisism (after of course complimenting the speed and clarity of examples) and point out how the notes were an obstacle for them - not understanding makes many students shut down before they even arrive at the examples.  Teacher replies with "Oh I know, that's why I kept putting emphasis on how they weren't really important."  I didn't know how to tactfully say that they should have been removed then but couldn't think of a way to approach this.  

Today, I am still annoyed.  Seriously, freaking cross them out with an overhead marker.  Tell them not to copy them.  WHATEVER.   I don't understand why you would have them do things that you know are useless, not just useless actually but counter productive.  Last time I checked one of the learning outcomes was not printing practice.

I know I make tons of mistakes in my teaching.  All the time really.  Likely at least once an hour if not more.  I don't understand purposefully doing things in a way that make your job more difficult in the long run though.  

Wednesday, September 17, 2008


If you've been living under a rock for the last 3+ months, you maybe weren't aware that Sir Elton John is on a Canadian Tour.  A huge tour where all the shows sold out in 3ish minutes.  I live under a small-ish rock, so it's no wonder I didn't really know when tickets were going on sale in the first place and no real surprise that by the time I realized they were going on sale they were sold out.  So, ummm, no Elton for me.

I was okay with it, I'm not Elton's biggest fan or anything, I don't own anything with his name or face on it except the Lion King DVD.  But, it is Sir Elton John we're talking about here.  So when last minute tickets became available, the only reasonable thing to do seemed to be purchase them.  It's not like he's going to live forever and be back anytime soon.  Or ever.

Arriving at CUC we had no idea what to expect in terms of seats.  The tickets were "bleacher" seats and weren't on any of CUC's seating plans.  I didn't understand how magically, 12 hours before a 100% sold out show, a whole batch of tickets could come available.  Until we found our seats.  Behind. the. stage.  Seriously.  They found some hockey bleachers in a closet somewhere, lifted up the screen a little, and sat us directly behind the stage.  Turns out?  Some of the best seats in the house.

True I have no idea what kind of crazy faces the guitarists may have been making, or what was on the giant screen, but we were second row kind of close, with the bonus of being up a level so we could see everything going on.  We were essentially right on top the percussionists, which was very fun to watch.  I might even have developed a wee crush on the secondary percussion dude - before the show he totally raided an elementary school band room and was playing every gizmo under the sun that you could hit or shake including a set of cowbells, two vases, martini shakers, and more tambourines than any one person should need.  He also liked to entertain himself by making faces at the other band members (or maybe no one) and throwing his various hitting things around.  Fun!

Elton was of course awesome.  40 years later and he's still amazing.  He's pretty entertaining to watch also.  He's quite stiff in his movements and loves to point at himself and then the crowd.  It was a little unreal to see the crowd from almost the band's perspective - 10 000 people is a lot!  The sound quality was fantastic, me thinks Elton and his crew must carry some supplementary equipment or the CUC has really upgraded their stuff since the last time I saw a concert there.  He also finished with my favourite song, so thanks for that E!

Thursday, September 04, 2008

time warp

I was thinking of posting a week one back to school update. Then I realized I've been back at school for 2 minus a day weeks. How have I been back at school for two weeks?

If you haven't talked to me, myself and the two other learning leaders were in charge of organising our entire staff PD day on the second day back to school for teachers. This involved hours of meeting time, not sleeping Sunday night, more hours of work, and a general feeling that I may have been just a teeny weeny bit totally batshit crazy when I applied for/accepted this job. Guess what? Success! Everyone totally loved the day (for real, not in a we're just saying this so you don't cry, kind of way)! So at least our staff doesn't hate us from the get go. That part can happen a little later when we really dig into things. Just in case you're thinking when I say "my staff" I mean a happy little elementary school staff of 30ish people I do not. I mean 110 cynical high school teachers who instinctively roll their eyes when I get up to talk at least 50% of the time. The love, I rarely feel it.

So, as I'm sure you can guess, all the typical back to school things are good. My kids are great, classes are good, blah blah blah. The teaching bit, I still love it. I'm also really gaining some appreciation for the comfort factor that has really let me become a better teacher 6 (6!!) years later. My new job, however, is best described as challenging on steroids. It's a very bipolar position - one minute I'm just so excited about the dialogue and things happening, and the next I am beyond frustrated. There are lots of little pockets of very exciting things going on, they just happen to be buried under administrivia and garbage, not to mention a huge lack of time, clarity and real direction. I just hope the good parts are enough to outweigh the million frustrations as the year progresses.

So that's my first two weeks back. I'd be kidding myself if I thought it was going to settle down any in the weeks to come.