Passion exists inside me, not inside a job

This blog post has been in the works for a couple of weeks now and was coaxed out by Dan Callahan’s post One for the Record Books over at Geek.Teacher. His post reflects on the mixed feelings he has around changing schools, changing positions.

My own recent job change has had me thinking along the same lines.

Dan writes:

I’ll admit to being very conflicted that I’m abandoning a lot of the core elements that have defined my first eight years as an educator. My new position is going to be so drastically different from what I’ve been doing on so many different levels, and it will differ in a lot of ways from what I set out to do when I got my first job.

* I’m going to be moving from a semi-urban district to a much more suburban environment.
* I’m going to be moving from middle school to elementary school.
* I’m going to be leaving special education to work with a much wider portion of the student body.

In my darker moments, I’ll admit, it feels like I’m selling out. While I know that my new position will have its own challenges, I have to admit that those areas highlighted above feel important, and it feels like I’m abandoning them.

As many of you know, I loved my last job. It was infused with ideals of teaching I believe in strongly – working with students who have been marginalized much of their lives and showing them it doesn’t have to always be that way, putting the student before curriculum, the necessity of relationship, the heightened sense of making a difference in students’ lives.

I used to teach students in grades 10 and 11 at an alternative program, kids who were at risk to not graduate high school but were identified as bright, needing a different environment. Close to half of my students were Native students (Mohawk from Kahnawake). I now teach French in an elementary school in a rural area of Eastern Ontario and at first I, like Dan, thought that I was abandoning those ideals I held close by leaving that job.

Those feelings are also entangled with the sense of real abandonment I fear I’ve left my students. You see, I took the new position with 4 days of teaching plus an exam period left in the year at the old school. The decision wasn’t easy but necessary to gain experience in the Ontario school system. I was able to take it because of the tight teaching team that exists in that program. I didn’t leave my students to flap in the wind with a random substitute teacher. I left them with some of the most caring people I know. That is another fear I have, attached to another one of my ideals, that I have left a teaching team that embodies collaboration, caring, and raising the bar for ourselves and our students.

So, while I was excited to be starting something new and to be on the track to better work/life balance by working at a school in my area of the world, I was also thinking about everything I just wrote about. Not to mention the fact that all of this was happening in June, not usually my most energetic month!

Soon into my new job, however, I began to make connections with my colleagues and with my students. The first time a student came to me on the playground, “Madame Tracy, please help,” I thought, “All is good”. I realized that I am still excited about helping kids to learn, though in different ways. And I remembered, it is not my job that defines me but me that defines my job.

I find inspiration when I need it and at the end of my 2nd week at the new school was intrigued by a tweet in my twitter feed from Elona Hartjes:

The link led to a talk on TED by Srikumar Rao called Plug into your hard-wired happiness. The line, “passion exists inside you, not inside a job,” seemed louder than the other lines that were spoken in the video. And I realize that everything is going to be ok because I love and am passionate about working with kids and teachers, about being part of a caring community dedicated to the children within it, about creating hope for the future within community. My job helps me to live out my passions but it isn’t the sum of them.

Crimes against Children: Am I Not Human?

An article on today’s cbc.ca struck me. It seemed unbelievable, the title seemed out of a supermarket paper, a tabloid:


Quebec pastor who took child bride sentenced to 5 years

According to the article, when Daniel Cormier was 48 he, a self-proclaimed pastor, married a 10-year old member of his Church. His Church was for the homeless and addicted. He said he was saving her by marrying her, and that he was ‘entitled’ to have sex with her because she was his wife.

Daniel Cormier started a Church to minister to some of the most helpless of our society, and then he molested someone even more helpless – the child of an addict in his Church.

Like I said, it seems like a story from the tabloids. But it’s not. If it were, it wouldn’t be true. And this is heartbreaking truth.

Here’s another one:

Elderly Quebec man to serve incest sentence in seniors home

This man sexually abused his two daughters 50 years ago.

Crimes against children happen all over the world, even in our backyards. What saddens me is that I imagine for every story we read about, there are so many more we don’t know about at all. These stories are important, they are sad, devestating, stories that should not be told – but they must be told.

sigh…They must be told.

Blogging for Human Rights. Click to view source.

Blogging for Human Rights. Click to view source.


Responsibility

Gleaned from Scott McLeod

“You can’t expect responsible kids if you don’t give them any responsibility.”

Love it.
Isn’t this what it is all about, this teaching business?
Thanks Scott.

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Trying to lead from the heart

Really, I am trying.

I don’t usually write about my personal challenges as a teacher in this blog, but today I find myself needing to.

I started at a new school this September and was hired to teach and design a new program for older students (16-21) who are not  expected to graduate.

I’m now teaching 14 students from the ages of 12-19. 6 of them are in the original program – a life skills transition program we’re calling Bridges. 8 of them are in a ‘learning centre’. I teach them all at the same time. One of my students is severely intellectually handicapped and works below a kindergarten level. Other students have a variety of cognitive and learning disabilities. I am finding it difficult to lead them where they need to go when there are such different objectives attached to each of the students in the room. I need help.

I think I need to map out the types of learners in the room and work from there. So I can design maybe 3 or 4 different plans per lesson rather than 13. And so that I do not have lessons where students are lost, or I am lost.

Because that is how I feel sometimes with them. I want to lead them where they need to go, and from my heart.

blogs and wikis: a teacher’s perspective

Steve Ransom pointed me towards this video of a grade 1 teacher and how she uses blogs and wikis in her classroom. There is also some parent and student commentary. Her advice is to start small, with a blog for your classroom, and let yourself grow with it.

I’d like to hear her principal’s perspective as well!

(Oh, and I certainly hope she doesn’t work in this superintendent’s district. If she does she may need to watch out.)