This year marks my 10th anniversary in teaching. I remember my very first class. I went back to my hometown in rural Alberta and taught in the school I went to as a student. I taught a grade 2 class with only 14 students and a full-time teaching assistant. There were high-needs in the class but I didn't think twice about class size and having extra support. I just assumed it was the norm. Now I teach in a more urban setting in Ontario and have mainly taught students in grades 4-8 the last few years. This past September, I started in a new school and a new role as a planning time teacher. During that first week I met 100+ students from K-7. Although I have 10 years experience, that week I felt like a first year teacher all over again especially when I was teaching in the Kindergarten classes. In our school system, we have full-day kindergarten for students age 3.5-5. It's full day and every day, and there is one teacher and DECE (designated early childhood educator) in the classroom.
My philosophy towards teaching hasn't changed much, I teach because I love working with children. I have learned new methods and ideologies. I realize I can't do it all and over the past year I have tried to observe and listen more rather than just doing. I have learned when I teach from my heart I am being true to myself and therefore gain knowledge from my students. This is not an easy lesson to learn as I try to cover all the curriculum expectations as well as meet the goals created by the school or school board. From my personal experience I find the goals are often defined by the scores of our once a year provincial tests called EQAO. I remember when I was first interviewed for a job and how I need to know the newest educational buzz words and methodologies. I believed a balanced literacy program was important and found ways to incorporate 100 minutes of literacy into my programming. But over the last couple of years, numeracy has been the focus. Now we include 3 or 4 part math lessons in 60 minutes while still providing an enriching literacy program and please don't forget the daily 20 minutes of physical activity, the science and social studies, the arts and technology and try to do some of this outside because outdoor education is vital as well.
I have burned out in some years where I dedicated all my free time to my job. I have learned to not bring work home and I have learned to grow a thicker skin when I find myself in conflicts with students and especially with the parents. I have been told to not take things personally. I have grown.
As a beginning teacher, I always tried to stay away from the politics of teaching, I figured I can do what I love within my own classroom and the rest I had no control over. But it was this year when teachers were trying to fairly negotiate a contract that I realized how important it is to be informed with the politics. A contract was imposed on us in 2012 by our government and teachers were forced to do our jobs and essentially with less pay. Then in 2014, it took over 2 years to finally come to terms with a tentative agreement. The tension was intense when the teacher's union decided to step up our job action last June and it lasted until mid-November. During this time, I learned the importance to stand in solidarity with my union and the teachers. The public needed to know what the fight was about, the need for smaller class sizes, the importance of planning time and funding for Special Education and Full-Day Kindergarten. But again, teachers were under the public eye and criticized for wanting more money. People were feeling the rage of teachers potentially striking and their voices were loudly heard all across social media but not without teachers speaking up as well. Every year I teach students to THINK before they post because you can't take it back once it's out in cyberspace and the importance to be KIND.
A few weeks ago a colleague retired after teaching for 32 years, this made me think about my own retirement, in 2036. So technically I have 20 more years or 2 decades left, that is a long time and plenty of time to still empower students, to make a difference, to learn and to grow. The passion to teach is within me, it comes and goes but as long as I follow my heart I think I will be okay.