How is it June?

Where did the time go? Here we are, it is June 16 and there is 3 days left of classes. I last posted in February. So much for that.

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I am sitting in my classroom feeling a bit emotional (let’s be honest, I’m crying a little), thinking about this past semester. I did a lot of crying this semester, or at least at the beginning. I am not shedding overwhelmed tears anymore, but I am feeling a little sad to leave this place that has been my second (or first) home for the last year.

In February, when I first started teaching full time, I really thought I had made a mistake. Being responsible for the learning of over a hundred students is a HUGE task. It doesn’t matter if you go to school to be a teacher for twenty years, nothing really prepares you for your first classroom. I spent a lot of time wishing I had paid better attention in my classes and then questioning whether that would have made a difference anyway. How was I going to teach this many students that many things? And some of those things, I didn’t know a lot about either. I would go to bed with tears in my eyes and a knot in my stomach. I spent lunch hours trying to mark but really thinking about what other job I could do instead. Rodeo clown… Crocodile Hunter… Lumberjack…

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But, somewhere along the way, something happened. I’m not sure what it was or when it happened. Maybe sometime in March or April. It got easier. They (everyone) kept saying it would happen. In the midst of things, I really didn’t believe them – they seemed so far removed from where I was. I began to feel more confident, I built really good relationships with the kids and with my staff, and eventually I wasn’t staying past dark every night. It may have also helped that the days were getting longer. It also may have helped that I enlisted my brothers to cut, glue, staple, fold and sort whenever there was an opportunity.

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And now, here I am again getting teary, only now it’s because I can’t believe how quickly this semester has gone and how much I will miss the kids I’ve taught. This was my first kick at the can, and I know there are lots of things I will do differently. I haven’t been a perfect teacher by any means, but I have learned so much. And it’s been incredible to watch the kids learn too. It’s so exciting to see them get excited about something – whether it’s something we’re talking about in class or a project that has a special meaning to them.

It’s been a semester of the biggest challenges I have ever faced, but also the biggest rewards. Here’s some highlights:

Meredith Shareski, another teacher and I, directed our school’s One Acts and after hourssss of work, our kids ended up winning second in our regional festival. Pretty exciting moment!

This is what you look like when you agree to direct your school's play.

This is what you look like when you agree to direct your school’s play.

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Our set. Also a huge headache. Bigger is not always better.

A pretty excited cast & crew.

A pretty excited cast & crew.

Another big highlight has been working with my Media Studies class. This was definitely my toughest class, classroom management-wise. However, this class is also where I’ve seen how powerful relationships are when it comes to managing your classroom. I remember the teacher next door to me saying, “they’ll be the class that will teach you how to teach.” And, she was right.

As a part of our Teens & the Media unit we did, we looked at how teens were often negatively portrayed in the media. I asked the kids to find both a positive and negative news article featuring teens to discuss in class. They were soon frustrated trying to find a positive article about teens, complaining that they couldn’t find any positive news about teens. So, we decided we should do something positive in our community and partner with the local newspaper to bring about some positive press about teens. We decided to walk over an elementary school that was close and do some work with the grade 1/2 class. My grade elevens (who lacked a lot of motivation usually) were so excited to do this. This was such an incredible day. I was so impressed with their willingness to step up to the plate and to give back. The Times Herald wrote an article about the morning that you can read here on page 12-13.

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I could go on, but this post is already lengthy (that’s what happens when you don’t write for months). It has been an amazing semester. It has been a hard semester. I am so thankful for all of the people that supported me and had faith in me when I didn’t have faith in myself. I wouldn’t have been able to do any of this on my own.

It has been a season of growth and of change. I don’t know totally what the future holds or what direction I might head in next, but I do know that I will always remember at Peacock Collegiate with really fond memories and I hope to find myself back here one day. It has made me a better teacher and a stronger person, and the payoff was worth the initial struggle. I am looking forward to whatever the next chapter might be. But, **spoiler alert** it probably won’t involve crocodile hunting.

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My re-learning this week.

Two weeks have gone by since I last blogged, and to be honest, I haven’t even wanted to. All weekend I kept thinking, “what have I learned this week?” and the thought itself seemed too overwhelming to answer.

My first two weeks teaching were the steepest learning curve I think I’ve ever been on. I thought internship was stretching, but nothing can really prepare for those first few weeks as a teacher. There’s just SO much to learn. You have to know the kids, their interests, the curriculum, the outcomes, the direction you’re headed, how you’re going to get there… mostly, it felt like I just had to know what I was doing the next day. When they say “survival mode” it’s really not a joke.

I wrote a blog post after my first week teaching, reflecting on the things I felt I had learned in my first week. I think those will be things I will be re-learning again and again throughout my career.

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I don’t like the idea of re-learning. It sounds painful and like a lot of work. I like learning something once and feeling competent. Only, I’m realizing that doesn’t work. And it’s not authentic. Learning is messy. It sometimes takes a lot of tries and a lot of re-learning to get it right. And even so, does learning ever really stop? Should it? Do we ever really “get it right?” Yikes, for a girl who likes her comfort zone, I’m way out of my league.

One person I really admire is my mom. She hasn’t had the easiest year, and she’s had to face a lot of changes. She started a new job a few months ago, and she still feels like she’s just getting the hang of things. Tonight she said, “Man, I feel like I’m learning, and re-learning every day. I forget things and I make mistakes and I’m not sure if I’m doing things right.” But she IS learning. It’s real and it’s sometimes messy. When she takes time to look back at the last year, she realizes how much she’s grown – not just in her career, but also as a person. She has been so far removed from her comfort zone, but she’s also overcome things she would have told you she couldn’t.  I am learning too, even when it feels like sometimes I take two steps forward only to take three steps back.

These last couple weeks haven’t been a cake walk. They’ve been really challenging. I have a lot of different kids with completely different needs. I’m teaching five different classes in a day and none of them are what I majored in. Busy, is an understatement. I feel I am trying something, and then trying something new. Finding what works and what doesn’t, and then realizing that what works for one class doesn’t work for another. Trial. Error. Try again. Learn. Unlearn. Relearn.

This last week, I had a lot of fun with my students. I let go of some of the anxiety over all the things I am learning/relearning and simply don’t know, and I began to really enjoy my time with the kids. I still have a lot to figure out, but we all do. And we always will.

In the meantime, another new teacher and myself volunteered to direct the school’s One Act play because I don’t have enough to do…? Wish us luck…

michael angelo

My Learning This Week…

For those of you who don’t know, I’ve just started my first teaching job. I’m at Peacock Collegiate in Moose Jaw where I interned this past fall. I’m teaching full time – Media Studies 20 (two sections), Social Studies 9, and Information Processing 10  (two sections). I’m sitting in my classroom right now, thinking back through the week. I was sitting in this exact spot last week, full of anticipation, not sure what I had really signed up for. I was excited to have a space to call my own (to make pretty), and to get started doing what I’ve spent the last four years learning about.

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On my classroom blog, I have a page called “Our Learning This Week,” and it only seemed right that I also reflect on my own learning this week. I think it’s important to be transparent about what we’re learning if we expect kids to do the same. To be honest, I feel like the learning “curve” I’m on is straight up. I’m teaching Information Processing – I feel like I am having Information Overload. It’s been a really amazing week, but it’s been stretching. These are some of things I’ve learned:

  • 75% of my 113 students’ names, I’d say. Last semester, I taught grade ten and twelve. This semester I’m teaching grade 9,10, & 11. So I really didn’t know a lot of the grade 9 & 11s. My head was spinning my first morning, thinking I’d never be able to remember who everyone is. I also kept wondering, “Why did so many people name their kid Austin in 1998? It’s not fair.” Altogether, I teach 6 Austins. That’s a lot of Austins. Anyway, what seemed like an impossible task, got better each day. I can’t say I for sure know everyone’s names, but I know a LOT.
  • I’m going to spend a lot of time at school. I’m already stashing food here because by 8 pm, I’m really hungry and somehow still here. I’m going to bring a blanket for when it gets cold, and maybe a pair of slippers. I  hear eventually you’re able to spend less time here. I don’t think that day is anytime soon. Might as well embrace it.
  • I can’t do everything. At least not in the first week. I do what you can. I am a perfectionist at heart. I like when everything goes smoothly, that’s a lie, I like when things are perfect. But you can’t do everything. You will die trying.
  • It takes 3 weeks to develop a habit. My teaching neighbour told me this on Friday. Routines don’t happen over night.
  • Stop stressing out. Stressing doesn’t actually help me accomplish anything. It just makes me anxious, sweaty and near tears. There’s a sign in the hallway that says, “everything will be okay in the end. If it’s not okay, it’s not the end.” It inspires me.
  • I have a love/hate relationship with technology. I’m teaching a computer lab, which is awesome. I do love technology – I think there are so many ways to use technology in the classroom to connect and to empower learning. I have so many ideas. But, I haaaaate when it doesn’t work. All of my students are creating online portfolios for our class and that’s where we’ll be posting their work. We tried to set them up every day since Monday. At first, the site wasn’t working. Then the kids’ emails weren’t working. Then they weren’t getting confirmation emails. It was enough to make me cry (doesn’t take much right now). Thursday, we finally got things going. Technology is awesome when it works. Our poor computers too… by period 5, they are so slow that it takes kids 5 minutes just to open their browser. It’s frustrating for me to watch the kids be frustrated. On the positive side, the lab is getting new computers in the summer!
  • My administrators are the best. They have been so helpful and patient with my million questions. The other staff are also amazing. Everyone that I see in halls is always asking how I’m doing, and it’s nice to know that they all had a “first year” too.
  • I need to take time to do things that I love. While I feel busier than I ever have been in my life (and I’ve always been a busy person.. ughhhh), I still need to take some time for myself. Whether that’s going for a run, or watching a TV show, or having a bath, it’s important to have some way to unwind a little – even when it’s seems like I don’t have time for that. Your brain needs a break sometimes.
  • Sleep is my new best friend.

Look at that. That’s a lot of learning in one week, and that’s not even scratching the surface. I’m in for a LOT of learning I think. Trying, and making mistakes, and learning, and trying again. I am now stroking “write a blog post” off my TO DO list and going home.

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The first adventures of a new teacher…

As the Christmas break approached, I had never been so excited for a break. I had a great semester and I had learned so much, but I was more exhausted than I could remember. All I wanted to do was NOTHING for a full two weeks. And I did, it was great.

People asked me so many times over the break, “So, what are you doing now?” And I always repsonded, “In January, I’ll be subbing, and hopefully I’ll apply for some positions that are open for the second semester.” Only, as the break continued, it actually BECAME January. How did that happen? All my friends were getting ready to go back to school, and I wasn’t even really sure what I was getting ready for. A new season, I guess, and I wasn’t even really sure what that meant.

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The Friday before classes started back up again, my teaching certificate arrived in the mail. This is good. This is important. This is exciting. This is sad. Why was I sad? I wasn’t really sure, but I felt this sense of loss amidst my excitement.

Monday came, and I was still waiting for my username to use the website for substitutes. I was getting anxious. Everybody was back in school, and I had nothing to do. I visited the school where I interned and returned some marking. I went to Starbucks. I stopped by the bank. In the afternoon, I checked my email and there was my username. I was officially a substitute teacher.

Tuesday morning there were no substitute jobs. By the middle of the morning, I was bored to tears. Then, at lunch, I received a call. Grade 3/4 for the afternoon. I was thrilled. I headed to the school and was soon greeted by several energetic 8 and 9 year olds. Immediately, I made a rookie mistake. “What’s your name?!” A little boy asked. “Kailee-SHOOT, whoops, Miss Brennan. My name is Miss Brennan.” *hand over face* “KAILEE?! Is that your REAL name? Your REAL name is KAILEE! Guys, her REAL name is Kailee. Kailee Kailee Kailee.” I pretty much made his day.

The rest of the afternoon was great. The kids were fun, and the EA was helpful and kind. Two little girls showed me their dance they made up to “Tik Tok.” I left feeling relieved.

The next day, I took a job doing grade nine science. What do I know about science? Not a lot. But, I googled Meiosis and Mitosis at 7:30 in the morning, did some reading and watched some YouTube. I was basically an expert (that is a joke). I was back at the school where I interned, so I felt excited about that. I taught three grade nine sciences in a row. As I struggled to get the projector going in the first period, I was sweating bullets. But, as the morning progressed, and I re-taught Meiosis and Mitosis, I began to feel more confident.

I taught everything this last week. I thought science was a stretch. Then, I taught math, French, and grade nine boys phys ed (dodgeball, anyone?). I taught at my old high school. I taught on Friday when everybody stayed home from the snow – I had one student in French 10. I learned more about teaching in one week than I ever learned in a semester of university. I had to use my teacher-voice and tell some grade tens to “seriously, BE quiet.” To which they responded, “We listened when you were our teacher, but now you’re our SUB!” Grrrreat.

It was a weird week. It was exciting and exhilarating, but it was also hard. For four years,  I had a purpose – I needed that degree. Everything revolves around that. Your evenings are spent doing homework, you work a job to pay your tuition, you volunteer to build up your resume. And then, all of the sudden, it’s over. You’ve accomplished what you’ve set out to do, and you’re left with the question, What now? I think that’s where that sense of loss comes from. My friend, Cher, called it “experiencing the pains of a new season of life.” She also asked, “Where will you devote your time? What do YOU want to accomplish now that school is done? Is it teaching or is it something else?  What are some short term goals? And what are some long term goals?” I left that text unanswered, because right now, I don’t have answers.

This is a new journey for me, and an exciting one. I am working on answering some of those questions. I have an interview on Tuesday for a position starting in February. Eeek! I’ve been studying and trying to prepare. First short term goal! Deep breath.

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Day Camp: Week One!

Well, I’m home from Peru (finally, my flights were nothing short of a disaster), but I’ve grown to love blogging, and so I thought I would keep up with my blog this summer. Plus, my summer job gives me enough things to write for a year.

I work at the Moose Jaw Multicultural Council at the summer program coordinator. I’ve been there for five years, and to say I love my job is an understatement. The Multicultural Council provides services for immigrants and refugees from all over the world that find themselves in Moose Jaw. The building includes three levels of English classes for the adults, a daycare, and social workers that are matched with families as they arrive. During the school year, the kids attend an elementary school in the area that has an EAL program. And, in the summer, they are with me!

Having worked with the program for so long, I have built pretty strong relationships with the kids and their families. As in, they’re my best buddies. When it was my birthday in December, we rented a Jolly Jump at the YMCA, and they all came. These kids are also the funniest kids you will ever meet. They are also the loudest. I love them.

We started the program last week. I have a lot of students that are returning from previous years, but some new students as well. This year we have students from China, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Ivory Coast, Sierra Leone, the Congo, and Iraq. They range from age 6 to about 13.

My babies!

We had a great first week. We learned about Canada as our theme for the week, and the students made maps, coloured Coat of Arms, and read a story about the Canadian flag. They also wrote about their experiences coming to Canada. It was so interesting to hear some of their responses. The kids were so mixed. Some said they love Canada, and others wrote about missing their country. Almost every single one of them wrote about feeling shy and embarrassed to speak English when they first came to Canada. If you met them now, you would never believe that! It is truly amazing how quickly these kids transition into English. Every year I have a few new students who don’t speak at all. And, when they return the following summer, I can’t get them to be quiet.

On the first day, we had students work on a page about themselves. Below is some of their work:

Very interesting self-perception…

This is Oswald fighting a fireball.

While we try to do a lot of different activities with the kids, they all really love free time too. Our room is an old gym, but it’s full to the brim with tables in one corner and couches in another. So, we can’t do a lot of physical activities in our room, but the kids have lots of things to entertain themselves.

We love tea parties.

And board games!

And dressing up!

We also love to go to the library, which is conveniently across the street! I can’t say how much the library loves US, but I swear I am not rich enough to bribe all my kids to be THAT quiet.

Library time.

We also have the opportunity this year to have a hearing impaired little girl with us, Zainb. I say opportunity, because we had this same student last year and it was a real challenge. She was brand new to Canada, and terrified, on top of not being able to hear. She would not stay in the room, and after a few weeks, she moved into daycare where they have a higher ratio of teachers-children. I had felt so helpless, and I wish I could have done something more. This year, Zainb is in day camp. I spent a lot of time with her family throughout the school year, working to build a relationship with her. I visited her classroom a few times at school, and was amazed to see how well she transitioned into school. A few weeks ago, before the program started, I went and spent some time learning sign language with Zainb and her classmates.

She LOVES to paint!

We have had the smoothest first week. There are still lots of signs that I don’t know, but we have a book that we use to find words we need. I feel so  fortunate to have this opportunity to work with Zainb.

I am so excited to be doing my job again. I can’t think of anything I would rather do. These kids are full of joy and they bring me so much joy. It’s not an easy job though, and there’s more drama on a daily basis than you could imagine (I am now threatening to punish tattle-tailers), and we’ve had a kid go home without a shoe one day (because it got lost in a fight somehow), and another little girl tell a little boy that he was a “disgrace to his mother.” (to which I laughed my head off because 1. He probably was at that point 2. It was hilarious coming from a seven year old). But really, I am so lucky.

 

Wrapping up!

Okay, so I had to blog about my visit with Irene, but since then, lots has happened! My last week in Ferrenafe flew by. I left Ferrenafe on Friday, and I knew it would be hard to say good bye, but I really had no idea how sad it would be! I loved the teaching I was able to do, and I loved all of the incredible people I was able to work with. On top of that, saying good bye to Claudia and Perla, the little girls I shared a room with, was just plain awful. I wouldn’t trade my experience for anything in the world, but good byes are always hard.

Here are the classes I had the opportunity to teach:

The 4 year olds

The 5 year olds

Grade one

Grade two (I told you they were a handful!)

Grade four

I will miss them all! There are lots of things I will miss. I will miss the kids, in the school and in the home. I will miss this face:

As a part of my legacy, I taught the kids to make this face. And, also to cross their eyes. Such an impact I had…. Haha.

I will miss being tall. Most Peruvians are not very tall. Usually, I look like a giant. I am 5’4.

Just call me Goliath.

I will not miss the dead chickens at the market, or the huge slabs of meat that smell funny and sit all day in the heat.

Mmmmm yummy..

Friday, I travelled with a family to Cusco. Or, attempted to. Our flight was delayed 4 hours, causing us to mix our connection in Lima. My ticket was with a different airline, so I was going to have to buy a whole new ticket. When the gentleman told me that a new ticket would cost $220, I just about died. I may have cried a little, and he changed it to $50. I am unashamed. We also got put up in a beautiful hotel for the night, and my new buddy, Elle and I had a “girl sleepover.”

Living the dream.

Our view

So, we finally arrived in Cusco yesterday. It is absolutely stunning here. The city is built right into the mountains, and our hotel is right in the main square. I love it. Unfortunately, I got really sick last night and today from the altitude. This is pretty common, but definitely awful. I slept most of the day today, and hopefully I will be feeling better before Tuesday when we are set to see Machu Picchu.

My roomies while in Cusco. We decided that we are the family from Peter Pan. I am Wendy, and Elle is Tinkerbell.

The main square

Some of the beautiful architecture 

XO – kb

The best day.

It has been a teary last few days! Leaving my students and the girls I shared a room with, was really hard. I am now in Cusco for a few days before heading home on Wednesday. I will tell you all about Cusco soon! But first, a funny story.

On Monday, I had to go to the bank to pay for my ticket into Machu Picchu because I don’t have a Visa to pay online. The other girls went into Chiclayo, so I was on my own. I took my spot in the line up of thirty people, a little nervous to try and explain what I needed in Spanish. Immediately, the woman in front of me introduced herself and asked where I was from. She was the nicest, bubbliest lady, and almost immediately she began insisting that I should come visit her house. She told me she even lived close to a girl from Florida named Julianne who I could speak English with. She wrote down the address and told me it was in a different town 5 km down the road. I laughed and tried to explain that I was only here for a few more days, but she was persistent. Eventually I got called in to figure out my business, but she hugged me and made sure I had all of her information.

Walking home from the bank, I heard my name squealed, and there she was – Irene! She ushered me over to her sister’s shop and told her sister that I was coming to her house. There was a boy there who could speak some English, so I had him explain that I was only in the area for another few days. She responded by telling him it was no problem and that I should come the next day. I was to come to her sister’s shop and she would put me on a moto taxi that would take me to the combies and she would wait for me in the park in her town.

So, I recruited Shula, who was up for the adventure. The following day, we did as Irene had said, and we ended up in Pitipo – her little town down the road. We sat and waited in the park, and eventually Irene came bounding over. She was SO excited that we had come that she held my hand the whole walk to her house and rubbed arm, singing “Kai-leeeee, oh Kai-leeee.” When we were just about at her house, she remembered Julianne (there are few foreigners in the area, so I was really confused about why this person was in Pitipo). We walked down to Irene’s friend, Marguarite’s house, and carried on half English half Spanish conversations. I am really good at pretending to speak Spanish, and Shula can speak Portuguese, so together we made a solid effort!

Eventually, a blonde woman emerged – the famous Julianne! Turns out that she is a Peace Corps worker in the area! She has spent the last 8 months in Peru and has spent 6 in Pitipo living with Marguarite’s family. She is fluent in Spanish, so she was a great asset to our visit! Irene told her and she told us that her sister had called her before we came, saying, “that white girl I thought you’d never see again is on the moto to your house, so you better get ready!”

Marguarite, Julianne, me, Shula, Irene

Cheese & Crackers

After visiting for an hour at Marguarite’s, Irene said we must go for coffee at her house. We walked back to her house, where she commanded Julianne to entertain us while she prepared a snack. She then left the house to go to the market to buy the snack. I swear, this woman is the funniest lady I have ever met. She eventually returned and we all ate cheese and crackers and coffee! After, she went into the back of the house. Julianne whispered, “I think she’s getting you a gift, she always wants to give her guests gifts.” And when she emerged, she placed 2 folded tea towels in front of Shula and I. Shula kissed her face repeatedly and we expressed heartfelt thanks: “Muchas Gracias, Irene. You shouldn’t have! I am so grateful.” Shula put hers in her purse, and we headed to the backyard to see her turkeys (which, she told us, she is saving for her birthday party in February.)

Birthday Turkey!

As we were walking back inside, Julianne whispered, “I’m just trying to figure out if those were supposed to be gifts, or just to wipe your hands with….I’ll just ask her.” Shula’s eyes went big. I burst out laughing. Yes, Julianne told us, they were just for our hands. This is after we have made a scene of showing our gratitude and Shula has the tea towel in her purse. It was hilarious. Shula sneaked the tea towel back onto the table, and instead, Irene gave us some of her daughter’s dolls as gifts.

Irene’s family

When we left, she begged Shula to come back again during her stay in Peru. She asked me repeatedly when I was returning to Peru, and “I don’t know yet” was not an acceptable answer. It was such a random meeting at the bank between strangers, and strangers of another language entirely, but it turned out to be one of my favorite days I had in Peru. I will always remember Irene and her kindness. And Shula kissing her face off for the tea towel to wipe our hands with….

Our new friend

XO – kb