It’s Christmas time, one of my favourite times of year. A season of love, peace, hope, and joy, and this year, of the end of my internship!
I have had an absolutely wonderful time at my school with my co-op and my students, and have learned so much in these last 4 months. This past week I also had the opportunity to spend some time at 5 other schools to see what things are like in other communities! While I’ve loved my time at my school it was very cool to see what other teachers and classrooms are like.
Several schools I visited had open concept floor plans, many had collaborative teaching arrangements, and all of them were so welcoming, and the students so respectful. I hung out in classrooms with lots of technology available, and others where the most high-tech thing was a white board marker. Some classrooms were vibrant and bright with many things on the walls, and others were calm and serene with natural light. Some schools were loud and packed with students bustling in the halls during indoor recesses, while others were very relaxed and spacious. Some teachers were very engaging and enthusiastic in their directions and actions to students, and others were very chill and casual. Really, the only thing that was the same about all of the schools is that there were teachers and students in them!
I really enjoyed the variety in teaching styles that I was able to observe, and the variety of ways that the school community had been created through the collaboration of various teachers and classrooms. While I’m not sure there was one that was “exactly” the way I envision myself wanting to teach, there were a couple that were pretty close to the mark. Those schools had the collaborative concept down, and were really working to make teaching better and more effective for both the students AND the teachers. While I know that this is not ideal for many teachers, and hey, I was one of them a short while ago, I really enjoyed the experience of working alongside other teachers and being able to rely on multiple perspectives to ensure a really well-rounded plan for the students.
My adventures took me to both community schools, and those in more middle-class communities, and there again, where many other teachers may sheepishly admit their preference for the “typical” middle-class school, I really enjoyed the community school experience as well. I feel that community schools often have a reputation for having “bad” students, but one thing I’ve been realizing through my internship is just how many students are just misunderstood. Even in my own school there are students who are always getting into trouble, causing disruptions, or forgetting to finish their work. Are they all bad kids though? Not at all! Many are just seeking attention, or having trouble self-regulating, or are missing some type of support in their life, or a piece of their circle of courage. Whatever it is, it seems that many teachers are either not aware of these things, or don’t take the time to uncover them. In the community schools I really felt the support that was there for the students, and the staff too, in making sure that everyone had what they needed to be successful. If that was making sure the morning started off very slow and easy, then that’s what they got. If it was just chatting with a teacher on a break, then that was available too. Making sure students had something to eat? Yup, also had that. The staff too, tended to take ownership and cared for ALL of the students in their learning community, not just those in “their” class. It really seemed like everyone was kept on the same page, and that the staff all supported each other too. Even in just a short time of visiting, I could really see the sense of community that was established at many schools.
Following my visits to schools, though I was in a bit of a downer mood not being able to hang out and teach my own students, I felt such joy about the future. I was so excited to observe the many types of collaborative teaching that existed in other schools, and the progressive ways that many school communities were being built. To be quite honest, after spending nearly 3 days in open concept schools, coming back to my school mid-week felt a bit like walking back in time with its closed doors, straight lines, and teachers working in separate rooms. I tried to share my thoughts and ideas with other teachers and encountered a lot of opposition with respect to the areas that I found exciting. While it was a little discouraging, I tried not to let it get to me. I was even more inspired to keep my spirits high when I encountered this great quote by Brad Montague from “Kid President’s Guide to Being Awesome”,
A joyful rebellion is you living differently not because you’re mad at how things are but because you are swelling with joy at the thought of how things could be. When you joyfully rebel against your circumstances, against mediocrity or negativity, you invite others into something really beautiful.
I read this quote the same afternoon I was feeling discouraged by the opinions of the other teachers at my school. This quote really resonated with me because I feel like that is really what my teaching is all about. It is about being so joyful and doing things a little differently that others take notice and want to join in. After my internship and my school adventures, I just feel so joyful and so inspired with how I think things could be in the future for the students I teach and the staff I could work with. I hope to be able to work with a staff that is caring and open to trying new things, and a group of students who will jump right in. While I know this is crazy optimistic of me, I really think it is possible. I was so encouraged by my experiences to believe that any student can achieve great things if they are taught from a place of respect and care. I was inspired by the great examples of classroom expectations and routines, and I hope to be able to carry some of these ideas into my own teaching practices. I know I have a long way to go, but wherever I go, I intend to go with great joy.