The anticipation on so many levels…

12 08 2012

Although I have long considered myself an adult, my self-imposed bed time (of sorts) has gone completely AWOL in the past 3 months. Given the heady days of chaos leading up to summer, the summer holidays with minimal to no agenda whatsoever, and the current developments in my life, the sleep quality and quantity in my life at the moment is unreliable. R is the most recent cause for my lack of good quality sleep, and the inconsistency, as well as the uncertainty, is very trying.

Tomorrow, school starts again for another year. I’m frantically trying to feel mentally prepared, even though I know that I am ready.

Will I ever feel like a “legit” teacher?!

Maybe not. It is, after all, my 8th year of teaching. If it hasn’t happened yet, and I haven’t begun to feel, more consistently, that I am a decent educator, it’s not likely to happen, as they say. But there is hope, because I know that what I’m doing has value, and a purpose. I am here not of my own choice, but because of something greater. That is what I need to cling to. The improvements that I have observed over the years is legitimate proof of my growth as a teacher, so there is that.

Going back to my parents’ place and seeing this sweet face is always encouraging though, even if he is naughty.


Switching the mindset

29 11 2011

Last week, there was a situation in one of my classes, which really upset me. It wasn’t what the student said so much as how I reacted, and how quickly I lost my cool.

This morning, I went back into that class with that student, with a completely, intentionally positive mindset that I was going to be nice to the students today, because I got to teach them, and I got to have the pleasure of watching them grow, and learn, and mature.

Total change.

I came out of the class feeling like I had really achieved something quantifiable, although I would be the first to say that teaching cannot be measured: a good teacher, who cares about their students, and watches out for them, and tries to meet their needs in and out of the classroom, making use of technology and Differentiated Instruction, cannot be assessed for what they do, exactly. No, good teaching is much more non-linear than that.

And it’s something I’m always working towards, because it’s impossible to glean from books, or even from good mentors.

I went through some of the photos of me on Facebook, to find one of me teaching, and spent a while smiling at the pictures students took of me. Can’t decide on one that shows me teaching ‘well’ though; so here is one that is most recent:


Cannot help myself

30 08 2011

The work that is expected of a counselling teacher, I would imagine, should not be vastly different from that of a counsellor or a teacher, albeit the job description itself would produce some sort of amalgamation of the two. The duties, however, would remain the same.

At least, that is the impression that I am getting from the school I am teaching at.

The current heartache I am feeling is a result of one of the conversations I had with a student today. This particular student is close to my heart, and I see in them a helplessness that is so reminiscent of us all: in our need for help, we become desperate, and long for… something more than this. Hearing the student’s difficulties, with myself feeling entirely inadequate at providing any sort of guidance or relief, this afternoon has felt very much like the following video, in which Dane Cook talks about those days when nothing will suffice but a good cry:

The thought that I am pondering right now, then, is what to do with the gratitude of “passion and compassion” that I feel for this student’s situation, but, more importantly, how I can fully know that I “did my best”… something to pray about then.

Just a quick one tonight

22 08 2011

This afternoon, ny Novel and Creative Writing class were assigned Of Mice and Men as their first novel to study, and one student has already finished it.

He and I are texting back and forth about his thoughts and insights into the novel. This is why I love my job!

On adapting to changes

6 04 2011

One of the things most educators will tell you, regardless of whether they teach in a local grammar school such as the ones in Hong Kong, or an international school such as the one I’m working at now, is that one of the most valuable skills you can learn is to be able to adapt to changes.

The lesson plans we develop initially go through multiple edits, and they are an entirely translucent matter of their own genre: things we deem to be appropriate for this particular class, on this day, can be completely flat in the other class on the same day, even.

This is the challenge I both love and loathe about teaching. In some ways, I wish the lesson plans I wrote in the first year of teaching were applicable across the board, but I know that that would make me a less effective teacher. Not that I am particularly efficient or effective at the moment, necessarily, but I have seen a lot of improvement in my work and in my calling. One of the key lessons I have learned as an English language and then literature teacher is that flexibility in lesson planning is indispensable in an English classroom.

Reading minds…

9 03 2011

One of the prompts for this week’s blogging asks whether I would read minds if I could.

As an educator, one of the things I struggle with is maintaining relevance in my classes. I try to teach with humour and an understanding of the needs of my students, but I will be the first to admit that I am not always successful: my classes sometimes flop because the connections I’m making are not clear, the discussions we’re having are not challenging or engaging for my students, or, simply, that I had not planned every detail that I could have done before teaching the lesson. After one of those classes, I come away metaphorically “facepalming” myself out of frustration and ineptitude – why didn’t I do it this way? How did I not remember that that wasn’t something that helped last time? When should I have said what I said just now? What amount of time should I have allocated to that particular task? What would have been a more effective foundation task, back-up plan or extension activity?

In short, to answer the question that was the prompt, I don’t think I’d want to be able to read minds on those kinds of days. Being able to always know what my students are thinking about me, as professionally enriching as that may be, might have the ability to shatter the last vestiges of my self-esteem. For that, I use Google Docs for a survey which shows me what my students think of me so I can make changes.

I may have taught for 5 years now, going on for my 6th, but I still feel like I am doing a terrible job sometimes. Not all the time, mind. But the times when I feel like I’ve not taught anything the students can use later are the times I seriously question my choice of career.

And then a student takes a candid picture of me in class where I look like this, and I remember again what it is about this job that I love so much.

But when the rubber hits the road, I want to know how my students are relating to, and thinking about my classes; that’s why I work so hard at making my classroom open, and make myself available. I do take suggestions seriously, and like I wrote on my under-construction Wikispace, I am always looking for ways to improve the way I teach. This is an area of my life that is very clear to me.

Everything else, on the other hand…

Formal observation tomorrow

22 10 2009

It’s my first formal observation tomorrow since first joining this school going on 2 years ago. It’s been a learning curve and a half as I’ve got used to a totally different style of teaching than I was used to (for 3 whole years), and learned more about the value of presence and authenticity over action (at times). That being said, I’m nervous and excited about tomorrow’s lesson all at once as it’s going to be critiqued (what on earth is Bloom’s taxonomy, anyway?;)) and it’s my Advanced Composition during the last block of the day, which could go somewhat wrong… but then again, the topic is one that is interesting to me: family stories.

The premise is that we all recall a relative whose actions have somehow been significant to us. We all recall how the person did the thing they’re famous for (it’s the one thing that every one returns to during gatherings like Chinese New Year or Christmas, and which causes embarassment for the active party, and general merriment and high hilarity for the spectators), what happened, who was there, and just why we recall it even now.

So, as an example, I’ll be talking about my brother and what our childhood was like. In particular, and episode from when he was in primary school, and my mum had just had about 8 inches of her hair cut off. His first words to her, after having hidden from, were, “Mummy, you so ugly!”

Ahhh, the memories. I’m looking back on this particular story with no small amount of nostalgia, given what our relationship has been like over the past 3 years now…

On another note, I’m heading to Beijing for a weekend workshop on ‘brief counselling’. I have no idea what to expect, although I am looking forward to it quite a bit.