July 20, 2010

Summer and Teens

We’re starting week three of the summer program I’m working with right now and I think I got lucky again. The team of teachers I’m supervising are a great bunch and are working so well together not just as a whole, but in their own two-person teams. The students themselves have taken to improving their English beginning on day one, which I heard is a first. It hasn’t all been rosy and there have been a few hiccups here and there. A custodian found beers cans jammed in a toilet, and today I had a scare when he saw two boys smoking a joint out behind the cafeteria. What a relief it was when I heard them speaking English without an accent – they weren’t ours.

Since I’ve been working with private classes of government students for the last year it’s been a nice change working with a younger group. And I mean groups as well. If I’m in the office, I hear people passing by talking about the activities posted on the boards. When I’m in the halls I get smiles and hellos and overhear conversations about their lunch or what they did in their workshops. And it’s all in English! It’s wonderful to see them making an effort and doing the best they can to communicate to people they only met a week ago. Of course, I’m not totally naïve. We have a strict English only policy and with three strikes the student is sent home. Once the first written warnings started near the end of last week, the other languages quickly began to dwindle. But there are a few who are determined to speak their first language.

Observations have also begun for the teaching staff, last week they were informal pop-ins, and this week is a full 30-minute visit with written documentation. As a teacher, I love getting observed as I feel I can always learn something new and get some insight into my classes. And of course, when it goes well I love to hear all the good things. As a supervisor, I still like to observe so I can see what other teachers are doing and help them in their professional development. I also like to leave a lesson with a great idea; pinched from the class I just saw.

These observations, whether formal or informal, can help me connect with the teachers I’m supervising. I’m not just some person sitting in an office, or someone disconnected from the world of teaching. I’m also a colleague, one who just happens to be taking a two month break from the classroom. Something I miss about teaching groups is the ‘fun stuff’ you can do. Some of the things I’ve seen this week is: a class making fantasy neighbourhoods (discussing what should be there and why); an ‘unknown person’ interrupting a class, creating a ruckus and stealing something so the students could write a mock police report; debates about police and protester behaviour at the recent G20 summit and legalizing marijuana; and presentations about anything and everything.

Even though I’m in an office for most of the day, I take every opportunity to speak with my colleagues and see how their doing and listen to their successes. They also know I have an ear for the difficulties and can offer some help. They have also learned that my ears are also for great ideas they have and to pass along. You have to love teamwork. And the team we’ve got is a great one.


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