Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Remembering 'real' school ...

I've always found teaching to be a great outlet for all kinds of creativity.  I mostly taught infants, grades 1-3, sometimes composite classes (1/2 or 2/3 ... I loved these!)  I started with casual teaching in public and private schools, followed by 2 years in an Anglican boys boarding school, then 2 years in a Christian school.  Since having children, I've done a few blocks in Christian schools, while my husband was a stay at home dad.  Now I'm glad to be a semi-retired teacher (god-willing, I'll be home for the next 12 years at least), and I love my role as a mum who teaches her own children.

When I was working, for one or two days each holiday break I'd go in and rearrange my classroom, move desks into new groups, set up a reading corner with curtains and cushions, paint window scenes related to a topic we'd be studying (windows covered in glad wrap, then painted with regular school paint).  Science centres, book displays and word walls, writing stations, computer corners, tadpoles or hermit crabs in fish tanks ... all jostled for space.  It was a lot of fun thinking of the possibilities and bringing some of them to life, sometimes with the help of a few class parents.

My school teaching days were fairly predictable, based on a timetable, school routines, bell times and subjects, assemblies etc.  Most weeks my daybook was checked by a headmaster or stage supervisor (I was once told I may NOT move the handwriting slot to a different time ... however the same boss approved many of my other wild ideas, so no hard feelings).  When I could, within the school framework I used creative license to integrate subjects into topics my students loved (like a farming unit for my Yr 2 boys, ending with an overnight excursion to a sheep station).  I set up enrichment classes for gifted students, boost groups for average students, and coached older high school teams for Tournament of Minds. 

I noticed even in the private system, that each year students were doing worse things at a younger age.  Sadly, there are media reports every day with stories of bullying, violence etc.  Other teachers in my own family have been chased with scissors, had chairs thrown at them, and younger relatives still in school have had to learn code words which mean 'get under your desk', to cope with a fellow student with violent outbursts.  My trials were thankfully more trivial, but still trying day after day ... cheeky kids, time consuming reporting systems, long hours planning and programming, and on a lighter note, being a ballerina trying to coach rugby!
Since we decided to homeschool our children almost 2 years ago, I have been 'deschooling' myself.  My teaching experience has given me lots of ideas, and it can be hard to choose from the huge menu of options we have on offer.  There are boundaries which I am now free to cross and baggage which I no longer need.  And although I was lucky to have some classes as small as 17, 20 and 12 students, having only 2 allows for truly personalised instruction.   Every teacher's dream, I think!

So this is kind of a 'where I came from' post.  Next I'll try and write a 'where we're heading' message, one about 'why' and 'how we might get there'!

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