A (School) Year End Reflection

I am sitting on the other side of the globe, in Taiwan, reflecting on my past school year. This has been one very interesting year.  I think though as a teacher you can’t always separate your personal self from the classroom and this year has been the most intense.  Between personal life situations and the classroom it proved to be a very challenging yet rewarding year.

School has been interesting with getting the assistant curriculum leader of science (dept. head) to having to hear from my friends and the public “who cares you got your sick days taken away, I don’t get any”.  I was very excited to have a 3 year term for September in a leadership role.  Unfortunately due to staffing and cuts I have been moved to yet another school and lost my dept. head position.  I get teased at school, both nicely and not so nicely, that I am the director of education or want to be a principal.  Neither career seems to be where I want to go.  I would miss the classroom too much, as the reason I am there on the front line is for the kids.  Yes the central spots help support the kids, but secondarily by supporting the front line staff.  I love what I do in the class as I have partnered with 2 projects at OISE, partnered with community agencies, great educational tech companies that let me try things in my class and support learning.  That is what I am about.  The freedom to choose to do those extras in my class is so rewarding for me and the students.

It has been great collaborating with so many other educators. Joseph Romano and I have been doing so many great projects in and out of class.  He has been an inspiration as his ability, ethic and knowledge always shows through his work.  From experimenting to iPads to attending conferences it has been a great year.  I have met countless other educators and community workers both in real life and online through twitter that have shaped me as a teacher.  I would never have thought back to when I was a teenager that I would enter a science rap contest with GZA from Wu-Tang Clan.  You should have seen these kids researching, understanding and engaged with science content.  I also met Todays Future Sound on Twitter and they came in with a beat making workshop for the students of my school.  Picture your most disengaged student, who goes on washroom breaks minimum once a class, can’t sit still, has an IEP, now picture them not moving for 3 hours after school with no breaks, no need for an IEP accomidation and sitting while learning about beats.  EVERY student can be a good student if they are learning something they want to learn.  We taught math and science through beats and Hip Hop. Who would have thought.

The strike this year has been a good learning experience for me.  Listening to all sides to seeing our former OSTTF president Ken Coran go from telling us to stand strong against the liberals to watching him now running for them??? But what I cared about the most the whole time is how the kids suffered through not having extra curriculars.  As soon as I could go back I opened the weight room, took kids to the Somali student conference and the African diaspora conference.  The Diaspora conference was a life changing experience and was thrilled to have shared it with such a great group of students.   All kids across the province suffered but it was those kids who lack the finances and support that didn’t get put into paid programs who got hurt.  Having a kid coming up to me saying “sir I can’t afford to workout at a gym but since you don’t open the weight room I have no where to go”, was beyond heart breaking.  I had to look a kid in the eye and say sorry, and what reason could I give him?  All I could say is this situation sucks and this fight between the province, school board, union and teachers is dragging in a lot of people who don’t deserve it.  What did I lose?  Well I paid $15 000 for my masters over 3 years thinking I would get a raise for my rewarded hard work (as opposed a raise based on years taught).  I was denied that due to wage freezes.  I went out to better myself, learn about urban education and still paying that money off.  I spent countless hours trying to get new programs in the school and was accepted by Burton to their program that promotes snowboarding to inner city students by giving them a free bus ride, rentals, instructions and lift tickets to 20 of my students.  Something I lost with the strike.  I can’t even tell you what I gained from that strike.

The most rewarding day I have had as a teacher was watching my former grade 10’s graduate from my old school and students I taught back in grade 9, now at prom at my current school.  Seeing them grow intellectually as well as height has been such a rewarding process.  To hear where they are off to, and to know that they made it was amazing.  The cards dealt to many students are not stacked in their favour yet they made it.  So many great teachers and community supports help fill in the gaps, yet many still don’t make it.  I looked at so many of them and felt what it must be like a proud parent feels for his or her own kids.

The biggest challenges personally were moving out after being home 27 years! It is great to have a place of your own but pretty quick miss the people you have lived with and take cared of you. It wasn’t the bills, hidden expenses, responsibilities and decisions on what to eat for dinner that were that tough. Moving out while your mom has been battling not 1, not 2 but 3 cancers was the tough part.  Seeing the strongest and loving person I know go through so much has been tough.  But it has been great coming home having dinners, going out and visiting where I appreciate the company more than when I was living at home. All my family have supported me so much from helping move, install curtains to backsplashes and just being there.  Friends have been amazing as well and have 6 marriages in a span of 3 months has been fun. Having a great girlfriend to share, laugh and experience great things has been also amazing.  It is about family and friends who want to see you do well, care about you and offer infinite support that I am most appreciative of.

This summer I look forward to my experience of teaching in Taiwan and relaxing in August.  I will be at yet another school in September where I will do all I can again to support students and engage them in school and learning.

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