Saturday, September 15, 2018

Going Back to Work

Back in 2001, I started teaching science and that is when I met Gary who was a fellow first-year science teacher. I always imagined I would teach my entire life but through circumstances (health, kids, travel) I ended up having a variety of roles. I volunteered in Kenya, we started a photography business, I worked in social media and we became foster parents. I stayed connected to teaching through substitute teaching but it has been nine years since I've had a classroom of my own.

 If I have learned one thing over these past 17 years it would be that it's nice to have a five-year plan but be open to change and opportunities.

This is wild for me because Louise is a five-year plan kind of girl. I mean, probably even more like a ten-year-plan one. Committing six months or a year of your life to something might seem scary but it doesn't need to be forever and the growth that can happen from it is so worth it. I have learned so much and I'm glad I said "yes" to opportunities that came my/our way.

Okay, so let me tell you some of thoughts going back into the work force after being sort-of-mostly-at-home the past nine years:

1. I taught in the era of overheads. I'm basically one hundred years old. Okay, so they were invented in the 60's, but still, I actually used them. Now the students bring their own computers and I put my notes, labs and assignments online – I have had to learn how to share documents with students that way. I check their work online, too. It has been nice for creating less waste and a lower chance of losing stuff but a bit of a learning curve. In the second week I was teaching kids 13-year-olds how to graph their laboratory data in Excel and insert them into their typed lab reports – just a tad different from the days of saying "Use a ruler for your bar graphs!". Oh, and my grade 12's were born the year I started teaching, isn't that wild?!

2. I am tired but not too tired. By the time 3 PM hits it's time for full time job #2 (parenting). I've taught before but when we only had one kid. Now we have four kids ranging from 1.5 to 12 years old and one has some extra needs. Some people have asked about Baby and what the plan is. She will likely be with us until November-ish but as all things go with fostering, expect the unexpected. We are prepared to have her as long as need be and are more than happy to. She spends the day at daycare and enjoys her time there. Our kids are doing great and I'm able to bring Nya to her classroom some days which makes her happy. They take a bus and meet us at the high school each afternoon.

Nya cleaning my white board after school.

3. The curriculum has not changed and yet it has. Now there is more expected with student core competencies (creative and critical thinking, personal and social responsibility, and communication) and less emphasis on content. It is a lot to get used to because the last time I taught Biology 12 there was a provincial exam at the end and now there is not. This is great because there is more flexibility and real life skills taught but it is a shift for me especially because I loved learning the old way as a student. I do have to remind myself that things like labs are critical thinking and that group work and presentations are communication so technically we have been doing those things.

4. I really had to figure out "What is my goal this year?" Was it to get kids pumped about science? To challenge and encourage them? For them to feel like our classroom is a safe place where they can experience love? I guess it's all of those things but I feel my "mom heart" above all. I come back to teaching with so much more life experience. I know a lot more about special needs whether that's ADHD, ASD or the struggles of those that come from less than adequate home lives. My understanding of mental health has grown significantly as well. My overarching goal is to just love on these kids and hopefully the rest will follow. I may have teared up a bit with a student already.

5. I know I can do this and I look forward to getting to know many new students this year. Teenagers are awesome and I've loved staying in touch with those that I taught years ago. So far at two weeks in I am absolutely loving my classes. I have grade 8's who are eager and and share their feelings more readily. I have grade 12's who ask great questions in Biology and seem to truly enjoy what we're doing. I get up front and my passion for science just comes out – I can't talk quietly, it just happens. Even boring stuff like measurement comes out with excitement.

6. My evenings are my free time. I work all day until 8 PM (whether it's parenting, teaching or prepping) and then it's time to relax and read or watch TV with Gary. This is similar to before but I am no longer making dinner which frees up more time to work. Gary is responsible for dinners as I'm the one making six lunches. We also hired someone to clean four hours a month which helps, too. Unfortunately I am working on the weekends right now preparing my classes but at the end of January I get to repeat what I've already done AND I'll only be 50% so it will be such a breeze.

Thank you to all of those who encouraged me in this. It has been a major shift for Gary and I but I'm glad I said "yes" once again.


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