Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Year One: There was a time...

When I had no idea what I was doing. But I'm not sure anyone knew except Nonna. I could cover content and I could design activities for different types of learners like they sort of, kind of, maybe taught us in the dip Ed. But I didn't really have an embedded pedagogy. I could put on a show. But Nonna's office had a window that faced my whiteboard. And Nonna could see everything. Nonna knew I couldn't spell to save myself and clearly hadn't been taught grammar at high school. So she taught me, often in front of the kids I was suppose to be teaching. I was never threatened or insulted by her, she did it with such a humor and an honest desire to help me get better. But man did I make sure my board work was flawless before the end of the year. She suffered no fools and if I really had no idea she wouldn't have let me get away with it for long. 

When I nearly died inside because bad kids felt like it was my fault. Two of my students were the first kids in years to be sent home early from year 7 camp. I was mortified. They beat up another kid when I wasn't watching and it felt like it was all my fault and I was a horrible teacher and probably a horrible person for not stopping something I didn't know was happening. 

When I didn't have a back wall in my classroom. More than once I caught myself watching my colleague teach in the classroom across the room because it was way more interesting than what I was doing. Nonna found this hilarious. 

When I had to sleep for 30 minutes every night when I got home from work.

When I first took up responsibilities beyond the classroom. Somehow I ended up leading a literacy PLT in year one. At least I actually applied for and was successful in taking over the SRC coordination. And I learnt a hell of a lot more about kids and teachers than I did by just being in the classroom. The penny dropped - what I really liked was learning. I got to know a group of kids with different qualities and capabilities beyond what they were invited to show in the classroom. These kids inspired me to do better as we plotted ways of doing good in the world - even it was just painting a dividing line so students could stick to the left side when using the staircase to the portables. We staged a winter sleep out and at the end of term 1 my shaved head ended up in the local paper for lukemia fundraising.

When I needed therapy to figure out how to cope with it all. It was personal as much as professional but at one stage he told me that "I could be a principal at 33 if I really wanted but would probably burn out and then be stuck with nothing." Or I could slow it down a bit and get a life. It took me a while to adjust but eventually it became manageable. Nine Inch Nails helped tremendously here. The boozy weekends not so much. 

When the principal asked what I wanted to do and the other graduates were shocked at my answer. I was far too confident and wasn't afraid of what we (as in the team of graduates) had accomplished up until that point. I wouldn't learn humility until much later.

When my mentor showed me what was possible and we ran with it. For my VIT registration we designed a lesson where my year 8s would teach his year 7s about poetry (form, poetic devices, message and purpose). We took over the whole library for a double period and coached them through it. It was amazing. It was what I would come to understand as 'the right work'. Researched based risk taking in the classroom. When after the portfolio was finished he challenged me to publish journal articles, based on the adjustment we would make to common content strategies. I worked these into reflective practices in my teaching that are still the best part of my 'game.' 

When I knew I could do this, that I loved it, and it was all going to be ok. When Tanya, Ashok, Lauren, Jacinta, Alana and Eric found out I was taking their class for English again the next year their reaction confirmed that I hadn't ruined their education or their lives. They believed in me before I believed in myself. 

When I sat next to Mel the music teacher and knew this was going to be my life.


  1. I would love to see you being taught grammar by Nonna.
    Teaching has changed my life, I've also learned a lot from you and are still learning from you! Looking forward the second post.

  2. I hear you. And you have a lovely son as well as a lovely daughter. And of course, Mel.