I am Beginning Teacher. Last week I left work at 3pm, went shopping and had a leisurely coffee before going to the gym.
On a school night.
There are some teachers, I would be one of them, who would be appalled a teacher much less a Beginning Teacher would do such a thing. They’ll be even more horrified to know that after I went to the gym, I caught up with a friend for dinner where I didn’t spend any time at all talking about school or education.
Yes, I brazenly flouted ‘the Rules’ of the superhero teacher which unequivocally state that on school nights Beginning Teachers limit themselves to: marking; preparation for new lessons; answering parent emails, completing paperwork; analysing assessment data; updating the classroom blog and attending Rules-approved school-related meetings before going to bed late. Maybe, just maybe, that superhero teacher can watch a bit of TV before passing out.
Were you getting weary reading that paragraph? Try living it.
I have, which explains my shamelessness about my early finish last week. Of course part of the reason I was able to skip out so quickly was that I hadn’t spent the day teaching, I was out at a meeting. To be sure I had stuff I could of been doing but that Thursday I did something I haven’t done all term. I stopped working completely when the bells would have been ringing at school.
I’m sure that I’m not the only teacher who has at some point has commiserated with a colleague about coming into school sick, or doing preparation work on the weekend, skipping lunch because of inter-class sport or spent 11-12 hour days at school only to dutifully take the laptop home and keep working late into the night. Yes I realize that my type-A tendencies are major contributor to the this problem, I want my gold sticker for my teaching. Yet I can’t help but wonder shouldn’t teachers be calling each other more often on this kind self-congratulation disguised as self-deprecation?
As teachers we have chosen a path not for the faint-hearted. It’s hard work without trying to be perfect at it. Yet I had a moment of insight as I bounded into school on Friday morning with a renewed energy after spending Thursday doing wild things like sleeping in until 8am on a weekday. Would we rather our students see us as the frantic, overwrought, resentful teachers that never taking time out from teaching can make us? Or as self-accepting, self-aware and self-amused grown ups, which is what we hope our students should become?
I should be just able to self-identify by my work as my teacher, as I am by my culture (ex-West Aucklander, ex-Asian expat, ex-Grey Lynn latte drinker), or my hobbies (geek, cake decorator, world traveller, gym bunny) than I am by teacher status. Yet right now I’m pretty much consumed by that one identity, that of a teacher.
The importance of teachers having a rich an interesting life was outside of the classroom was underscored when I decided to share part of my Asian expat identity with my students. When I arrived in Korea, I didn’t know how to eat with chopsticks so as part of our language learning time last week I decided to teach my students how to use chopsticks.
The desks in the classroom had been pushed back for a performing group to use our classroom during the previous session yet that large open space was exactly what is needed in the a situation when there are nearly 30 kids trying to pick up plastic cubes with chopsticks. Just the act of pushing back the desks completely changed the feel of the energy in the classroom.
I need to remember to do that more often.
When it was time to finish, the classroom was completely covered in plastic cubes. Again it was one of those moments when I was glad my teaching wasn’t being observed as I flitted around correcting my students grip and challenging kids to races of picking up plastic cubes with chopsticks. But when I looked at the video I made of the lesson, every child was totally engrossed in the activity. Wednesday was undoubtedly one of those magic moments in the classroom that many of my students will likely remember many decades from now when they visit a Chinese restaurant and their minds wander back to that morning we spent sprawled out on the classroom floor with our chopsticks and plastic cubes.
So yes a change might be as good as a holiday but I’m sure I’m not the only teacher hanging out for the 3pm bell this Thursday.
I spent summer moving cities and am now firmly ensconced in Wellington. Of the many joys I’ve discovered about living in Wellington as an adult there are two aspects of the city I don’t much care for; the weather and the airport.
Despite my love of travelling around the world I don’t do well with flying. And by don’t do well I mean absolutely petrified. Landings are the part of the flight I dread the most. It feels like someone is trying to stick a needle in my ear drums when a plane starts to descend. Plus there’s several hundred thousands tons of metal hitting the ground at speed which is always accompanied by the terrifying, albeit slim, possibility of dying in a giant fireball. The relief of landing safely at my destination after a bumpy landing has on occasion made me ponder whether I should kiss the ground after I emerge from an aircraft and those occasions almost always occur at Wellington airport.
Of the dozens of airports I’ve flown into around the world Wellington defintely rates as one the scariest. The runway is short and the capital’s foul weather make for a bad combination for a paid up member of the nervous flyer brigade. Wellingtonians are a curious breed and seem to take the ability to not flinch during violent landings as something to be proud of. A few years back the airport company decided to re-brand itself ‘Wild at Heart’ and the local paper declared making it onto the Guardian’s list of the world’s scariest airports would be great for tourism.
So after a weekend of final goodbyes in Auckland a few weeks ago I was dismayed to discover that weather forecast was for gale-force southerly winds and rain for my flight down to my new home. Hmmph. I knew that meant I was in for a white-knuckled ride. Sure enough my flight departed Auckland on time but the arrival was late. Almost four hours late.
Or more specifically Wellington’s weather which meant the aircraft couldn’t land. Though not through lack of trying. The plane started to descend. Glup. Then spent 20 minutes spent flying over Tory Channel due to a thunderstorm over the airport. Gasp! A sudden revving up to the engines signalled a diversion back to Auckland to refuel and recrew. Argh!! There was another landing attempt before a go-around was announced by a rapid ascent. GAAAH!!! Finally after what seemed like hours on final approach battling against the southerly the aircraft finally touched down to applause and relief of the passengers. I’M NEVER FLYING AGAIN NOW SOMEONE FIND ME SOME GROUND TO KISS!!!!
A few weeks after the flight that wouldn’t end, I decided that the actions of the people looking after the plane and its passengers was full of teachable moments for a beginning teacher.
1. Communicate with those around you. After each unexpected turn in the journey, the crew in the cabin and the flight deck always told us where we were going and why. This took some of the nerves away when I looked at my watch and wondered why I wasn’t on the ground. Teachable moment: be clear with your learning intentions and let kids know why you might need to try things again.
2. Always have enough gas in the tank. Obviously not having enough actual fuel has some rather dire consequences for planes but it’s also important for the people operating them to take time to refuel. That’s why our second flight was staffed by an entirely different crew. Teachable moment: Take your time to get the job right and get help when you feel yourself getting overwhelmed.
3. A sense of humour is a must. Air NZ has cultivated a bit of a reputation for its tongue in cheek advertising. However the airline’s quirky sense of humour turned an annoying situation (for those passengers wanting to get some sleep before their first day of work) and utterly terrifying situation (for me) into one where most of the passengers were laughing at our mishaps. Teachable moment: Laughing is a lot more fun than panicking when faced with a stressful situation.
4. Sometimes things just come down to luck. That night other planes managed to land or at least didn’t get turned back . In fact the black plane that I spotted when we took off from Auckland for a second time had made it into Wellington before my plane which didn’t seem fair. However I’ll take a late, safe landing over the alternative any day. Teachable moment: focus on what really matters.
5. Jet planes and cookies. The extra time in the air meant no dinner for me and I’m sure I wasn’t the only passenger whose stomach was rumbling and not just from nausea. Yet somehow getting the jet planes and cookies instead of choosing one option made up for it. Teachable moment: do the best with what you have.
So thanks to the wonderful crews of flight 463 from January 8 who did so well under trying circumstances. They kept everyone laughing especially the nervous flyer in 17C. Hopefully by the time the school holidays roll by I’ll be ready to fly again.
I had forgotten how beautiful Queenstown was until I ventured down over the weekend and stumbled upon the most beautiful school on the planet just a few blocks away from where I used to live. So join in me in a spot of edu-tourism blogging.
Remarkables Primary is nestled into the shore of lake Wakatipu, one of the most beautiful places in New Zealand. In so many countries a public school on a piece of land so stunning would be unthinkable. The land would have long since have been on-sold to developers to build a high-end hotel. In fact there’s a Hilton literally the next bay over from the school.
Unfortunately the weather was a bit dreary and my photography a bit too mediocre to capture how stunning Remarkables school and surrounding scenery are.
Remarkables Primary takes it name from the mountain range overlooking Queenstown. There’s a ski field on the other side of the mountains. When I went to school in Queenstown, our weekly Physical Education classes were ski classes on one of the local ski fields.
What I love about the design of the school is the way it folds into the sloping bank of the lake. The roof is a living roof which is open for students to play on during breaks.
The only downside is that school is so close to Queenstown Airport that you can see the pilots picking their nose on final approach.
But the payoff is that you get to look at this from windows on one side of your classroom:
And have the mountains on the other side.
I can’t think of a more beautiful place in the world to be a school student.
Anyone up for organizing an EducampQtn?
What a difference a day makes.
Last Sunday I was in one of those funks we fall into when we think things aren’t quite coming to plan. ZOMG what am I back at university again? What on earth am I doing writing about it on the internet? I’m never going get a job.
24 hours later I got a phone call that changed everything.
My first reaction was actually shock, followed by jubilation, relief and a bit sadness for the roads not taken.
Because this journey has been a long one. Last June I decided I needed a holiday from life, quit my job and booked a one-way ticket to the States with no real idea of where I was going.
Frustrated, bored and lacking in direction I needed to do something better, the problem was that I wasn’t sure what that something was. So I went off in search of it.
Yes I realize this is sounding like the plot of Eat, Pray, Love. I remember reading the book while I was travelling last year. I didn’t love it, I didn’t hate it either, but I understood why other people did like it, was stoked that others found it was inspirational, and moved on.
I was shocked by the huge backlash against Elizabeth Gilbert once the movie came out: her book advance paid for her travels, the plot was superficial self-absorbed chick lit at the worst, she was not a serious person. Which is amazing given the Gilbert’s previous success and the brilliant TED Talk she gave on nurturing creativity.
But the point of the book is that sometimes you need to lose everything to find something.
And about this time last year I was having one of those bad travelling days.
My wallet had been stolen, I’d dropped my camera, it was cold, I was hungry but that day it didn’t matter because if you can’t tell from the photo I found myself here. I found myself transfixed by the Israeli teenagers walking the groups of Auschwitz with flags draped with defiance, I don’t know, but they were there learning. We were there learning.
So that brief moment is part of the reason I’m off Wellington to teach next year.
Yes I sound like a bit like an aimless wanderer but not all those who wander are aimless. Even if we end up with some crazy looking maps out of the process.
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