Posts Tagged ‘teacher’s story’

I was at a teacher’s conference recently and I heard Helen Smith of Mater Christi College in Victoria share the following story. I thought it was quite inspiring, moving and indicative of the journey that teachers have taken and continue to take in practicing their craft.

Helen Smith – Mater Christi College

When I was a young teacher
I did as everyone else did.
I wrote worksheets by hand and
ran them off on a roneo or gestetner
or I wrote them on the blackboard
and had students copy it down.
I had an answer sheet so all was good.
I was a sage on the stage.

Behind closed doors and in nice neat rows
I gave the worksheets to my students.
They completed them.
I marked them.
We did another worksheet.
Every lesson was complete in itself.
They got an education (of sorts).

The person sitting next to me did the same.
Her worksheets were not my worksheets
But she had an answer sheet so all was good.
Her students completed them
She marked them
They did another worksheet
Every lesson was complete in itself.
They got a different education.

They were all considered equal
And we thought that they were good.

In the next year the teacher did some revision
and some students were deemed clever
and some were deemed not.
The students had learned different things.
They did not have the same words
with which to learn
And they felt let down.

When I was a little older
we developed a scope and sequence.
God bless the Scope and Sequence.
We could now ensure that
everyone covered the same material.
We saw that it was different
and we saw that it was good.

I wrote worksheets
and I ran them off on the photocopier or
I wrote them on the whiteboard
and had students copy it down.
I had the answer sheet so all was good.
I was the guide on the side.

Behind closed doors and sitting in a U shape
I gave the worksheets to my students
They completed them
I marked them
We did another worksheet
Every lesson was complete in itself.
They got an education (of sorts)

The person sitting next to me did the same.
His worksheets were not my worksheets
He had an answer sheet so all was good.
His students completed them
He marked them
They did another worksheet
Every lesson was complete in itself.
They got a different education.

They were all considered equal
And we thought that they were good.

We had fixed the problem
and we were happy.

In the next year the teacher did some revision
and some students were deemed clever
and some were deemed not.
We had covered the same material
But at different times,
at different strengths
and at different expectations of quality.

The person sitting next to me
set standards very high
and I did not.
The students still did not have
the same words with which to learn
And they felt let down.

Here I am, an old teacher.
I am trying something new.
I am no longer writing worksheets
where I already know the answer.
The students always knew
that all they had to do
was read the teacher’s mind.

Now I ask the question
to which I do not know the answer.
Together we search for meaning.
I have become a meddler in the middle.

I no longer run things off.
I put them on a wiki, a flipchart, a website or email
I write them on the Interactive whiteboard
but they never copy it down.
They access it later as they need it

The doors may be closed
but the classroom is not.
We are in touch with the world
and doors don’t mean a thing,
(except they keep out the cold).

I pose the question.
Together we
analyze, synthesize, summarize
evaluate, formulate, annotate
predict, reflect, suggest
exemplify, apply and classify.

The learning is not over when the bell goes.
Now, every lesson is another phase
of the continuum.
Because every subject uses the same words
And because we all speak the same language
The students are able to discover
the skills for lifelong learning
Across all disciplines
Over all years.

The person sitting next to me does the same.
We know this because we do it together.
We agree on the skills, the task and deadlines
We create a range of activities
that broaden the learning experience.
She learns from me and
I learn from her.
Together we are “better” than
“good” by ourselves.

Every lesson is different
because every child is different
and everyone’s approach is different,
but because we use the same words
our students will all know how to
analyze,  synthesize, summarize
evaluate, formulate, annotate
predict, reflect, suggest
exemplify, apply and classify.

And when the work is done
we teachers meet.
We share the work of the students
and agree
On what is good and what is not.
The students know it doesn’t matter if
he is tough
and she is soft,
The grade is the same
and the comments are just.

In the next year the teacher will do some revision.
As always, there will be students
who are deemed clever
and some are deemed not
That has been the way
and is the way of all human life,
but they now will all know what it means to
analyze, synthesize, summarize
evaluate, formulate, annotate
predict, reflect, suggest
exemplify, apply and classify.

In that year the teacher will build on these skills.
She will focus on
Comment, compare, contrast
Derive, describe, design
Identify, infer, investigate,
Show, state and solve.
Together we can see that this is good.

We take turns creating the unit,
building on pooled ideas.
Strengths are shared
Strategies are broadened.
Weaknesses are weeded out.

My work
And the work of the person beside me
Has moved from writing another worksheet
to building a program of learning,

I write a unit
once in a while
because we all take turns to lead.

And we found an Atlas that helps us describe and manage that world
And the students will be able to see
that they have skills
to face the world in that Atlas.

And so will the teachers.
Maybe one day, before I retire
I might be able to claim I am but
A shepherd in their shadow.

In conclusion then,
You may heed what I say, or not.
If you do, then welcome aboard an exciting ride
If not, then only consider
working with us for a while,
because
“Together” enables “better”
than “good” by yourself.

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