Well I haven’t made time to write a post lately. It’s not that I haven’t had the time, despite all the usual end-of-year craziness to finish marking, reporting, external exam marking, commenting, dealing with post-exam disappointment and elation and relief in various forms. Sometimes there’s even a little bit of teaching and learning in there too.
At the moment I am taking my students through The Diary of Anne Frank, a filmmaking unit and an introduction to the colonial experience of North America. I find these three areas fascinating to learn about and am trying to instil that in my students despite it not “being on the test”. There are some extremely important themes and issues embedded within these topics and texts that students do need to deal with at some point in a meaningful, calm and supported manner.
The Anne Frank unit is difficult for some students because of its themes of fear, pressure, growing up, human tragedy and claustrophobic relationships. The filmmaking unit exposes students to the world behind the camera lens: a world that is full of constructed images and meanings. The study of North America at the point of contact and colonisation by Europeans is, to some extent, a difficult political and social study as it so clearly reflects the Australian experience. Trying to walk the tightrope of presenting and engaging with historical views and perspectives without imprinting my own political beliefs is, I think, a difficult task for history teachers.
Aside from all the usual end-of-year intensity, there was another parallel process of change occurring. It didn’t link to Amsterdam in the 1940s or Tim Burton or the Sioux nation, but to a change in my own life.
I went for and was offered the position of eLearning Coordinator at a school here in Sydney. I took the offer as soon as I could as I was ecstatic that they would even consider me for a new role at such a great school. With a blank slate to work with – in terms of my goals and aspirations for the role – I am hoping to make positive and sustainable change in the area of teaching and learning.
I will be blogging my experience in this new role to model the reflective practice I hope my new colleagues will take on board.
Behind the excitement of a new position at a new school (and a position that allows me to fully explore the potential of technology in teaching and learning) there was some sadness. Sadness at the fact that I would have to leave a school that I do love with students and colleagues who have formed me as a teacher and a person over the last six years. As an early career teacher, the impact of superiors, mentors, colleagues, work friends, students, processes and success/failures can have a dramatic impact on me. It’s not always obvious or outwardly expressed, it may not even be noticed. But the way I speak to students, the way I interact with others, the way I explain a concept or react to a situation is indeed informed and dictated by a mixture of my own personality and the environment which I hone my craft.
I hope I am an effective teacher most days and in most of my interactions with students. I hope my students have gained both skills and strategies for success and also a passion for History and English that they may have denied before. I hope that I have taught each of them to play to their strengths and to not ignore their weaknesses but embrace them and work to be the best student they can be – different to every other student who is, who was and who will be.
In the awkward lead up to an interview I – like everyone – try to detail my achievements or milestones in a way that straddles the gap between humility and ego. Happily, the vast majority of my achievements aren’t really mine. They are watching my students or colleagues achieve something that I had a small part in supporting. Be it HSC success or a presentation to colleagues they didn’t think they could pull off, it’s hard to separate ones self from the organism that is the whole school community. Anyone who thinks they can be an effective teacher by isolating themselves from others is wasting their time.
Some say the future is bright and it’s true, but not in a fluffy, head-in-the-clouds kind of way. The future is too bright to see anything much for certain, only the first few steps of the path we choose to take. And that is enough for me.