Our principal asked us to reflect at the end of the year, which I thought was a great thing. Of course, I think we should be reflecting all of the time as teachers, but as a wrap-up, it’s nice to put it in writing. Here goes:
What have I learned this year:
Through a lot of frustration, I have learned a lot this year. I jumped into a new country, new school, and everything was different. I realize as an international teacher, change is inevitable and culture shock and school shock. We are all risk-takers, and moving across worlds creates stress. I also moved houses another time throughout the year as we all moved into a new apartment building. Stress and stress.
So to handle stress, I’ve learned that you need balance. I’ve been surrounded by some great colleagues, everyone in the same boat, people with whom I could vent, and they empathize. I’ve found my outlets again like yoga and running. I’ve looked for the good things about the place and tried to participate in them–like opportunities to help others in this greatly impoverished country. And I’ve gotten out on holidays to some great places.
I’ve also learned that there are a lot of schools out there which are still struggling to find their place. I came from a very functioning school that had done a lot of work on learning. I think my initial shock was that I assumed most schools were like that. Of course, they’re not. There are schools run by corporations, who are more concerned with keeping parents happy; there are new schools just beginning a PYP journey; there are some run by administrators who don’t have the leadership capabilities; and there are others who have such a transient population of teachers, that there hasn’t been consistency.
What I would like to happen next year:
I’ve been trying to put this simply next year because educational philosophy is so important to me. In fact, my new co-teacher asked me this question, and we are going to discuss this at the beginning of next school year.
Learning….everything about learning. If students are in a school environment, with educators surrounding them, then the focus should be on learning. We should be asking the question and acting on it. Learning should be everything we do. It needs to be expressed openly. Students should be talking about it, and teachers. Teachers should be acting with it in mind, and we should reflect always on learning.
For example, this assembly….what does this have to do with learning? Does it reflect our curriculum? And have students created the learning it represents?
How is this “activity” learning? How does it affect learning? Are we learning through it? What are we learning? So much of what has happened at our school is “because we did it last year.” That’s not an answer.
How do the routines in place at our school affect learning? Our students not sure of the expectations in the cafeteria? Outside? The classroom? All of their teachers? Are they so busy trying to figure out how to behave that they can’t relax and learn?
How does our behavior towards the children affect their learning? Do our students feel safe to share and inquire? Do they feel safe to be kind to each other? To accept differences? If we yell at the kids and tell them to sit down and be quiet, then they don’t feel safe. They don’t feel any power or responsibility for themselves.
And everything we do should be co-constructed learning. What is happening at school is not about the teachers. It shouldn’t be about what the parents want. Nor should it be just so that we look good. It’s really hard at our corporate school but it’s still a school with children eager to learn, just like children anywhere. If we don’t make this about learning, we are losing a valuable group of minds.
What I believe is that we are a team of people at the school who should be committed to our students and learning. We should be aware of children’s developmental stages and of best practice. I’ve learned that for some reason, this doesn’t happen at a lot of schools. I think that’s why I came to admire the PYP philosophy, at least as it was practiced at my previous school.
School is not about just getting by and entertaining the kids throughout the day or preparing them for tests. It’s not something easy where you do the same thing every year and celebrate holidays. It’s about the students and their learning. It’s about helping to stretch those amazing elastic minds and helping to grow hearts full of compassion.