I had a unique opportunity this week to get into a few classes that are well beyond my comfort zone. It was an excellent opportunity to stretch my limits and see what is hidden in my teacher vault.
For the bulk of my career, I have taught in high schools. I do have junior and intermediate qualifications and did some placements and supply teaching in younger grades. I gravitated towards the older grades and thus, most of my permanent teaching has been in high schools.
This week I had a fantastic chance to see what is happening in elementary schools. I loved it. The walls are covered in wonderful student art and motivational posters. School spirit is just as much alive in younger grades as it is in secondary schools.
I have to say I spent a good time just marvelling at the walls in the classes, the full shelves, calendars, and even the organized closets. I was in overdrive trying to figure out how I could utilize effective strategies for myself. I also tried to get a sense of how order works in these classes, so if I tried to connect with a few students, I could tap into their already established class routines.
It was clear I still have a lot to learn about teaching and connecting, and that can happen in any classroom with any grade level of students. I think sometimes you need to be jolted out of your “normal” and see what you can do with your skill set in an entirely different position.
My hosts graciously offered some suggestions and help, “remember to slow your pace a bit, point things out directly and have them show you they are following; they may be cute, but they can still play you!”
The best teachers were the students themselves. They aren’t afraid to ask you questions or point out a mistake I might make. I start to dig into my junior vault. It’s been closed a while and I think the door was a little rusty.
On with the show. I found things in me I haven’t tapped into lately. Why? Maybe I was too comfortable, maybe I lulled myself into the doing things the way I’ve always done them. Well, I can’t in this new situation, so get working. These kids had me. I found myself sweating because I had to really work at my craft, I had to make connections in different ways than “usual” and you can bet I’d be called out if I wasn’t genuine. (Side note- these desks and chairs are really low to the ground, so says my knees)
Result – excitement and exhaustion. The best micro-moments I could ask for to jump start my brain. I remember as a kid, we’d have teacher-switch days when another teacher in the school would take us for half a day and see what happened. I could always tell when a teacher hated it and when a teacher was having fun. Kids can do that you know!
As the teacher in this scenario, I did really enjoy this mini shake up. I hope the kids could tell, even if I didn’t always know what would happen or how to answer, I was in the moment and enjoying myself.
I wonder if this would be a good exercise for any other teachers? After years in a certain division, we should be thrust into a new world and gather some intel on what works at different age levels. I mean I certainly stumbled gathering my footing, but I was definitely invigorated to head back to my own division and see what happens next.