Saturday, February 5, 2011

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Monday, November 15, 2010

Tiptoe with the Tutor...

Retirement from something I love to do but am too tired to continue doing it has been interesting. I really didn't want to quit working; I just wanted to quit working so hard. In order to continue in the field of education without burning myself to a crisp, I've opted to try out tutoring for awhile.

I am particularly fortunate to have an office of the Learning Disabilities Association of Saskatchewan within walking distance of my home. One of their programs, ABSee, hires people with B.Ed's to tutor students. I work by the hour. Most students contract for 1 to 2 hours per week. Presently, my youngest student is 7 and the oldest is an adult.

Since in one of my previous teacher incarnations I was a resource room teacher, some of this work is familiar. I work one on one with a student to teach specific skills or help with homework. What is profoundly different, however, is not having any contact at all with the students' regular educational institution. I know from my special ed days that what a student can do one on one with you, isn't what that student does in a classroom. When I've asked parents if their child is doing better in school, they expect that I should be able to tell by how the student is progressing with their tutoring.

I had looked forward to being able to use all that cool online technology to supplement my tutoring. The good news is there is an incredible amount of "stuff" online and a lot of it is incredibly good. (Here's a "link to my links"; I still have Google Notebooks, so if you go to "More from Pat.Cone, you should find other pages.) The bad news is that internet access is even flakier in downtown Saskatoon than it had been in Hafford! (I don't know if everyone checks email and FaceBook before they leave work?)

It took awhile to orient myself to my new surroundings and working conditions, but I must say I'm starting to enjoy what I'm doing. I get to teach without burning. Bonus.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Notes from Somewhere over the Rainbow...

"Billy is spastic in time, has no control over where he is going next, and the trips aren't necessarily fun. He is in a constant state of stage fright, he says, because he never knows what part of his life he is going to have to act in next." (23) Slaughterhouse 5

My former tekkie colleagues who have read this blog in the past know that I retired from my teaching job last June. My life has been somewhat "Billy Pilgrimesque" in that, now that I'm legitimately unemployed, I often have these time-travelling mental experiences of who I am and what I am doing with my time. Let me try to explain.

For 29.2 odd years of my life I've needed a mental front-end loader to get me up, get me dressed, and get me out the door to work. I'm not a morning person. This is how I've survived teaching until about noon each day. Now I can park the loader, but I'm more than a little lost without it. Often I get this overwhelming panic that I'm going to be late - and then realize "for what?"

I can walk pretty much where I need to just like I could in high school and university. Sometimes, en route, I revert to this pre-working self. I like her. I love being in Saskatoon with my feet on the ground that I've trodden all my life. The landscape alternately confirms and shatters my sense of where and who I am in time and space.

I have to say, one of the biggest reasons I liked teaching was for my creativity fix. Those adrenaline rushes were wonderful. Other than taking photos I haven't really found a substitute; the rush made the drudgery of the front-end loader life worthwhile. I love teaching and much of what it entails, but I don't have the energy to keep up with the grind. Creativity takes energy.

Am I old? Mentally I can feel 18 to 22 again, but physically my body tells me I'm not. I hurt. "I ache in the places where I used to play," as Leonard Cohen put so eloquently. I love listening to my iPod, but I worry about hearing loss. I'm a step-grandmother, but the kiddies aren't anywhere nearby for me to dote on. My hair hasn't even turned grey! I swallow pills, and I have to watch what I eat.

I'm sitting writing this post about the time I would have been starting work for 29.2 odd years. I'm fighting the urge to go back to bed. The sunshine and blue sky beckon me, and I know I'll have much more pep if I shower and get dressed. Maybe I'll finally make the NIA class at Lawson Civic Centre today...

Sunday, May 23, 2010

The Day the "World" Came to My School

"Everybody" assumes if you are the "computer" teacher all you do is teach "geeky" and "tekkie" things. Right?

Ummm...not quite. Let me explain. I'm a TEACHER that teaches with "technology" in order to "communicate".

Last Friday, students, parents, teachers, EA's, and young siblings from Walter Murray Collegiate's ESL (English as a Second Language) classes - about 70 of them - came on two school busses to Hafford to have a visit with my grade 6, 7, and 8 social studies students. We had a video scavenger hunt (9 groups, 1 video capable digital camera, videoing 3 places - one in the school, one on the playground, and one "downtown" ) and then went to Redberry Lake park for an incredible international potluck lunch and wienie roast, games in the rosebowl, walking around, playing, and visiting. (Soccer and eating really are international languages!) It was a WONDERFUL day.

How incredibly..."geekie?"

This adventure all started quite a few years ago and has its genesis in the Educational Communications master's program at the University of Saskatchewan. Koreen Geres and I are both graduates, but knew each other because of mutual friends in the program. One Showcase 2008 convention day, after meeting up in a Dean Shareski session, Koreen, an ESL teacher at Walter Murray, and I had lunch. She was working on a doctorate concerning problems encountered by refugee youth, and I was a grade five and six ELA teacher, teaching a novel study on social issues. Wouldn't it be cool, we thought, if somehow our students could communicate with each other. I should also mention, that my school, Hafford Central, is a UNESCO ASPnet school. I'm always looking for ways to integrate learning about international cooperating and understanding into my classes.

Two years passed, and we met again. I was teaching the same novel study and we discussed again how our students could communicate. Koreen decided she could arrange for her students to visit Hafford, and sent email addresses so my grade six, seven and eight social studies students could begin emailing each other. My students emailed to 6-10 of her students who felt comfortable enough writing in English. This was great as my students were looking for their epal buddies when the visit began.

Technology is a tool that allows us to communicate. I'd say that we did a lot of communicating and had a heck of a lot of fun that was possible in part because of the technology available. The day worked because of all the INCREDIBLE people involved especially the Hafford and Walther Murray students!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

What is old is new again.

I went to high school from 1968 to 1972 (yes that makes me OLD). For the first two years it was an "old school" system: streamed homeroom classes based intellectual "ability", dress codes (no pants for girls, no facial hair for boys!), and regular exam sittings. After my grade 10 year the administration changed and brought with it new and "enlightened" practices. Term and final exams were abolished and replaced with "continuous evaluation." Teachers experimented with new teaching and evaluation styles. (All my social studies evaluations were "oral exams"). We didn't write essays. We had quite a bit of choice as to how to structure our time and when we would complete assignments. We didn't even have to go to class. Dress codes - we had to wear clothes. In total the school experience was supposed to be modern and "relevant."

I should also add we were working class kids. Most of our parents had working class jobs and little experience with post-secondary education. Post-secondary ed was possible because we could live at home and take the bus to tech school or university.

I chose to go to university. I remember how ill-prepared I was for the experience. Most of my academic survival skills came from the first two not the last two years of high school studies. I survived but many others did not. ( I should add that the technical schools are even more demanding than university and often more difficult to enter.) Students who came from more traditional educational experiences coped a whole lot better than I did.

A lot of the people who didn't survive post-secondary studies went to work and stayed in those jobs. In the seventies, you could go to work at potash mines or meat packing plants and make pretty good money. Interestingly now most of their kids pursue university or some form of post-secondary training.

I think we need to be EXTREMELY careful when we talk of educational reform. I see a lot of people arguing for something VERY MUCH like what I experienced my last two years of high school. My students write exams and essays not because I think they are particularly superior educational activities. They may need these skills in order to help them move onto something they really want to do with their lives.