Who’s your awesome teacher?

VeniceAsk any teacher why they became one and the most common response is that they once had an awesome teacher that made them want to become an educator themselves. Mine was Zacher a wonderful art teacher who made me want to learn about how art came about, about egyptians and greeks and romans and romanesque and gothic and renaissance and baroque and then some. I can still see clearly in my mind the wonderful notebooks she put together and the very special times we spent huddled around the art tables going through the history as she told stories of what had happened and invited us to contribute, to question and to seek our own responses. I still have my essays, hand written on foolscap lined paper. More importantly, I never forgot those learning sessions and to this day I teach, I learn and I question. I also make art – not in any common studio form such as painting and ceramics like I did in university but I think and do art works – differently. I have a collection of diaries, for examples, one each for my adventures overseas. In them I poured out my thoughts and feelings, I described my adventures, I drew and I tore paper and images and pasted them in. Then I drew over the top and even used water colour pencils something I had dismissed due to my experiences in that same university. You see I don’t particularly like rules, nor do I think that there are always ‘right’ answers. I approach everything through a visual, emotional perspective. Some might say that that, is why I get into trouble! And that’s true I get emotionally attached and then it hurts when things don’t work out. At the same time that’s okay too, because I like capturing those moments when you’re suddenly struck by a new thought and take the risk regardless.

As an educator, I value uppermost the importance of relationships. I suspect that the teachers mentioned by my colleagueArt educators have this gift to connect with their students in many ways. These are the teachers that become the ‘awesomes’. They seem to be always the ones that make the effort, that give a damn about how and who you really are. They’re not superficial, they really do want to know. They are also the same ones who do everything in their power and then some, to allow you to succeed. They take opportunities to connect with you. They seek your learning preference and find out what you like and then they ingeniously combine and blend, mingle, amalgamate, and intermix them strategically within the content to get you hooked – all of us – hooked into learning.

So, if you get one message from this post it’s that tomorrow when you get to school you make an extra effort to connect with that kid who always gets away. I recommend 5 simple things to get you started:

1. Make eye contact and smile 🙂

2. Greet them individually by name

3. Notice something they do well and let them know about it

4. Tell them what you like to do and why.

5. Ask them what they like to do and why.

I’d love to hear what you do to form your learning relationships with students.

Thanks for reading 🙂

A poppy to remember

Lest we forgetThe Western Front
I’ve been to the Western Front twice so far and would go again and again. There I began to understand and will never, ever forget. I have two wonderful diaries that I wrote and drew and glued and poured my heart into. To this day I still cannot speak about it in depth but my diaries speak and quite often I’ll pull those out, I sit quietly and I remember. I just received this story via email from a dear friend, she was the one who taught me things about the Western Front – things I will never, ever forget. This story spoke to me loud and clear. I hope it speaks to you too and that together we never, ever forget.
Lest we forget
This is a true story.
Back in September, on the first day of school, Martha Cothren, a social studies school teacher at Bobcaygeon (north of Peterborough Ontario) public school, did something not to be forgotten. On the first day of school, with the permission of the school superintendent, the principal and the building supervisor, she removed all of the desks out of her classroom.

When the first period kids entered the room they discovered that there were no desks.

‘Ms.. Cothren, where’re our desks?’

She replied, ‘You can’t have a desk until you tell me how you earn the right to sit at a desk.’

They thought, ‘Well, maybe it’s our grades.’

No,’ she said.

‘Maybe it’s our behaviour.’ 
She told them, ‘No, it’s not even your behaviour.’

And so, they came and went, the first period, second period, third period. Still no desks in the classroom.

By early afternoon television news crews had started gathering in Ms.Cothren’s classroom to report about this crazy teacher who had taken all the desks out of her room.

The final period of the day came and as the puzzled students found seats on the floor of the deskless classroom, Martha Cothren said, ‘Throughout the day no one has been able to tell me just what he/she has done to earn the right to sit at the desks that are ordinarily found in this classroom. Now I am going to tell you.’

At this point, Martha Cothren went over to the door of her classroom and opened it.

Twenty-seven (27) War Veterans, all in uniforms, walked into that classroom, each one carrying a school desk. The Vets began placing the school desks in rows, and then they would walk over and stand alongside the wall. By the time the last soldier had set the final desk in place those kids started to understand, perhaps for the first time in their lives, just how the right to sit at those desks had been earned.

Martha said, ‘You didn’t earn the right to sit at these desks. These heroes did it for you. They placed the desks here for you. Now, it’s up to you to sit in them. It is your responsibility to learn, to be good students, to be good citizens. They paid the price so that you could have the freedom to get an education. 
Don’t ever forget it.’


My favourite teacher

Let me take you back to your classroom experiences. Can you recall your favourite teacher, what was it about him/her that you liked? How did she/he engage you in learning? Did he/she use visuals, play videos, talk, write on the board, have you working in groups, ask questions, present learning in many forms? Did he/she know you – I mean really know you, not just your name, but your thoughts and feelings about school, about life, what you liked, didn’t like – did they?

I know mine did – her name was Zacher, she was the teacher on whom I most model myself. She made the pages of my art text book come alive. She would tell stories about the people who made the works. She was very passionate about her subject and we couldn’t help but join her in the adventures of the ancient Egyptians, the Greeks, the Romans and especially the most famous of all – those from the Renaissance, Leonardo, Michelangelo, Raphael and Donatello! Are these names familiar? You might remember them as the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles!

Zacher was the reason I became an art teacher. I made up my mind in Year 9 and I never looked back. Thirty something years later my love of teaching and learning has not spent.