This year has been particularly challenging for me as a teacher. I have always been told that I have a talent for teaching, and that I relate to kids and can motivate them to push their boundaries and explore concepts that are challenging and outside of their accepted educational comfort zones. That said, I have also always been very comfortable with the curriculum that I am delivering. Having taught pretty well every flavour of History course imaginable along with courses as diverse as World Religions, Computer Engineering, Leadership, and Consumer Design, I never thought that developing an English course for Academic Grade Nines would be so challenging.
To be honest, I never really bought into the English courses I took in High School. There was the odd novel, such as Orwell's 1984, or Shakespearean play that grabbed my interest, but it never seemed to hold the same fascination as History, Science, or Computer Programming. Part of it could have been the teachers I had (all of whom were very professional and I learned a lot from, but sadly never "connected" with), or the curriculum that they placed before us (to this day, I still think Conrad's Heart of Darkness is the worst novel ever written).
When I found out I was teaching a Grade Nine English class this year, I took it as a challenge to push myself to fall in love with the discipline (and to steady my nerves to deal with Grade Nines, who, for the first 19 years of my career I never had the 'privilege" of teaching). I also wanted to teach English as a History teacher, and to add that creative flair and focus on 21st Century Learning Skills that I have always used in my classroom.
To say it has been a challenge is somewhat downplaying this journey my students and I have undertaken. Finding ways to make Shakespeare something they look forward to reading (we are studying a Midsummer Night's Dream), is only now (after a few weeks or hard sledding) starting to really pay dividends. Yesterday's class, where groups shared their "snipets" of important dialogue from Act IV Scene I produced some excellent discussion, and one very special moment were two girls in my class took hold of the scene where Hermia and Helena almost come to blows and absolutely ran with it. I had chills as they delivered Shakespeare using the emotion, cadence, rhythm, and very respect for the Bard's words that I struggled with during my entire High School career. I finally had that "ah ha!" moment that I had been working night and day for over the last eight weeks. Tomorrow, being the greedy teacher I am, I am hoping for a few more of those spine tingling moments were everybody is engaged, learning, and enjoying everything about the opportunity that they have been given.
Grey Highlands has been fortunate enough to be chosen to host Words Aloud, and my students have also been given the opportunity to learn from these talented wordsmiths during an afternoon workshop. The upcoming poetry unit has one that we all have been "dreading", but after taking one class to explore the awesomeness that is Slam Poetry, my students (and their once reluctant teacher) are super keen for tomorrow.
Maybe English class isn't so awful after all.
secondary school teacher, amateur photographer, movie buff, computer nerd .