Sunday, January 1, 2012

My Top 10 List of things I like to do over the Christmas Holidays

Since I am now a teacher, I get Actual Christmas Holidays. I wasn’t too happy about the scheduling this year - they started on December 23, which doesn’t leave a lot of time for cooking, shopping, decorating and gift wrapping. On December 15, the whole thing felt so much like too much pressure that I decided we weren’t having a tree this year. But now that it’s January 1st, and I don’t have to go back to work until the 9th, I’m liking the schedule a little better.

I love holidays (and holidays, really). Here are the top ten things I like to do over the Christmas holidays.

10. Think about the people I miss

I really, really miss Marc. I know I didn’t typically see him or be in touch every day - or even every week. But the world has a Marc-shaped hole in it. (That’s actually a joke, which Marc would have gotten). I miss his sarcasm, his humour, and access to his vast collection of recipe books and his rather excellent wine cellar. I miss noticing his great clothes, which I only bothered to do because he loved it when people noticed his great clothes. I miss his Christmas baking baskets, and Christmas lunch somewhere fancy, and shaking my head when he said “Christmas! Christmas is here!” like a besotted four year old. I miss looking forward to seeing him and I miss not wanting to cry when I think about him. One of the problems with being a “X” and married to another man is that there is no socially acceptable outlet for ones grief. And so it stays.

I miss my grandparents. I miss them as much as I always did - but time goes by, and I would say I don’t miss them as often as I did when they were newly gone. Christmas really brings back memories. But I find the memories are not too specific. I mostly remember feelings - feelings of love and safety and anticipation and happiness. I was just thinking that I could be a grandparent soon. Neither of the kids are anywhere NEAR getting married and having families, but they are 21 and 25. They COULD. And it’s amazing to me that I am quite a bit older now that both of my grandmothers were when I was born. I thought they were SO OLD. But I’m not old - and I guess they weren’t really, either. But they always seemed so wise to me, and so willing to listen without judging.

9. Stay up late, and sleep in
Now that I’m depressed....on to a new topic.  This is actually a Jeffry thing. Typically, we go to bed at 10:30 and get up at 6:30. But on holidays, we stay up as late as we want and get up at 9 am. I’m generally a happy morning person who prefers to go to bed and rise early, but there is something deliciously decadent about staying up late and especially about sleeping late. 

I just read over what I wrote. The fact that I find staying up and sleeping late “deliciously decadent” does not mean I need more thrills in my life. It means that I have the ability to appreciate, indeed to revel, in all the wonderful moments as they come along. Really.

8. Getting caught up on my work at school, and think about my job.

I know, I know. I spend a lot of time thinking about my job. And I haven’t posted a single thing about it since September. I’m at a Junior high this year, which I am just okay with. It’s a dream school in a wealthy, neighbourhood. It’s well funded and very well run by an excellent administrative team. The other teachers are terrific and the students are well brought up White and Asian kids. I am teaching in an International Baccalaureate  program (which is great for the resume). This is the kind of posting that most teachers would fall all over themselves to get. So why is it so much less fun and rewarding than my school last year?

It comes down to 3 key issues:
  • I see 228 unique students every week. Last year, I saw 45. Having fewer students means that you have time to form relationships with them, think about their learning and how you can work with them and interest them. With 228 students, learning there first names is a huge accomplishment, and all of them get the same program, whether of not it’s what they need. I’ve noticed that a lot of teachers like this arrangement just fine. However, although I haven’t completely found my style yet, I’m pretty sure that forming strong, constructive relationships with students is one of my key strengths and I really miss being able to do it.
  • The pace is too fast. Seven, 49-minute periods per day; I teach 8 unique classes. I feel like all I do is run like a maniac from room to room and class to class with no time to think, plan, be creative, finish anything or reflect. I really miss doing all those things, and I feel like the kids miss out on my best because I have to dash somewhere right now.
  • The kids themselves. Don’t get me wrong - they are perfectly nice. But some of them are in grade 7 and 8, and I am so not into it. I really want to teach in a high school!
One of the great things about holidays is that I do get a chance to reflect a little. I have done some things this year that I am quite happy with. For example, I teach two sections of BTT (aka, Grade 9 Information and Communication Technology) and I’m having a lot of fun with it. I keep saying I want to be an English teacher rather than a Business teacher, but the business classes are more fun to teach. 

Anyway, I decided that rather than teach them how to use programs, I was going to teach them how to be resourceful computer users. I don’t see the use in teaching them step-by-step how to use programs that will be obsolete before they graduate from highschool. So they have projects, and part of each project is that they have to identify an appropriate piece of business software to use, find a means of learning how to use it, learn it, and then do the project. 

A recent project was to put them in groups where half of the group was in one class and half in the other, and they had to use online collaboration software to make an infographic and write a research paper about a topical subject. It worked GREAT, and the infographics are incredibly good - some of them are better than professional ones I have seen around the web. 

After Christmas, I’m going to teach them SCRUM so they will also be responsible for project managing their teams, and we have 2 really large projects that will each require multiple teams. The projects are real. One is a variety show that the performing arts classes are putting on at the Veteran’s centre and the other is a conference (BIG Ideas) that I am doing with all the grade nine English classes. The BTT kids will be handling advertising (including online ads, radio spots, etc, as well as planning the campaigns), creating a website, shooting a documentary about the process, filming the events and project management. The students can choose what role they want to explore - creative, technical or management and be assigned to a team on that basis. Should be a blast.

OK, I went off topic a little. Despite some things I don’t like about my current position, I obviously have tons of enthusiasm for the profession. I just need to find exactly the right school for my strengths and interests.

I have no more time for writing. In the next installment(s) of “My Top 10 List of things I like to do over the Christmas Holidays” stay tuned for:

7. Think about the future
6. Watch movies
5. Sit in front of the fireplace reading a book and drinking wine, while Jeffry does the same
4. Eat and drink what I want.
3. Did I mention cooking?
2. Spend time with people I like (while avoiding those I don’t)
1. Make New Years resolutions

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