Wednesday, April 23, 2014

T: is About...well,....Me!!!

The student-teacher relationship has a formal side that sees intellectual exchanges of skill and knowledge taking place. But, this relationship also has an informal side; one that sees a thousand small conversations and shared moments that, while they don't show up on any report card or in any curriculum document, help to make the relationship fuller and more complete.  This is the human side of two people spending ten months together in close proximity to each other.  It is the humanity that lay at the heart of classroom life.

Instructing children is what I get paid to do.  Talking with children is why I enjoy doing.  There is something refreshingly honest and innocent about the conversations that take place.  All throughout each school day, I listen to stories about last night's supper, naughty things the cat did, that time when the police pulled Dad or Mom over and gave them a speeding ticket, all that happened at their hockey or soccer game and much, much more.  If I do my job correctly, children will feel safe in our classroom and, when they feel safe, they share from their heart.  Believe me when I tell you, folks, teachers know more about what goes on withing the four walls of your house than you can ever imagine....and, we don't even have to ask a single question!  The information is shared willingly with us and with the class.  As I have said, there is a refreshing lack of inhibitions with small children.

But, the conversation is not one-sided.  They ask me questions about my life, too.  Within reason, I share with them.  It is only fair.  If I ask them to trust me with their personal stories then, I need to trust them, too. Quid pro quo.   So, for example, I always tell the class that I am married and that I love my wife.  I do this for those who may not know what having loving parents looks like.  I tell them that I follow the Toronto Maple Leafs hockey team and the Toronto Blue Jays baseball team so that they have a point of interest to hone in on if the news is on TV at home. It also gives them a small sense of importance to be able to share a tidbit of information about their teacher that their parents may not already know.  They all know the name of my cat.

If I were to tally up all of the questions that students have asked me over the years, two would come out as being the run-away winners:  why did I become a teacher and, is being a teacher fun?  Let me share a part of my life with you and answer those questions for you now

Why Did I Become A Teacher?

As I progressed through my High School years, I wanted to be a writer, not a teacher.  I wrote stories for my friends every chance I had. Consequently, I earned a reputation as a wordsmith.  I graduated in 1982 and enrolled at Ryerson Polytechnical Institute in Toronto in the Radio and Television Arts programme.  I intended to become a screenwriter and Ryerson had one of the best reputations for developing writing talent in Canada.  I felt honoured to go there.

However, my romantic notions about being a great writer were soon dashed by the reality of how the business side of the entertainment industry worked.  The pressure to produce work that earned money for the studios or networks who employed you was intense.  The was a high degree of a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately attitude everywhere I went.  I quickly began to see how marketing and advertising manipulated public opinion and I had no taste for it.
What finally pushed me to make a career switch was a summer job I had in London, Ontario, Canada.  I had been hired by a radio station and given the title of Assistant Marketing Manager.  Essentially, I made $5.00 an hour going to record stores and department stores and putting up posters with my station's Top 30 songs of the week on it.  When I first started that job, I was excited to be involved in tabulating the votes from listeners for the various songs we would play but soon, I saw what a sham that really was.

London, Ontario is a university town.  The new school term starts in September so, every September, a big Fall Fair is held called Western Fair (named after the university, which is called the University of Western Ontario).  At the Western Fair, there is always a "big name" musical act who appears.  That particular year, the big name musical act was a Canadian singer named Corey Hart, who had a big hit with a song called, Sunglasses at Night.

By the time he made it to Western Fair, he had a new song out.  It was a cover of the Elvis chestnut, I Can't Help Falling In Love With You.  

This song was a terrible version of the original.  Everyone I knew couldn't stand the song and neither could I. But, Corey Hart was the big draw at the Fair and so, his version of Can't Help Falling in Love went to No. 1 on the Top 30 charts, not because anybody liked it or voted for it but, because the record company and the Western Fair business directors wanted it that way.  My job in all of this was to work in a radio station-sponsored booth on the fairgrounds, selling Corey Hart merchandise to teenage girls and promoting his No. 1 song and trying to sell his concert tickets.  I just couldn't do it.   Everything about it felt wrong.  It was not the way I wanted to be spending my life.  I wanted to help young people, not rip them off.   So, I quit.  It is the only job I have ever quit in my life but, it helped change my life because it made me realize that teaching was where my heart truly lay.

Is Teaching Fun?

Some days teaching is a chore. Some days it is extremely rewarding and fulfilling. However, it is certainly a job that provides a few laughs along the way, too.
The conversation is definitely not Shakespearean in nature but, it is a true exchange that I have several times a school year.  The exchange always draws chuckles from the toilet-humour crowd at school. It all concerns how to properly request permission to leave the classroom to go to the washroom.

Can I?

"Can I go to the washroom?"

"I don't know.....can you?"

"Mr MacInnes!!!!!"  Come on!  Can I go to the washroom?"

"Right here?! ........That's gross!"

"OK!............OK...............May I go?"

"Yes............ you may."  :)

 It isn't too long into the year when the kids start to ask, "Can I......" and then, catch themselves and ask properly, "May I go......".   Some people think my job as a teacher is to help students become as literate, numerate, confident and creative as possible but, sometimes, just knowing how to correctly ask if you may take a whiz turns out to be accomplishment enough!  :)

So, there you have a brief glimpse into a small slice of my life.   I owe that in return for the large glimpse into the life of my students that  I get everyday simply talking with the children and listening to what they have to say.  If you think it doesn't happen that often, look back to post "E: is for Encouragement" and re-live the g-string story from my story called, The Best Teacher Gift Ever!!! :)

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