Monday, February 22, 2010

Learning - Part One

Once upon a time, in Canada's national capital, there was a keen and ambitious young teacher.

As a result of a stroke of luck and and an accompanying qualifying teaching degree, she found herself gainfully employed within a year of graduation. She was teaching grade four students in a lower-income inner-city school.

She had some apprehension before the first day of school, as she had done supply teaching at this school the previous year and had been smashed in the head with a basketball by one of the very "unique" and special students in a grade three class. During a math lesson.

It turns out her apprehension was merited. This school was tough. The students were merciless. She came to school some mornings completely terrified. By early October this group of nine-year-olds had gotten the best of her. She was ready to quit the job she had only weeks earlier been so thankful to have received.

One cold morning in November she decided it was time to turn things around. She sought help from some of the absolutely amazing, caring, and experienced teachers in the school. (Most of whom still work at this school today.) They were more than happy to assist her.

They opened up their vaults of experience and helped her learn how to handle this behaviour-challenged class. Within weeks the eager 20-something teacher had regained her composure and was back on top. She had those kids lined up silently in the hall. She had them quietly reading books in the library. She had instituted a reward system in the classroom for good behaviour which seemed to motivate every single one of them.

And before she knew it, she was learning about each and every one of them. She came to understand the complexities at home that fostered the students' "difficult" behaviour. That many of their parents were unemployed. Had drug and alcohol problems. Were not reachable for her to communicate with because they couldn't manage to pay for phone service. Could not afford lunch or snacks for their children. Which then led this young teacher to walk into the giant, gaping doors of Costco to buy her very first membership, just so she could purchase some bulk foods to keep in her desk and slip to the children who didn't have a lunch. Which most definitely garnered some eye-rolling from her husband.

In early November the teacher answered her classroom door when she heard an abrupt knock. She opened the door to see a mother and father and a small girl. The mother didn't speak a word of English, and neither did her daughter. The father spoke choppy English, and the teacher was able to understand from him that they had arrived in Ottawa from Iran the previous day and wanted to enroll their nine-year-old daughter in school. He didn't have a job, and they had three children. The mother had tears in her eyes as she peered into the brightly-coloured classroom full of hand-made art and sticker charts and word walls and dusty chalk and seemed fearful for her daughter. Against all "no touching" rules the young teacher put her arm around this woman to assure her that her little girl was in good hands, and would do just fine. The woman smiled knowingly at the teacher, and nodded her head as if she understood.

The father said, "thank you", and they left.

To be continued . . .

7 comments:

Phyllis said...

Shan, I'm not sure where this story is going, but it's already got tears welling up in my eyes. I look forward to reading the continuation. It's awesome to get a glimpse of your past like this.

Loukia said...

Oh Shannon... I can't wait to read more. Wow.

Christine said...

I can hardly wait for the next installment. So poetic and beautifully written. Thanks for sharing and keep it up!

Chantal said...

this is so interesting. Can't wait to read part 2

Amber said...

I don't know where this is headed, but I'm crying.

I'm also thinking of 'From Far Away' by Robert Munsch. I can't read that book, because it makes me cry, too.

BeachMama said...

you are the best teacher. Can you teach J? Please?

Capital Mom said...

I am glad you are writing this. I can't wait to read more.

 
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