Connect. Collaborate. Risk. Innovate.

Connect. Collaborate. Risk. Innovate.

Sunday, 9 February 2014

A Delicate Balance

          Life is a delicate balancing act, a constant state of negotiating varied demands and desires. Teaching is no different. This past week as we transitioned into a new semester, I had the opportunity to touch base with several teachers who are in the beginning stages of their career. These are passionate, energetic, resourceful and caring individuals who are striving to provide the best possible educational experience for their students. And as a result, many of them are shouldering a great deal of stress and anxiety.
           These beginning teachers came to me primarily for resources, but ultimately, what I found that they were more in need of was some emotional support and encouragement. And is it any wonder? The expectations that we place on some our beginner teachers are enough to challenge and tax even the most resilient of individuals.
           At a recent department head meeting, my vice-principal, Bob Whitham, raised a similar concern, in regard to room allocation for semester 2. Sullivan Heights is bulging at the seams. Already on an extended day, finding available rooms to accommodate teachers and students is a Herculean task. Bob's concern was that on top of the challenge faced by some our newer staff, teaching a wide range of subjects and grades, and perhaps having limited access to resources and knowledge of our school, they were also being asked to move from class to class several times during the course of the day.
          At many schools, "tradition" dictates that more experienced or senior teachers are assigned "permanent" rooms. These are generally individuals with 10+ years of teaching experience, who have reached the stage of their careers where they feel somewhat proficient in their subject area, and are better able to navigate the challenges of a typical teaching day. "Tradition" dictates this, but as Bob asked us, does this make it right?
           Like many of us, one beginner teacher that I met with last week was consumed with anxiety the night before the start of the new semester. Part of her anxiety was a feeling that she needed to "do it all". After downloading my iTunes U English 8 course and reading through my blog, she asked me, how do you find time to do everything you do? My response? When I was a beginner teacher, I didn't. Taking on additional roles and responsibilities has been a gradual, ongoing process, made possible through the support of my colleges and my administration.
           After 16 years of teaching, I am now in the fortunate position to be able to explore new opportunities and take part in several innovative and exciting initiatives. But as I emphasized to my new colleague, beginner teachers, and even more experienced teachers, shouldn't feel pressured to "do it all". There is no prize for throwing yourself into the deep end of the pool when you should begin by dipping your toe in the water.
           My advice? Pick one thing, start small, ask for help, get ready to "fail" and then try it again. Isn't this exactly the advice that we give to our students? It seems to me like we should be modelling the same for our beginner teachers as they enter into this amazingly rewarding, yet often challenging profession.
A Delicate Balance

1 comment:

  1. Agreed -- the real "Herculean task" is taking on the job of teaching 3 or 4 new courses, possibly none of which you've prepped for in university. Sadly, it is a daily reality in Canadian education. The advice you give -- build on strengths, access resources, learn from failures -- is something we all need to be reminded of now and then. rw