Sunday, February 27, 2011

Emotionally draining

As the effects of last weeks Earthquake are truly starting to be felt around the country I have found my goal to create more empathetic students has actually been working very well.

I tried the writing activity I detailed in my last post with my Year 11's, and Wow! This is a small class of only 14, but low ability boys who are very easily distracted. I introduced it by explaining how so many of our reactions have the word 'I' in it which doesn't recognise the horror and tragedy that is really going on. The responses and stories I got from them were amazing. One of the boys has an Aunt that is still missing in Christchurch so I gave him an out from having to deal with the tragedy head on and said they could choose anyone from anywhere around the world.

I have found the boys a lot more open to deeper thinking and more philosophical discussion than usual. After discussing the issue of desensitisation as shown in The Hunger Games with my Year 9 class, we proceeded to have a 30min long class discussion about war, reality TV, the earthquake, individual stories and reactions. A usually very chatty class was silent and respectful of everyone speaking one at a time and I was simply able to act as a facilitator. The depth of emotion these kids have and their ability to really care and empathise was all the reminder I needed about why I love my job. The last year has been incredibly hard, but through it all I still really love what I do and the kids I get to work with every day.

Before all of this happened my next post was going to be about my classroom environment and the couple of things I have done to make it a bit more interactive. I've put some pictures on here to show the couple of things that I am really proud of. One is my author timeline which has pictures, dates and works of famous authors throughout time on it. The other is my reading tree, which is very bare at the moment but hopefully by the end of the year it will be leafy green, with each leaf being a student written review of a book they liked and want to recommend.
I think that is about all for today. I hope you and all your loved ones are safe and well.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Natural Disasters

The news yesterday of Christchurch's earthquake was devastating. That it happened in the middle of the day when most people were in the city, working or at lunch, has just added to the heartache.

As we tend to do when big things happen, I will always remember where I was. As I was thinking about how I feel about it and where I was I realised exactly how selfish I was. I guess it is in our nature to relate others experiences to our own, but my task for today has been to get my students to think outside themselves.

I think English is great for a task like this. Teens are really at the most selfish age, so getting them to think from other peoples points of view is actually a tough task sometimes. The only idea I have come up with so far is a writing activity where they have to write from the point of view of someone completely different from them. What challenges might they face, what values and beliefs they hold, what type of experiences they would have been through.

I am welcoming any other ideas that people might have about how to tackle this. My aim is to create greater empathy amongst my students.

This blog has been a bit all over the place, but hopefully you get my drift :)

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Profile

So, now I guess is the time to introduce myself. I am in my late twenties and have been teaching for 5 years. 3 of those were spent at a low decile rural school in the country (which I absolutely loved). Last year I moved back to the Wellington area and started working at a top decile boys school. Wow, what a massive change that was to get used to. The one conclusion I came to after my first couple of months here; teenagers are teenagers no matter where you go.

This year I am teaching 5 english classes. 2 Year 7 classes, a Year 9, 10 and 11 class. After the stress of last year I asked for my NCEA workload to be decreased because I needed to get a better handle on myself, which is why I have ended up with a mostly junior load, and I love it.

I have spent a lot of time at the start of this year working on my classroom environment, and when I get that completely finished I will post some photos. I have been busy making charts and timelines, book trees and author bookmarks. I forgot how time consuming all the start of the year admin can be. I spent 5hours simply designing and putting together my timeline of famous authors, but if I do not start the project while I am feeling motivated it will never get done.

Keeping my motivation up is a huge thing for me, so I am hoping this new year enthusiasm will last until about September! Lets see how it goes.

Monday, February 14, 2011

English 101

So today is my first blog in this project. I am going to blog anonymously as I tend to give too much away sometimes and this way I protect my school and students (and myself).

The reason I decided to start this blog is because last year was the worst year of my life. Although I have been teaching for a few years now, last year I moved to a new school with higher standards and a larger workload. Due to pressure and my own general strive to be perfect I ended up at the lowest point I have ever been and was ultimately diagnosed with severe depression and anxiety.

I am now on medication and having councilling, and I think this forum of sharing ideas and support between English teachers will be very helpful in gaining my confidence back. Already I am feeling a lot more comfortable and at ease this year, but I know it will be later in the year when the NCEA pressure mounts, the marking piles up and reports are due when I will really be tested.

So that is a bit of info behind my reason for blogging and being a part of this project. I hope you will stay with me on this journey and share your own views as well as gaining something (hopefully) from my experiences.

Ms M.