Friday Two Cents: The Measure Of A Person


Upon returning from the spring break I had the opportunity to work in a few kindergarten classrooms where I know the early childhood educator (ECE).  I started my journey in the education field as an ECE and working with some whom I have known for some years is quite rewarding. Yet something this week came to mind as I was working with an exceptional ECE.  

You see, I have the unique perspective of working as an ECE and as a teacher in a kindergarten class.  I have worked both sides and I have seen the good, bad and ugly of both professions. In many kindergarten rooms there are two adults educating the students, a teacher and an ECE.  I can best describe this partnership in this way.  A teacher is like the officer or captain of the unit/classroom they oversee the planning in room and do a lot of the paperwork involved with the job.  They now the rules and regulations and curriculum involved in making the ship run smoothly.  The ECE’s are the NCO’s (non-commissioned officers/sergeants), they oversee the smaller everyday running of things.  They also are the backbone of the unit making sure that the unit runs smoothly according to the captain’s (teacher’s) plan.  Yet they also have a level of experience/knowledge that makes them invaluable to the officers and unit.  They are almost like the glue that keeps things together. 

As in any unit, when both the officers and sergeants are working together, the unit functions like a well-oiled machine.  The same can be said in a kindergarten classroom with the teacher and ECE.  I had the opportunity to work with an ECE who shows her passion for teaching.  Yet in many circles she is looked down upon because she is an ECE.  She is not a teacher with all the degrees and additional qualifications.  Many teachers would only see a support person not an equal. But she works and programs in the classroom as well or better than some teachers I have worked with.  Why is it that we cannot see the wonderful educator she is simply because she does not have the qualifications.  Is it truly a matter of position, of rank or privilege that holds people back in recognizing her contributions? 

I know that there are some ECEs that are not as passionate as the ECE that I worked with, as I would imagine in any profession, but I think that they are in the minority. I think and was told that I preformed as well as this ECE.  I took my experience as an ECE and brought it forward into my teaching career.  There are many ECEs working that would exemplify their teaching skills in their work with the students and they are not teachers.  So why we cannot acknowledge them as being great educators in the system as well as teachers?  

I have felt the sting of discrimination of being an ECE and a teacher. When I worked as an ECE in a classroom I was treated as a support staff and told to do whatever the teacher told me to do. Yet once I received my teaching licence and I was still working as an ECE, until I got onto the supply-teaching list, teachers would treat me different than before.  I was seen as a second teacher in the room, asked for observation notes; or to plan lessons.  Even though the education policy says that the teacher and ECE are seen as equals, many do not put this into practice.   

Perhaps it has to do with human nature and how we measure people.  Do we measure them by their actions or by they status in a society?  All too often I have seen people measure others because they see them as inferior to themselves and they devalue them.  Perhaps we as a society need to treat others, as we would like to be treated. J.K. Rowling once said …

‘If you want to see the true measure of a man, watch how he treats his inferiors, not his equals.’ J. K. Rowling

For if a person can treat someone as an equal, even when society sees them as inferior; then maybe we can finally see no difference when it comes to valuing people for whom they truly are. 

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Friday Two Cents: Oh The Places I’ve Been


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This past week I reached a milestone that I though I never would reach. I worked in my 50th classroom as a supply early childhood educator (ECE) at the school board. I started in 2013 and since then, I have been in about 22 different schools and 50 different kindergarten classes. Over this time I have been in some classes that had the same teacher, but from year to year they had different students. The student’s personality differences change the dynamics in a classroom wherever I have worked with a similar teacher, therefore I see the class as a different classroom. In some cases I have been in 5 different kindergarten classrooms at the same school. I even have been in several French immersion classes during this time period.

I have been keeping a count of the number of classrooms I have been in since someone asked me how many different classrooms I have been in, back in February. One surprising thing is that this past school year I have been in 25 different classrooms alone. Amazing, the first two years I was in 25 different classrooms but in this past one year I have equalled it. Mind you I did go to teacher’s college one of those years so that would make a difference in the number of classrooms I would be in.
Yet reflecting back on the past year and the 25 classrooms, I can say with one thing for certain. Kids are kids no matter where you go. They are all very curious; they love to ask questions on topics of their interest and personal questions on your life. They all enjoyed my drawings and creative work with them and of course they loved George and my other puppets. Whenever I go back to a school or a classroom they always ask about George.
But even though I have been in all these different classrooms it sometimes feel like a hollow victory. I look at this number and all the experience I have accumulated; yet I still am looking for a permanent position as a teacher of my own classroom. There are days when I feel like I am making progress and advancing in my career. Then there are days when the harsh reality of my situation sets in and you are only as good as your last job. The saying “It’s not what you have done for me that counts but what you have done for me lately”, comes to mind. On several occasions I have felt that no matter how good I do my job, I feel unappreciated. That for all my helping and hard work, to make a class and school that much more enjoyable for the students, it falls to the side like leaves falling in the autumn breeze. It feels like no one notices, no one cares.
However those feelings pass as I try to be positive and think of the most important aspect of my journey into the different classrooms. My observation and learning from the different teachers and their teaching styles. I have observed many lesson plans and what is great is that I have been asked to conduct my own lessons in these classrooms. Lesson plans for math, language, art, technology and science to name a few. I even helped out a school with their science project on the life cycle of the butterfly. I don’t have my own classroom but it feels good to do some lesson plans to keep my teaching juices flowing.
Below I have created a logo of a blue silhouette male teacher holding the hands of two students. Each of these silhouettes’ represents a different kindergarten class I worked in. I placed a number on the top right side that represents the year I was in that classroom. The classes that were French immersion are represented with a white fleur-de-li because the majority of the classes are English. Directly beneath the logo you can see a tally chart of all the classes I have been in. The 25th is shaded in silver and the 50th is in gold.

ECE_Supply_legend

Saying I have been in 50 different classrooms is pretty impressive. I have to remember to think of the positive side of my journey and remember those famous words written by Dr. Seuss.

“Oh, the places you’ll go!

There is fun to be done!

And will you succeed?

Yes! You will, indeed!

 

KID, YOU’LL MOVE MOUNTAINS!

 

You’re off to Great Places!

Today is your day!

Your mountain is waiting.

So…get on your way!” Dr. Seuss

 

I’ve already moved a few mountains, what’s few a more.

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Friday Two Cents: 43 Classes And Counting


 

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This past week has been filled with many eye-opening experiences. It started like any other with me going into another new kindergarten class as a supply early childhood educator (ECE). It was a great experience as I was able to observe another teacher’s teaching style and class routine. I do this in every class I go in as a supply, a student in teacher’s college and in other classes I have been in since I decided to put all my energy into becoming a teacher. Suffocate to say I have observed many classes and I have learned a lot over the years.

But then this week I was given the opportunity to supply in a kindergarten class in the very school I went to as a child. As a mater of fact I worked in the very kindergarten class I was in when I started as a child. It was obviously different then when I was in the class as a student but many things were familiar. The chairs, tables and I remember playing with the blocks in the block centre. Yet the first thing that came to mind when I entered the class was that everything seemed smaller. Even the cubby area where the students place their jackets was the same as I remember it but it seemed smaller. I guess it makes sense since I haven’t been in that class since I was 4 or 5 years old.
Being at that school also helped me with a couple of other things. My time in that school was very difficult because I was bullied from an early age and not until I fought back and stood up to the bullies did anything ever happen. I left and had a much better time in my new school yet I always had bad memories about that school. My stint as a supply in that class, allowed me to exorcise old demons from my past and allow me to move on with happier memories.
The other issue arose when someone asked about how many classes I have been in as a supply ECE. I thought about it and thought it was at least 2-dozen classes but I was not sure. I then made it a point to find out exactly how many different kindergarten classes I have supplied in. When I did the numbers the results shocked me.
I started in 2013 and since then, I have been in 21 different schools and 43 different kindergarten classes. Some of the classes had the same teacher but from year to year they had different students. The student’s personality differences changed the dynamics of those classrooms where I have worked in with that teacher, therefore I see them as different classrooms. In some schools I have been in up to 4 different kindergarten classes in that school. I even have been in several French immersion classes during this time period.
To say that I was surprised at the sheer amount of classes would be putting it mildly. I decided to document this achievement with a tally chart. Below I have created a logo of a blue silhouette male teacher holding the hands of two students. Each of these silhouettes’ represents a different kindergarten class I worked in. I placed a number on the top right side that represents the year I was in that classroom. The classes that were French immersion are represented with a white fleur-de-li because the majority of the classes are English. Directly beneath this post you can see a tally chart of all the classes I have been in.   Saying 43 is pretty substantial but seeing it visually is another.
ECE_Supply_legend
For me this is a testament to my learning and hopes of one day putting all this knowledge I have gathered to good use as a teacher. I do not know what the future will bring but I will be posting this tally chart as a permanent fixture on my blog as a reminder. I will be updating it if I go into new classrooms. But this chart is not meant to show the number of classes I was in, but as a reminder of the difficult road to one day reaching my goal of becoming a permanent teacher. Hopefully I will not have to add more to see that goal fulfilled.    

 

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Friday Two Cents: Building A Community In The First Week Of Kindergarten


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  This week I had the pleasure to work in a kindergarten program from the first day of school. This is not the first time I was in a classroom on the first day of school but it is the first time as a certified teacher. The only catch is that I am the supply Early Childhood Educator (ECE) in the class. Don’t get me wrong I am very grateful for working in a class with a great bunch of students and a great teacher, it’s just I would love to be the permanent teacher of my own class. But I’m not here to whine about that.

The reality of this week is that I am within a kindergarten class that has 32 students ranging from 3 to 4 years of age. Many of the little ones have never been in a school or an organized setting like a daycare or class before. To say that it was difficult would be understating the facts. Yet I will be the first person to say that I enjoyed this week very much. Yes there were a few rough patches trying to get to know the students and helping them to get to know the routines and rules of the classroom, but it was a good week.

Having fun in Kindergarten

I know this because on Friday something happened in the class with the students that just made the teacher and I just smile. The students are so young many parents were hoping to have a nap or rest time during the day because the students were going home very tired. Therefore we decided to have a rest period where the students just laid down on the carpet listening to some music. They did a great job lying down without any silliness or hurting one another. I told them all this and because they did a great job I would play a song they all probably knew. It was the song ‘Let it Go’ from the Disney movie Frozen.

Exactly when they heard the song, smiles and their eyes lite up. Then they all started singing the song and some did some of the hand gestures that the character from the movie did. It was a marvel to witness. The teacher and I both just smiled. That afternoon the students were great with everyone engaged in their learning centres. Even on a personal note, a few students came up to me and said, “I like you Mr. Paul.”

The mood in the class was changing. They appeared to be getting closer, becoming a community. Amazing how a song can help bring people together, even students as young as 3 years old.

Building community in Kindergarten

Friday Two Cents: Are You A Pessimist Or An Optimist


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“A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” Winston Churchill

 

To say that this week was eventful would be understating the truth.

It began with me going with the students of my practicum to the Science Centre in Toronto. There we explored and learned about different structures and how they are constructed. Yet the day after that trip, we at the university received news that specific people, TAs and contract professors are on strike. We all wondered what would happen. Would we be able to go to practicum because we are not at the university but in schools. It turned out that the teacher federation would be supporting the strike and instructed the teachers in the schools not to mentor us teacher candidates (TC). Therefore practicum was canceled until further notice. Additionally so were all our classes.

We were in the lurch and we could not even go to the school and say goodbye to the students. Yet the bigger problems are how would this effect our graduation, assignments for our classes and after our looking for a job? We all have roughly the required number of days to be able to graduate as teachers, it is all about the courses but who knows what is happening. Also, what are we to do in the mean time?

Well many of my fellow TCs and I just began working on the assignments to get them ready for when the strike would be over. But what else can I do? Well I took a dark cloud and used it as an opportunity. I am a supply Early Childhood Educator (ECE) for the school board so I started taking jobs so I can work with students again. I went to two different kindergarten classrooms and I can say that I miss kindergarten. I really enjoy teaching these little people. Yes I do not know them very well but both class where so open and inviting. I was there in one class for only 3 hours and the students gave me a hug before they left with their parents for the day. I had forgotten and missed how warm-hearted kindergarten children can be.

Sunset in space

Then I also got the opportunity to go into another class as a specialist.  A teacher had invited me to come into her kindergarten class as an expert on “Space“.  The students had been exploring the subject and had questions on it.  Some where, “Is there a planet inside the sun?” Others where very thought out like, “How does the sun work?” or “Why does the sun get colder in the winter?”  Well I answered their questions with the use of and App I have on my iPad which had great graphics and 3D models of the planets and the solar system.  I was also invited to return to the class the following week to demonstrate how far the planets are from the sun (another question).  There questions where so amazing and they were very attentive.  Many said thank you and hugged me before I left.  

Winston Churchill

Amazing that I had these great opportunities as a result of the university strike.  Well I guess the quote form Winston Churchill was right; “A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” Which one are you?

 

Friday Two Cents: This Above All: To Thine Own Self Be True


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This week started off pretty bleak. Not just from the weather, though I think that it may have been a contributing factor, but I was beginning to not enjoy my practicum placement. It had nothing to do with my students, mentor teacher (MT) or the school, it everything to do with myself.

I felt that I was not succeeding in my practicum because I had a couple of not so successful lesson plans. I followed the curriculum and the students understood the lesson but I thought that they were bored or uninterested in what I had to say. Yet when I reflected on my performance I looked inside myself and said, “That was not you. You were not acting like yourself, or being yourself.” It was true on soo many levels.

You see I made a conscious effort not to bring my Early Childhood Education (ECE) background or baggage with me into practicum. I wanted to take a fresh approach to teaching and learning, to not come into the classroom thinking I know everything there is to teaching, because in truth I do not. Yet after reflecting on what had happened I said, “This is it. I have to be myself. If I am going to be condemned than let them see the real me.”

Therefore I began with my attire. The school has a dress code that male teachers wear collared shirts. I do that but I was wearing dress pants each day and did not like it. It wasn’t me, so I started wearing my dressier looking designer jeans and right away I felt better. Next I consciously reminded myself to have a positive attitude, so I began smiling. It is a small thing but if you do it, others will follow you and soon everyone is smiling. Lastly and the most significant was reminding myself that I am an ECE and that has value.   I should not dismiss this part of me so easily. Therefore I began looking at the lesson plans as an ECE and the ideas of how to implement them became easier.

Play is so Important in a child’s learning development

My ECE philosophy is that children learn through play and self-exploration. So in my math lesson I brought in manipulatives and turned the lesson into a game. I did something similar in a kindergarten program but I made it more advanced for the older grade 6s. I even brought in an activity for the special needs child based on a kindergarten activity too.   Right away the students got right into it and it was fun to teach them. It was a tremendously positive experience.

I expanded that positive lesson into my Art lesson with them in the afternoon. They had not had art this year and this was to be their first lesson. I started with lines, shapes, 3 dimensional shapes, shading and light. They all know how talented and how much I love art that they were eager to have art with me.   I did the lesson and they were so enthusiastic, especially when I turned the 3D shapes into real world objects. I told them that to get to draw 3D objects and images they need to know this first and they loved it. They were expressing themselves through their art and I loved it. Now I am doing the art lesson for a while and I am very excited.

No matter what the age, kids need play.

In the end I learned two extremely important lessons about teaching and more importantly, myself. Teaching is engaging the students through none traditional means. If you can play a game with blocks while they learn about expressions and equations then do it. Children are children, whether they are kindergarten or grade 6, they are all kids at heart. The second is to be yourself. I am an ECE teacher, that will never change. I just have to remember this and use the tools and skills I developed becoming an ECE. For in the end I have to remember that famous quote from Shakespeare’s Hamlet, “This above all: to thine own self be true.

Friday Two Cents: Why I Do What I Do


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This past week I read through the paper, like I always do and I was surprised to find an article focused on male, Early Childhood Education (ECE) teachers entitled “Men stand out as daycare workers”.  Being a male ECE teacher I was intrigued and wanted to know what the article was about.  What I read did not surprise me but also shocked me.

The shocking issue was the amount of male ECE teachers there are out there. The figures in the article stated, in Ontario the College of Early Childhood Educators records show that there are 41,700 members with only 599 who are male.  That is only 1.4%, WOW!  I never imagined that it was that small.

I have been in the field as an ECE teacher for 20+ years and I have met many male teachers.  I have always known that I was part of a small minority in this field but I did not know how small.

The other significant issue was the mixed message male teachers get from parents and staff for their chosen career.  This bit of information I was not surprised with.

On one hand many think it is fantastic there is a male teacher working with the children.  The benefits are apparent when you see the children gravitate to him on many different levels.  Then there is the other hand that feels apprehension or questions why there is a man with children.  All they think about is sexual misconduct, abuse or about his sexuality.

In my own experience I have seen all of these.  There are many parents and teachers who say it is great to have a male but then they always look at me with suspicion if the child hugs me.  One incident, looking back, was with a parent who was beyond surprised when she found out that I was not a homosexual.  Oh and get this, after she asked me and I told I was not, I asked her, “What made you think I was?”  Her response was, “Well you are so smart, well dressed and you work with kids.”  When I heard this I smiled and side nothing but I was thinking, “OH MY GOD.  Are people really this narrow-minded?”  Unfortunately, yes some are.

I expected this reaction when I first started 20 years ago, however the cold reality is that I have to endure this type of behavior every year.  At the beginning of the school year there are always a few parents or new staff who think like this.  And to be quite honest, I am sick of it.  How long must I endure the swings and arrows of people’s narrow mindedness?  The sad realization is I will always have to endure it.

Perhaps if there were more men in the ECE field it would be different.  However, many debate why there isn’t that many.  Some argue that looking after children is not “man’s work” and only women look after children.

My colleague and I have had many debates about this subject matter and she sites that our society undervalues the care of children because society sees child care as a mother’s natural responsibility.  That she must stay home and look after the children and therefore, why value something that should come natural to a woman.  Why should a man enter a field that is natural for a woman and is undervalued by many in society.

Sadly she might be right. We think we have progressed in our thinking about how we treat others in our society, but then there are incidents that take us back to the 19th century or more recently the 1950s.

I love working with children and there are times when I ask myself why continue to do it?  All you get is people looking at you with suspicion, you constantly have to be aware of your interaction with them and so on.

Then I think about when I teach the children something new and their eyes light up. Or when you know you have made a positive contribution in their life.  I will leave you with a story about why I love teaching.

I teach a co-ed baseball league at the school I am in and there was a girl who wanted to play but not bat because she was afraid of embarrassing herself.  She would cry whenever it was her turn at bat.  But I said to her, if she did not want to bat that was OK.

I did ask the captain and her teammates to help her with batting and during practice I would help her too.  She eventually did bat.  She struck-out a few times but she got on base too and I would always encourage her because she tried and that was all I asked of her.

Her team made it to the finals and during the game she got two big hits and brought in two runs.  She helped her team win the championship game.  After the game I give out the Most Valuable Player Award for a boy and girl.  The MVP is someone who shows teamwork, sportsmanship and has improved over the season.  I gave it to her because I thought that she showed all these traits.  Well when she won, her smile was from ear to ear and I told her that I was proud of her for all her efforts and that she really earned this award.

After the game her mother came up to me and thanked me for the award but she told me what her daughter said.  She said, “Mom, this has been the best day of my life.”  Well when her mother told me this, all the struggles and the hardships of the past year were wiped away.

That’s the reason why I work with children.  If I can touch the life of a child and make their life that much better, then all the trials and tribulations are worth it.

Ailish Sinclair

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