Sunday, September 10, 2017

Change Happens

Tomorrow is the first day of the new fall term at the agency where I teach two LINC classes. It feels to me as if this term will be different in many ways. I'm going to see many new faces. I'm entering my second term of trying to comply with the PBLA mandate while balancing work with good self care. And I'm hoping to open myself up to new ways of teaching.

New Staffing
We underwent quite a bit of turnover during the summer, something that would have been unheard of when I joined the organization in the spring of 2010. Back then I was told that you had to wait for someone to die or hit 65 in order to squeeze your foot in the door. A person just did NOT give up a LINC teaching position once she or he had secured one.

That doesn't seem to be the case anymore. Seems like just the other day I was the new kid on the block, and now I'm going to be one of the oldies. I look forward to meeting all my new colleagues tomorrow and seeing the fresh energy and ideas they bring with them.

Developing My Teaching
How do I want to change how I do my job as I embark upon a new school term? I've had the entire summer break to read pedagogical books and articles, such as Ellen Langer's Mindful Learning, Dellar and Walkley's Teaching Lexically, and countless articles brought to my attention by my PLN via Twitter, such as the great blog posts over at The Cult of Pedagogy. And I've had time to look over the end-of-term feedback forms my students filled out in June.

How do I plan to evolve? In what ways do I hope to show growth? What do I want to do better than before?

There are three main areas in which I want to shake things up a bit: the curriculum of the seniors' class; the way PBLA is used with CLB 1L; how I use my time 'off the clock'.

Before the end of last term, the seniors conveyed to me that they would like more projects and would appreciate taking more trips off site. They benefited from a field trip we took to acquaint them with the free open-air ping pong table in Kiwanis Park as well as the trip we took to the Windsor Sculpture Park. These clients are long retired and do not need a syllabus that revolves around getting them into the workforce. Those days are long gone for them. Many of them, however, want to volunteer in the community. They want to better understand Canadian culture. They wish to engage socially with the people around them. I hope that by reading, talking to other teachers, and staying involved with my PLN on Twitter, I will think of ways to give the seniors more of what they value.

As for my literacy class, I will attempt to nail down exactly what is expected of me in terms of implementing PBLA at that level. On the one hand, we now have the ESL for ALL Support Kit. This should make it easier for me to help literacy learners set achievable language goals and measure progress. On the other hand, I still feel as if we are conflating formative and summative assessment with these rubrics and checklists. To me these marked artifacts feel like a summative assessment that is assembled over time. I would like to test out a system of instant feedback, such as the one my former coworker Maria employed with her foundations learners using a green/yellow/red light system that let the learners inform the instructor on the spot whether they were ready to move on.

Work Life Balance
Finally, I want to reexamine how much time I'm spending on lesson prep and whether I am spending that time wisely. My tendency toward perfectionism means that I too easily let lesson prep eat up almost all my free time. This year I must make myself a solemn promise not to let that happen. If ever there was a time for me to double down in my commitment to Back to the Well, it's now. I have to remember to trust the (audio or written) text. It's imperative that I demonstrate the courage of my conviction by guiding students back into the same language sample again and again in many ways, exploiting it for the myriad affordances it offers us. As for the students, they deserve a chance to deeply explore the language at a mindful pace.

As for me, I deserve bike riding time, time to take in cultural events with my partner, time for a good night's rest, time to cook and digest a healthy meal without rushing. Why should summer be the only season during which I find time for a printmaking class or a short road trip?

And so I return to the job I love with new resolutions, eager to see what my learners and I manage to co-create.

How about you?

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