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Courtney Langton

Courtney is an aspiring high school teacher. Her teachables are History and English, but she's happy to teach anything that doesn't involve numbers or formulas. Her particular interest is in promoting gender equity and anti-oppression both in and outside the classroom. She writes a detailed To-Do list every morning, and enjoys nothing more than a good book and a plate of bacon on a rainy Saturday.

Jonathan Wong

Jonathan's primary interest is moral education. His teachable subjects are English and Music. He encourages critical thinking and hopes to teach his students to recognize, and strive for, what is truly important to them without forgetting to be compassionate, tolerant, and open-minded along the way. He likes making analogies and his favourite is one that compares life to jumping on a trampoline.

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ARCHIVES: June 2009 July 2009 August 2009 September 2009 October 2009 November 2009 December 2009 January 2010 March 2010

Extra time for extra curriculars and more...
Friday, June 26, 2009

Courtney recently directed my attention to this: "Girls in Urban Areas Face Unique Challenges in Playing Sports"

However, being the difficult people that we are, we're not actually going to use this week to talk about how girls in urban areas face unique challenges in playing sports (we might address this later... stick around to find out!). So why the link? Because Courtney had this to say about the article:

"What I was most intrigued by in this article was the teacher/dean of students, who sacrifices so much so that his students can be involved in sports. I think we can talk about this as being one of the marks of a really great teacher, but also discuss the limits that a teacher might impose on themselves in order to preserve a balance in their own life."

There are two ideas I want to take from this (I might not get to my second idea in this post). The first is the idea of limits. I was talking to my host teacher last year during the first week of school and one of the first things she told me, on the first day of prac, was "always take your lunch break". See, especially as young, upcoming, teachers, there can be a tendency to go into a kind of overkill mode when we start teaching. We want to plan the perfect lesson each day; we want to make very sure we don't fall behind; so we spend every waking moment marking and lesson planning. And while admittedly, I might have been guilty of this during my prac, I also recognized that I wasn't going to be called upon to sustain this otherworldly effort for 10 months. And even then, I took my lunch breaks. Because as Ms. V told me, this is the number one cause of the number one pitfall for beginning teachers: burning out.

It's like sprinting at the start of a marathon. You cannot do this; you'll find yourself limping at the finish line. And it all gets even more complicated when you factor in extracurricular activities. It's always good to get involved in extracurriculars. The students appreciate it, you feel good about it, and it shows that you're taking an active role as a faculty member. At the same time, that's one more thing you have to factor into your schedule. And you can't forget that your number 1 job is still in that classroom (assuming you don't have kids; if you do, your number 1 job is being a parent and being a classroom teacher becomes your number 2 job).

Dr. Morrison once told me that the most important skill in life is learning how to balance. And in order to do this, you first have to know your own limits. Part of this limit is how much rest you need. It doesn't matter how well prepared you are to teach your class or how many great ideas you have; everything boils down to execution and you simply cannot execute well when you're tired. This is a fact. And surprisingly, I'm fairly certain that most people know this; they just can't seem to find a way to do it. See? Balance. When most people find that they don't have enough hours in a day to do what they want, sleep seems to be "the odd man out" so to speak, even though we know it shouldn't be.

Another part of balance is understanding that there are many ways to be a great teacher. And you don't have to hit them all. Dr. Morrison was a great teacher because he inspired me to think critically and believe in the good (to condense what could easily be an entire post, all on its own, on why he's amazing). Mr. T was a great teacher because he was a great coach who took extra time to manage all the sports teams I played on. Mr. Currie was a great teacher because he took the extra time to mark our assignments quickly (but with care) so we didn't have to wait 3 months to get our marks. Mr. Fisher was a great teacher because he was willing to go off on a tangent during his lecture if we were all particularly interested in something that might not have been directly related to the lesson.

I could go on and on about some other great teachers I've had. But goodness knows, Dr. Morrison has never coached me in a sport; Mr. T has never gone off on an interesting tangent; Mr. Currie never inspired me to change the world; and I got most of my assignments back at the end of the YEAR when Mr. Fisher taught me. Does that make any one of them any less great? Of course not. The fact that there are so many different ways to be an amazing teacher means you can PICK an area you want to be particularly amazing in. Sure, Mr. Currie never did that many extracurriculars... but that's because he was using all that time to mark our assignments so we'd get them back soon (sometimes, literally the next day!).

This is why knowing your limits is so important. It's better to be known as an amazing teacher for one thing you do that's particularly good than attempt to be known as an amazing teacher by covering all the grounds. It's not possible. You'll burn out or get sick. Trust me on this one. You need to take care of yourself before you can take care of others. So pick one thing at a time. Don't worry about running out of years to implement your ideas (seriously... this is your career after all). Set your limit at, say, 1 amazing thing a year (or even two years). And if you find that you can handle more, then add more as you go. I'm sure Courtney will have more ideas on balancing oneself (and she'll probably present to you in a cool list).

I might say more later. I am being hailed.

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