Many of you know that I am a teacher. Also do many know that I teach in a very international setting. For the moment do run over 70 nationalities around in my educational hotspot. Oh yes, I drive every weekday into a habitat that is very colorful in many ways. It is surely what I have dreamed of for many years. The day that I found that one mail in my mailbox that I got hired was one of my best days ever. My life has surely changed since that day. Not a single regret on that frontier.
It have been already very challenging years since I joined the staff. A school is not a static place. Educators will for sure know that a learning environment is very fragile when it comes down to changes. Not a single year or even a day is the same. IT and administration and many stakeholders have made education so much more intense and I have to admit even tiresome. The moment you think you got your head around everything there will pop up a new educational innovation that you are politely asked to integrate into your daily job.
Now the core business of a teacher should not be writing perfect planning papers, filling out tons of assessments or other official documents. Do not get me wrong these are all very important but they do take a lot of time to get them in order. Before you get to the effective teaching most teachers have already spend some time outside the classroom preparing, justifying, assessing, grading, analyzing, creating, programming, anticipating, downloading, etc. These are all verbs and need action and take up already some of your energy. As I have said out here before the automatic pilot is non existing in a classroom.
So yes, the best part of my job is the teaching bit. It is that part where all the other things I had to do sometimes seem to fall in to place. A bad day on paper can suddenly turn out to be best lesson of the week. That this is due to my target group, the students is not a surprise. They are my jury and it is thanks to them that I need to stay focused and open minded.
The new academic year is now 3 weeks old/fresh and have to say that it already has been quite nice out there in the classroom. Surely, coworkers still have to deal with my notorious morning mood. This year also a new chapter started for me as a teacher due to some changes in my job description. My target group of students is slightly a bit different. The subject is still the same and that is the super cool language Dutch. Undoubtedly have most of you never ever spoken a word of Dutch in their life and most of you never ever will feel the necessity of doing so.
It is not a very ‘sexy’ language and most of the students I teach will admit that they will move in the years to come and never ever will use the language actively in the far future. Plus that also not all students are blessed with a talent for picking up easily foreign languages. Some of my students even come into school not knowing one word of English. These students go into a kind of crash course of English with some of the best teachers we have at our school. It is amazing to hear the progress they make in one year.
The big difference between those oscar worthy teachers and me is gigantic. The fact is that I teach a one hour subject in a primary school and that is the same number of hours as music. Once a week I walk into classrooms with only 1 mission and that is to teach the world Dutch. Nope this is not a piece of cake. Even in secondary I noticed that if students had to make up their minds my mother tongue did not stood a chance to poetic French, businesslike German and the so sexy Spanish.
An other handicap I face is that some of students are very outspoken that they do not feel the need to learn an other language. English does make the world go round in the life of many of my students. When I try to explain to them why it can be useful to learn any language they sometimes stare at me like I come from Mars. When I try to defend my case students come up with many reasons why Dutch is waste of time. Like once a student said:’I already know 7 languages! I think that is already enough, don’t you think?’ I stood there and was speechless. The next few lessons this student went on a strike. It felt like I had to win this kid over why it was useful to dive for the eight time into an unknown language and facing a move in the unknown near or far future. In the end it worked out for the two of us but it did cost time and patience.
I can assure you that the battles I fight inside of a classroom are not that always easy. Yes, I even admit that I loose sometimes some of them. Not that I am happy about it but it is reality. So this means that I also feel a bit like the ambassador of the Dutch language in my school. A job I take serious and I still not give up on.
The thing is that this year I am given the opportunity to focus on the mother tongue students and the ones that have a talent for languages. Something that makes my job a bit less complicated. I still have to motivate many of them because as the language teachers amongst us must know is that the school language is the dominant language in their life. Many of my students even speak at home an other language than English.
Trying to maintain all those languages is hard work and let us be honest a primary child needs space and time to be a child. Plus that not all students learn in the same manner what even makes it a bit more challenging. Over the last ten years I have surely discovered that learning is very fascinating and that there is not one straight forward manual to guide your class through the process.
Plus that it is very important that you as a teacher keep an open mind about all learners in your room. I have to say that when you suddenly find the right route for one your learner after a serious detour that this is an ace feeling. About a week ago I had the privilege to witness such a moment. Seeing a student suddenly coping with the learning, taking initiative and applying correctly what you have been pushing into their system is so intense. It is like they cross the finish line in a personal best time. It gives me shivers down my spine. Suddenly I am for two seconds in a bubble where I only have eye for that one student. High in the sky and in teacher heaven!
Students are blank canvases when they walk into your classroom but we tend to pick out the colors rather quickly they are allowed to use to create their personal learning journey. Okay, the box filled up with colours does not contain an endless combinations of colours. Many of teachers have to make do with what they have been given. Creative thinking can help us in many situations but when you run out of resources or your patience.
So when I am questioned what the outcome of my learning I do sometimes panic because to be honest students all have their own way of learning. I can assure that I did witness my Y3 students using their Dutch correctly in an active way outside the school and that is the ultimate sensation. The thing is that it is so unpredictable and in some case you do wonder if it even makes sense to some of them.
The odds are sometimes against me, but the days that I am winning and foremost my students are gaining confidence, independency, self confidence, are resilient, dare to take risks and are willingly to go on the learning journey with me I am a very content teacher. The ones that leave my classroom with a smile also make my day brighter. Yes, after all these years I am still falling for you….