Making the Grade

Written by: Lianne Castelino

Published: Sep 20, 2012

by Lianne Castelino

We are fully embroiled in curriculum night-week.  Three kids, two different schools, 11 teachers,  three grades. Public system. Private system.  One down. One to go.

Curriculum night-week began on Monday evening with a visit to the school where our two youngest go.  It offerred the traditional fare — parent assembly in the gym, school goals, achievements, new teacher introductions, fundraising endeavours, a short video and then we were off to meet the teachers — warned beforehand not to ask for a student assessment during these parent-teacher meetings.

While it is so easy and almost sport to rip teachers shortcomings these days, it remains such a vocation — not a job — because to teach and teach well means you are dedicated, committed and motivated to see your students succeed — no matter the situation.  You are driven by this sole goal. Passionate about sharing your knowledge til you see the lightbulb go on in that younger mind. 

It was during our visit to my son's Grade 8 class that my faith in the education system was restored, in almost surprising fashion.

In front of us stood a teacher with 10+ years of experience under her belt — all in the older grades (7 and 8).  She was friendly, warm, confident, and keenly aware of her role in preparing her 12 and 13-year-old students for the realities of high school and really the big wide world beyond.

She said a host of things that made a world of sense to my husband and I.  In fact, I wish I would have been able to record them and play them as part of an oath that every teacher should take upon collecting their teaching degree. 

She mentioned for example that she does not check homework.  “Students are responsible for completing their own homework,” she said.  “If they do poorly on a test, then they will learn.” Hmmm…accountability.
I like it.  What a concept.  In an age where parents of university students have been frequently documented to contest and debate the marks their children receive with their professors — this was both refreshing and welcome.  

She called herself fair but tough.  She is committed to her role and her end of the deal — her students will be expected —not forced, threatened, coaxed — but expected to do their part. Responsiblity. Another light bulb moment.  A somewhat vague and hotly-debated concept among many parents these days — but certainly critical.

Questionable behaviour is handled by the student filling out a form.  The questions make them think about the reason and consequences for their actions.  The goal is not purely punitive but promotes an awareness and recognition of what is acceptable and what is not — with the student doing all the thinking.  Understanding the different between right from wrong. Doing the right thing.  Works for me.

“I've got all kinds of great tricks to teach them that have served my previous students and myself very well,” she bellowed.  I cannot wait to see what they are.  Hopefully my son will employ them and put himself in a position to succeed.

She takes her job seriously and it showed.  She's thought about how to feed not only the mind but the whole individual. She is not supporting her students' academic growth only, but their spiritual and emotional evolution. That's a tall order and smacks of real dedication to me.

She clearly isn't killing time, collecting a pay cheque or trying to cover the curriculum and split when the bell rings. 

I am excited for my son and told him how lucky he was.  He agreed somewhat.  I hope he will agree fully by the end of Grade 8.  

Just like parenting.  Don't do for children what they can do for themselves.

Somehow I think he will understand one day.

Now I wonder what curriculum night on Thursday will bring?




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