Sunday, 12 February 2012

Dreams of teaching shattered

When I was little I wanted to be a teacher when I grew up.

At around 11 or 12 years of age we moved into a small apartment building of 9 quiet apartments, some with kids, most without. The street was full of houses, with only a few apartment buildings. Most of the houses had young families with kids in them.

My brother would skate board and scooter up and down the cul-de-sac with the other boys of varying ages while I set up school with my blackboard, a few picnic chairs and wonky tables in the garage.

A few of the younger little girls were my students, and together we’d practice writing, basic math and reading.

I was pretty good at it too. I remember one of the mums telling mine that her daughter’s math had improved since coming to my school for an hour or so playtime. Another one of the girl’s dads told me that his daughters reading had improved and that even her teacher at real school had noticed.

I was on my way to being a teacher.

I changed my mind in Year 9 of high school (around 15-16 years of age) and decided that I definitely wanted to go into advertising/marketing though which discipline I wasn’t sure.

Who would have guessed that ‘teaching’ would have been part of my job. Once I got into my niche of advertising sales, and worked my way to senior rep then manager, teaching, guiding, showing, helping the junior reps was something I not only enjoyed but was good at. So many of my junior colleagues flourished quickly around me.

In fact, I am still in contact with a few via Facebook and I am so proud of their achievements, knowing I had something to do with their early days. For Sammi I’m sure I was the biatch from hell but I saw such promise in her; I am so proud of Beki, self employed still in the ‘game’, MrB in sunny Queensland, finally settled down and being all ‘grown up’. Alison has gone onto an incredible career tho not in advertising, and assured me when we hooked up on FB the days spent on the newspapers together were the most incredible learning arena she’d ever been in.

I was very fortunate to have great mentors around me, guiding me, showing me – MrT now with the International Herald Tribune, MsMac not only a fabulous PA but an incredible friend, MsB and MsB who still inspire me; before News there were incredible ladies in Magazine Promotions who not only told me but showed me that women can achieve anything they put their minds to, but they can also fall from great heights if they let the negatives of divorce and alcohol take over. I often remember the infamous words of MsMacFarland ‘I’ll keep doing this while it’s fun. Once it stops being fun, I’m outta here’

Clients too played a role in forming the career me and I’m so lucky that one or two are still friends, 25 years later.

Being a ‘teacher’ to all the sales and production teams at News with the introduction of Newscolor was a once in a lifetime opportunity I will always cherish as one of ‘those’ memories. Thanks to MrsB and others in the HR department and Mr Calvi (production) for mentoring me. I love/d learning – asking questions (no such thing as a dumb question only a dumb answer) and guess I still do.

MissM coped well with homework from YIS, tho sadly is struggling a bit now. She doesn’t think so. I feel I am failing miserably at being the ‘teacher’, ‘motivator’, ‘guide’ for the one person it’s the most important to be the best for.

With the move from YIS to Prince’s Mead, we knew MissM (and we) would be ‘behind’ in a few key areas simply because of the different curriculum’s and teaching/learning styles.

Math – oh boy did we know math would be a headache, tho MissM’s not as ‘behind’ as we thought. She takes after her daddy with a brain that enjoys math. To help her, I bought a few math workbooks and she enjoys working thru them with DH.

Handwriting needs a LOT of work. YIS focused on ‘shaping the letters first’ on blank pieces of paper (so the kids writing was all over the place) as opposed to within writing lines like we all grew up with. I used to draw very light writing guide lines for MissM to follow, and explained tall letters, short letters and long letters …… only to be asked to stop by her teacher, that she will work it out herself in due course, but the most important thing was (a) she was writing and (b) learning to form the shape of the letters first, and form would come later.

So as not to confuse her, against my better judgment stopped creating writing guidelines for her.

Now, sadly she is behind in writing and is feeling it in class. She tells us her friends are very kind and helpful in showing her how to write but she feels sad cos she’s ‘worser than everyone else’

She asked if there were writing books like the math’s books so she could practice over mid term and surprise her teacher at her improvement. YES I said, and I’d be very happy to buy them and help. I encouraged her to surprise her teacher is a fabulous goal and that with a few minutes each day there’s sure to be improvement.

If MissM doesn’t get it right the first time, she easily gives up. How do you teach a child to be persistent? That sometimes we’re great at stuff first time round, and other times we have to practice. We both thought MissM understood this …….. when it comes to handwriting she clearly hasn’t.

OMG – it’s not fun at all.

We argue like no one’s business.

She’s slap dash; is too fast; slouches all over the place; gets frustrated so easily.

I try to calmly, but fail miserably to motivate her, s-h-o-w her HOW to write each letter using the guidelines, even do the old dotted letters to trace; she self corrects the finished words and knows when she’s not written a letter well which is great, but time and time again it’s ‘not right’ (hate the word wrong)

It’s hard enough at the minute not knowing HOW to help her with spelling – school uses phonetics and DH and I are struggling with it. We’re waiting on her teacher to confirm a meeting to teach us so we can help her.

I have the most wonderful memories of Mum helping me with my homework, showing me how to get started on a project, planning out the work so I met the due date, helping me with research. I’m sure there were times she could have killed me hehehehe, but on the whole I think they were good times, I always did well with assignments. Little did I know that so much of that would impact my career – creating special reports, and selling ads into a daily newspaper was like one big giant school project.

MissM has an assignment for midterm; to choose a story she’s familiar with and stands up in front of the class and retells the story without hesitation or notes.

It’s a big ask of 7 year olds ………. We’ve been suggesting to MissM since Friday night to choose a book as she only has 7 nights to practice. It’s Sunday night and still no book has been chosen. We’ve explained the assignment to her, we’ve asked her which book she’d like to choose, made suggestions …. Still no book. DH asked her quietly if she had a problem with the assignment and she said she didn’t want to have to speak in front of everyone cos they’d all be staring at her. Explaining everyone will be in the same situation, and that it’s only her class,  and that if she doesn’t have a choice so let’s choose a book you love so it’s easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy made her smile a wee bit. Still waiting for them to come downstairs with the chosen book ……………

All I can see are the days passing by, spending the days with friends, and her being too tired at night to practice ….. so my stress level is higher than normal and she’s coasting not caring …… then again why should she? She’s 7 and this is her first assignment. I want it to be fun and pleasurable, memorable for all the right reasons, not stressful and guilt-filled.

Somewhere I’ve lost the art of ‘teaching’ - maybe i wouldn't have made a great teacher after all. 

Mind you MrsS who IS a teacher reckons it’s way more frustrating helping your own kids with homework than teaching a class all day every day. I really appreciated those words. 
They didn't negate me from my responsibility but rather helped me feel not so alone. 

MrsH will laugh when she reads this blog. She loved helping her kids with their homework, and even tho one is has graduated Uni, one is at Uni and the 3rd is about to do her leaving cert in Sydney I bet MrsH still gets involved. What’s your secret?

Is it YOU or THEM who allow this incredible time to flourish?

This isn’t an expat thing, this is a mum-thing struggling to find a connection with her one and only child at a crucial time in the child’s school life.

I really want to help her; to be part of her education but I feel lost at how to make it fun and a positive experience.

I really want to help MissM with her writing and other school work but for now she isn’t letting me – she’s only 7, too young to know the consequences. However she does know when she’s crossed the line, when she’s pushed me so far that it’s no longer fun for either of us.

As the adult, it’s my job to push on, to reinvent the fun between us at homework time …….

If you’ve pearls of wisdom, suggestions or encouragement, I’d love to hear them, as would others (maybe)

Otherwise, wish me luck friends, I think I’m going to need it. We’ve about 10 more years of this to suffer, I mean share.

With friendship

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