Smelling the Roses!
I have been teaching my current homegroup for one year and three weeks. I joined them in semester two last year as their English teacher and this year I requested them as my Homegroup, which also makes me their English and Humanities teacher! They had a rough trot last year: they lost their first, beloved, homegroup teacher at the end of their first term of high school. This was followed by a series of teacher changes across a number of subjects, resulting in a very unsettled start to their high school career. By the time I came to meet them they were fast developing the tags ‘worst’ and ‘most difficult’.
This year school life has been more stable for them. Firstly, we have nine sessions together across the week. Secondly, the year 8 homegroup teacher team has been stable and work very well to support each other which gives all the students in the year level a sense of security.
It’s been a year of hard slog establishing class expectations, negotiating boundaries, creating a culture for learning in our classroom and building a relationship of trust and respect between us. For the first time in my teaching career I even implemented a seating plan in an effort to establish a better working environment. Afternoons have been a particularly difficult time of the day especially when facing the double sessions secondary timetables seem to throw up on a regular basis. My solution has been to ignore the categories on the timetable … my homegroup and I have nine sessions together and we mix up the activities we do … I just have to keep my eyes on the balls we are juggling to make sure we complete the curriculum requirements for English and Humanities while running projects for SparkL and Live4life.
Last week, on Thursday afternoon towards the end of period 5 I happened to be sitting at the ‘teacher’ desk. I had a student working opposite me … not because of bad behaviour, she had asked if she could sit there so she wouldn’t be distracted (this was my first smile for the lesson). I leant back in my chair, folded my arms and surveyed the room. For the first time in one year and two weeks every student in the room was actively engaged in a learning task. Some were building castles or making shields as part of our medieval studies, some were writing poems and other tasks related to our study of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, some were researching mental health for Live4life. There were no put-downs, name calling, refusals, arguments or missiles being thrown. There was a buzz of discussion, smiles and happy faces, questions being asked and problems being nutted out.
“You look bored, Miss,” my desk-buddy said.
“No,” I replied, taking a deep breath and smiling. “I am just enjoying my class.”