Monday, December 5, 2011

Show and Tell

I am just coming to the end of my first semester teaching at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design University, known affectionately as NSCAD (pronounced nas-cad).  It has been a happy return for me, a return to teaching, that is, as I had been away from it for three years since leaving The Koç School in Istanbul in 2008.

I haven’t always taught; in fact, for the eleven years I worked as Principal at Alice Street School (four of them) and Uniacke District School (the other seven), I was a non-teaching administrator.  That meant I was free to go into classrooms on occasion, play around a little at teaching, get the students all worked up through making poems, and then leave the regular teacher to pick up the pieces and try to restore some sense of routine.  It was fun, and I did teach those kids something, but I was Mr. Field, the Principal, and I never could have that relationship you can develop by being the teacher who has worked with them over the long term.

When I retired from Uniacke in 2003 one of the parents presented me with a little memento she had made, one I have treasured ever since.  I liked that she included an apple, not just the usual apple for the teacher, but also the apple I would always take to generate sensory imagery words for making poems during my first poetry session with an Elementary class.  The tiny pencil in the blue pot was also significant for me because I am known to always carry a pencil in my breast pocket.  The bell is a nice touch for a teacher or principal, and our local of the Teachers Union gave me a real one with my name on it as well.  And I really like the little stack of books, which includes three titles: Canada, Poetry, and English.  The first was because she knew I was going to be teaching in Türkiye, and the other two were for reasons obvious to anyone who knows me.

The Mr. Field sign was on my desk for the five years of High School English I taught at Koç in Istanbul, and I have a multitude of memories of the great students and fellow teachers I worked with there.  I also have various mementoes, tangible and intangible, of that teaching time there, but the small bespectacled high-kicking little martial arts guy is a more recent arrival on my desk.   

He was a gift from a young Chinese student I have been working with for almost two years now.  It is one-to-one tutoring rather than classroom teaching, but it has some of the same kind of rewards I have always cherished in pedagogy.  This little guy was a gift she brought for me from her visit to China last summer just before enrolling in her freshman year at university.  I don’t know exactly why she chose him, but I’ll pretend at least that she wants to inspire me to be a kick-ass teacher (or maybe even thinks I am one).

On Wednesday I will meet my Design English students, many of them also Chinese, for our last NSCAD class together.  The fourteen weeks of the semester have gone by quickly and it has been consistently a treat to be their instructor.  For our last class we are going to do Show and Tell.  Since none of them attended Elementary here in Canada, I had to explain what it was.  I want it to give a chance for each of us to reintroduce ourselves, after fourteen weeks of learning together, by showing some object or image that tells something about who we are.  We’ll talk about it and ask each other questions and celebrate whatever it is we celebrate (or mourn) in our last class of teaching and learning together.

As for me, I’m happy to be back in the classroom teaching again, so I’ll be taking my two little artefacts to class for Show and Tell.