Friday, May 13, 2011

The weekend is upon us

After another week of fun and learning (although you'd have to ask the kids if that's accurate or not), we find ourselves at Friday once again. Some students are fairly ambivalent toward the onset of the weekend, others count down the minutes, and small group are actually disappointed that school is over for another week. I guess that means I'm doing my job, right? I am personally looking forward to getting in a good weekend of spring cleaning and socializing as we move into what promises to be a fairly hectic last month of school this year.

I was reflecting with some other teachers earlier in the week (as we are prone to do), and the discussion turned to what effect having such a small class (14 in my case) has on the students' attitudes and dynamic with one another. It made me think, and I have really been paying attention to this over the last few days. My first conclusion was that there are probably positive effects in terms of the physical space we occupy. By not being able to run away or isolate themselves or others, students are compelled to work things out more often, and accommodate others in class. There is also a tendency to break down pre-existing cliques, and expose students' strengths and weaknesses as friends and "co-workers".

I think that the end result can be a more cohesive, focused group than in some larger classes. The added bonus of my being able to pay more attention to specific situations and students probably helps here as well. It allows me to direct conversation and activities in a way that help students gain a deeper understanding of each other an themselves, and become more comfortable with their abilities to share, interact and learn together.

I attended an interesting seminar at the ACPI (Association Canadien des Professeurs d'Immersion) conference I attended last October. The speaker's main idea was that students in contemporary North American classrooms stand to benefit most in the long term if they learn to work collaboratively in a way that benefits themselves and others equally. The jobs of the future, as he put it, will be filled by people with a wide array of skills, good leadership abilities and the ability to solicit and assimilate information from other people and sources. I think that this end is served well by the small class size we have enjoyed this year, because students' physical, mental and emotional comfort zones are pushed frequently and they are forced to adapt if they would like to succeed.

Continuing on that last point, my favourite thing (so far) about this late stage of the year is the personal and collective growth of the students in my class. Through the rich experiences they have at home, in the community and at school, they are quickly turning into very conscious, aware individuals. The speed with which they are now able to make decisions and find things out for themselves is staggering to me, and makes me very optimistic about all of their prospects in upcoming years. I was apprehensive at the beginning of the year, as I'm sure many new employees are. My pervasive concern was "What if these kids get to the end of the year and aren't ready for Grade 5?". I realize now that they would have been ready with or without my aid, but that their degree of readiness has been increased by their hard work and the efforts of their home and community networks.

Have a great weekend, and don't hesitate to contact me if you have any questions. Things will stay very busy up to the end of the year, so let's not slow down now!

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