By Katharine Cukier | Published Jan 9, 2015 by The Montreal Gazette
I have 150 wonderful students in an enriched-program high-school, but I have reading and writing levels that range from Grade 5 to CEGEP level in each of my classes of 28-30. The trick, or the art, if you will, is how to stimulate the top third, while keeping the middle engaged. The more challenged third always need one-on-one time for revising and editing, review and encouragement. And then there are the 30 individuals, mini human universes, in each class to consider, as well. In my classroom, I am a non-stop stand-up comedian, sergeant-major disciplinarian, brownie baking and naggy mom-ster. I’m also an 21st-century anachronism, so I also get really, really excited about poetry and Shakespeare and do my best to think of fresh, inspired pedagogical cartwheels to light the spark.
Teaching kids in the 21st century demands patience, humour, creativity and stamina. And humility. It also demands that governments support the role of teachers in our society and that means genuine attention to our working conditions. The contract issues of workload, salary, class size, pensions are all issues of respect for teachers, but are implicitly tied to respect for our children and their future. We need to reinvigorate the truism: education matters to the well-being of individuals and societies and therefore, teachers, the essential human capital in education, require long-term investment.