The Faculty of Education courses are compressed from 13 weeks to 9 in order to accommodate a four-week practicum block. The mini-drama with the Dean of Education had played itself out during exam week, which falls between the end of classes and the beginning of prcacitum. On Monday I was scheduled to begin teaching Grade Nine science at Gordon Bell. The unit was Static Electricity.
I had orignially been offered the chance to teach a very good class of Grade 11 AP physics students, but my co-operating teachers had the idea I might be interested in a real challenge instead. It’s hard for me to turn down a challenge, so I accepted. My new class consisted, I was told, mostly of students who were “supposed” to be in Grade 10. One of them was accompanied to each class by a parole officer. Another had recently been suspended for beating another student quite badly. You get the idea.
I previously mentioned that although the practicum block begins at the end of the term, we are already placed in out schools one day per week from the very start, so we get to know the students and teachers. Two weeks before the beginning of my block, the Grade Nine science teacher told me he was finished the Biology unit. He had originally planned to teach two weeks of Chemistry before handing off to me for Static Electricity, but now felt that he didn’t want to interrupt the Chemistry unit. “They won’t remember anything in January if we switch half-way.” So he wanted to start Static Electricity immediately.
I had already prepared for the entire unit, so I asked him if I couldn’t start then and there. He agreed, so with ten minutes advance notice, I ran around the lab grabbing all the props I could think of: magnets, balloons, iron filings, plastic rods, woolen rags: you know, basic science stuff. I was about to become a teacher for real.
This isn’t the time and place to go into the details of everything that happened, except to say it was unbelievable fun. By the time my official practicum block was set to begin, I had already taught seven full classes. Monday morning, the 21st of November, was going to be a very special day for me: my co-operating teachers had offered me the chance to teach not just one class, as was the norm, but two classes. My second class was a very bright class of Grade 10 Chemistry students, and I was looking forward to our first session.
When I came to the office to sign in, I was greeted by the vice-prinicipal. He told me he wanted to have a word with me before classes, and would I wait in the office? I sat down.
The clock ticked on while I waited, first five minutes, then ten. Half an hour later, the vice principal finally returned, accompanied by the principal. “We’ve been hearing some things about you that we want to talk about…”