The extra free time from those days where I am not scheduled to teach has given me an opportunity to learn new skills and knowledge that I otherwise would not have. Over the course of this past school year, I have: taken several auto courses at Centennial College, changed my car's oil for the first time (and every time since), performed basic fixes/upgrades on my car (e.g. changing the brake pads, lights, cabin air filter, window run channel, FM modulator installation, etc.), researched and invested in TD e-series funds and ETFs (using both a TFSA and RRSP), become familiar with Kijiji in order to sell many dusty unused items (one man's trash is another man's treasure), discovered the basics of how a computer works (main parts, binary code) whilst upgrading my 2007 13" white MacBook that is nearly obsolete, backing up my computer using an external hard drive/Time Machine on my MacBook, and installing a virtualization on my computer that allows me to run Windows (unfortunately Vista since that was all I had available to me!). I am now in the process of learning about how to create a website using Dreamweaver. These are all things that I feel I would not have learned had I not had the extra free time created by occasional teaching. All of this has been done whilst continuing to tutor students after school, coach and apply to various full-time teaching positions (no luck yet!) which are all likely to be a 'given' part of my life for the foreseeable future.
I am particularly proud of the auto courses that I have taken over the past 6 months. They have helped me at least understand what an auto mechanic is talking about when I bring my yellow '02 Honda Civic SiR into the shop (also been described as 'baby poop' colour, but you can decide for yourself by looking at the picture above). Many car owners just nod their head in agreement with their mechanics regardless of what they're doing to their car and how much it is going to cost. I had an estimate of $100 to replace my Cabin Air Filter (or dust and pollen filter) at a Honda dealership a couple of months, which really opened my eyes up to why dealerships are often known as 'stealerships'. I did it myself for $20 and 5 minutes of my time. These courses are also very relevant to teaching science as their are elements of both physics (engineering) and chemistry (materials used, reactions). I am expanding my science qualifications by taking a ABQ Senior Biology course through Queen's University, which just started this past week. Science is a growing passion of mine and an area of teaching that I feel is more marketable then physical education and history at the present time.
3 tips for future and current occasional teachers:
- Prepare a 'bag of tricks' in case the lesson that was provided to you by the regular teacher finishes with time to spare. Keeping students occupied is one of the most important responsibilities as an occasional teacher. I use riddles and games that I can modify to fit the subject matter. For example, I use math riddles for math class and vocabulary games for English. The picture I have inserted to the right includes various riddles, games (e.g. catch phrase) and activities (e.g. mysteries) that I store in a very portable index card holder. You can see some 'wordles' (word riddles such as 'irighti' = right between the eyes) that I use with my students to get them thinking at the start of a day or whenever there is free time in the picture below.
- Make an effort to learn the names of students and staff members. It makes a big difference! Students respond better to feedback and discipline when they are aware of the fact that the teacher knows your name. I compare it to posting a message online as an 'Anonymous' user. In this setting, people can make whatever inappropriate comments they want because they know that they are anonymous and that there is no repercussions for what they say.
- Get to the school early! Once you find out what topics you will be teaching that day, use your phone's data plan (if you have one) or school computer to quickly research some interesting facts/activities that are relevant to that topic. For example, a science lesson that I was teaching was based on density and I was able to make use of some extra clementines I had not eaten from my lunch. I used the clementine to show how a clementine with the rind intact will float, while a clementine that has had its rind peeled away will not. This provided a good break from worksheet that they were filling out and was able to spark interest and discussion on the topic. Student's get restless after an 80 minute work period and I find that it is helpful to switch up the activities to keep them engaged.