Thursday, February 03, 2011

::Making Teaching a Pretty Thing::

I was a very reluctant teacher.

What began as an inner tug gave way to exploration and, finally, to submission. I have yelled, cried and lost sleep over this added responsibility. But, with true sincerity of heart do I say, it has been a true joy.

In the beginning, the world of teaching at home was hazy to me. It had no shape or colour. As I began to explore, I learned that I could shape our learning environment into one that was full of vibrancy and colour-- things that have always inspired me to create. I have come to be a person who compulsively beautifies things for my own pleasure. I arrange everything in ways that make my eyes smile. It was inevitable that this love for beauty and colour would spill into my teaching.

Most everything we use is lovely: Our binders have pretty labels. The books we read are a feast for the eyes and imaginations. I try and teach in a way the looks, tastes, smells, sounds wonderful. And I archive it all in a private blog that is so pretty, I can hardly turn my eyes from it. Quite a few of you have asked to read my teaching blog, but I am not ready for that quite yet. I am still figuring out how to be a teacher. Perhaps, when I am far more confident in my methods, I will share.

For the time being, here some of the things that make this job great:

Beautiful, beautiful books!

We keep one drawer full of teaching books, and another full of just-because books.
I keep the weekly books, DVD's, binders etc. in a set of drawers in our kitchen island, right near my desk.

Blog of a Teacher-mama.

This is a snapshot of my teaching blog. I knew in my heart of hearts that if the blog was not pretty I would not want to spend anytime visiting it. (And, yes, beauty is a big factor in which blogs make my Reader cut-list.) I crafted every link into a pretty picture. The fonts are colourful. The material is interspersed with related images that break up the page. I adore this space. Yes, it is utterly ridiculous of me to need to go to such lengths. But I did. And it has added greatly to my sense of accomplishment and my hunger for organization.

Practical Prettiness.
I have organized our work into four large 4" D-ring binders.
  • 1. ABC's & 1,2,3's (Math, English, French)
  • 2. The Nature of the World (Biology, Geology, Nature Study-- basically, Earth Sciences)
  • 3. The Art of the World (Art & Artist Study, Music & Composer Study, Poetry)
  • 4. The Story of the World (Bible History, World History, Canadian History)

Our Story of the World binder is worth explaining in more detail. Timeline books are not a new idea. I saw many, many blogs featuring similar books. However, in my humble opinion, none make as much sense as mine does. Whereas most are laid out as a single long strip, or a strip that is continuously added onto, I use a coloured tab system. Each continent is represented by a colour. Each page is given a tab, which is placed roughly at the appropriate date, when lined up with the vertical timeline on the side of the binder. (See the photo below).

There are so many benefits to this system: A. pages can be easily added or moved around B. Pages can stay together as a World Story, or later be organized by continent--easily done, as everything is colour-coded. C. The Story can grow for years. If it spills into a second binder, so be it! D. Neat connections are made. For example, when we slipped a page into our binder on Christina Rossetti we spotted Singer Sargent's page close behind. Two great artists, creating continents away at roughly the same time.

The school room.
This space is the resting place for all of our work. We actually do our teaching and learning at the kitchen island, but it is wonderful to have four walls we can completely cover in our labours.

And who can resist. . .
the beauty of freshly sharpened pencils, begging to be used.