|Saadia Isaahac, our French teacher|
She and I are both specialist teachers. Her work centers more on the junior and intermediate students and this year, my time is reserved more for the early years and primary students. I don't have time to sit in on any of her lessons. How do I know how great she is?
Listen to the Students
First and foremost, I witness the impact by overhearing conversations between students or watching students and what they do. Early in the school year, I eavesdropped on some Grade 8 students. They had no clue I was listening to their conversation. I heard them complimenting Madame and commenting on how much new French they have learned in just such a short time.
In the Grade 7 class, I was seated with the classroom teacher waiting for the morning announcements to play before taking the students to the library. I saw several of the students with their French notebooks open, studying for their test and practicing their vocabulary out loud. The classroom teacher confirmed that this was a frequent behaviour and that the students studied not out of fear of failing a test, but a genuine interest in doing well in French.
All of the home room classes on the second floor of the school have big wipe off sheets affixed to the doors so that students can write class reminders, inspirational quotes, birthday wishes, or whatever messages they deem important. The Grade 6 students wrote their message in French. Originally, there was a short note at the bottom saying "Are you proud of us, Madame?" When I took the photo of the door, Mme Isaahac had written a reply. In French, she wrote "yes, I am very proud. You all are wonderful".
Listen to the Staff
We teachers can be a gossipy crew. In this case, it's not to tear anyone down but to build someone up. I have heard so many glowing reports from the junior and intermediate classroom teachers about Mme Isaahac. Without naming names, teachers have told me about her effective classroom management (a truly remarkable feat considering that Saadia teaches French à la carte, which means she is "entering another space" that she is not usually the one in control of for the majority of the day). Other teachers are impressed with the amount of work that she is able to coax out of the students. They marvel at how engaging her tasks are and how games are not time-wasters but useful ways to reinforce vocabulary, grammar, and other key concepts. The teachers are delighted to see and hear how much French the students are learning, and how happy they are to be learning from her.
It's not just the classroom teachers that are wowed by Saadia. Our Educational Assistant spend some time supporting students in the Grade 4 French class first thing in the morning. Both our past and current EA have spoken highly of Mrs. Isaahac's teaching style. They've said that they themselves are learning more French as a result of supporting students in this class, and one took back handouts and activities that Saadia developed herself for use with his own child at home!
Look at the Displays
If I didn't have a physical space to call my own, I might not be motivated to create displays. A lack of a specific French classroom does not deter Saadia. I've noticed that in every classroom that Saadia teaches in, there is a section with hand-made French posters reminding students of certain sentence constructions or common phrases.
And the hallway - oh, the hallway! In the stairwell that leads up to Saadia's little office, the student creations from Grades 6, 7 and 8 are posted. Whereas some of my displays stay up for a long period of time, Saadia replaces the artifacts with new evidence of French learning monthly. Here are some of the items up for November.
In the downstairs hallway, I've seen some equally neat pieces of work from the younger grades. I wish I had taken a photo of some of the word-art pictures that the Grade 4s completed; they created illustrations but coloured certain sections by writing the name of that colour (in that colour) over and over again in the space. It attracted a lot of attention, both from the students that made the artwork as well as the students that passed by the display on the way to their own classes.
Look at her Involvement
We just finished Parent-Teacher Interviews. My role was the translator escort, ensuring that the five translators we had working on Thursday evening made it from one interview to another in a timely manner. Where was Saadia? She had a full slate, sitting in on interviews alongside the classroom teacher. I hope Saadia does not mind me guessing that for many of these talks, the parent(s) did not request a meeting with the French teacher. However, Mrs. Isaahac took the initiative to introduce herself to families, especially those where the student is struggling with some aspect of the French program, to explain in person the class situation. Her presence indicated that this subject matters, and student efforts in French matter.
Talk to the Teacher Directly
I love chatting with Saadia. We do not have many scheduled times together - our specialist teacher PLC meetings aren't as frequent as those attended by the classroom teachers - but informally we get small opportunities to exchange a few words. When I talk to Saadia, I can tell how much she cares about the success of the students. She never brags, but it's evident how much effort she puts into her lessons. What makes this even more inspiring is that she has a nine-month old baby at home!
When I asked Mrs. Isaahac about taking her photo and writing my blog post about her, she was a little uncertain. She doesn't do the work for the attention, but for the students. However, I think it's important to a) celebrate the accomplishments of our fellow staff members and recognize when they are doing a good job, and b) to acknowledge that teaching isn't just something that happens behind closed doors. Forgive the biblical allusion, but don't hide your light under a bushel - even if you don't intend for it to happen, the light will peek out. It's not about self-promotion, but about helping others.
As I told our wonderful Grade 8 teacher, Farah Wadia, I'm so grateful that she tweets about what happens in her class because it makes me aware of what they are learning, helps me make connections for networking, and see the possibilities for what students can accomplish. I'll end with four tweets of Farah's that demonstrate the depth and breadth of the type of learning going on in her classroom.
Thanks to Paul from @RepairCafeTO for volunteering in my classroom! The kids & I loved taking apart and/or fixing broken equipment! We learned that if we take time to fix our stuff, we can keep them out of our landfills! @AgnesMacphailPS @EcoSchoolsTDSB @LC3_TDSB #circulareconomy pic.twitter.com/Adl2bD9Zy4— Farah Wadia (@mswadia) November 6, 2018
I taught my kids how to crochet in art today! I love how engaged they were! Most took home a ball of yarn to practise! 😮🤗😍 Our goal: to make a blanket for a homeless person. @AgnesMacphailPS @LC3_TDSB #crochet #kidscrochet #globalcompetencies #studentvoice #globalcitizen pic.twitter.com/cn5cPY994K— Farah Wadia (@mswadia) November 8, 2018
HUGE THANKS to Tyler & Alex Mifflin of @thewaterbros, @LSF_LST & @Bob_I2 from Ecologos & @WaterDocs for the live webinar! We learned about many things including how to create & produce effective docs & how to get your audience to care @AgnesMacphailPS @EcoSchoolsTDSB @LC3_TDSB pic.twitter.com/qxsQm8hQAW— Farah Wadia (@mswadia) November 15, 2018
How can we promote a more circular economy? We need to make better choices as consumers. Buy products with minimal packaging and with parts that can be reused safely and avoid the landfills. #circulareconomy #circularproducts #wastemanagement https://t.co/AOWS4WcTS8— Farah Wadia (@mswadia) November 16, 2018