Wednesday, March 2, 2011

A short conversation with...Rob Genaille @rvgenaille

I recently discovered a website named Teachmeet New Jersey: Fresh Ideas for Education. The site introduces educators to its readers by conducting short interviews. I really like that idea so I asked a few people from my PLN to answer a few questions about education. Enjoy.

Rob Genaille

How long have you been teaching?

Including ToC time, I have been a teacher for approximately eight years. One of those years was spent as a First Nations Support Worker, and three were as a classroom teacher at the secondary level.

Has your educational philosophy changed since you began teaching?

This isn’t an easy question to answer. I became a teacher because I saw too many Aboriginal youth falling through the cracks and dropping out. My perception was that they were not well- treated in school and that they were very bright individuals that were being tagged under an umbrella category. I thought that, more than anything, coming into the school, I could share my experience and strengths with them, offer the opportunity of seeing someone who had been in the exact same position as they were finding themselves. In addition, I hoped to show non-Aboriginal students that the myths and misconceptions that many in the education system, and society, had about Aboriginal people were wrong. As an educational philosophy, I believe that the education of the child means the whole child, socially, emotionally as well as academically. In this regard, I am not worried if we meet all the Prescribed learning outcomes on a given day, particularly if we need to consider the challenges faced by the child at home, or in school. Sometimes ensuring that the student is feeling safe and secure, respected, is more important than whether he or she finished their homework assignment or understands the connection between Rome’s 12 Tables and the modern Canadian legal system. The learning will come when the student is feeling that he or she can learn.

Has that changed? A little bit, but I try to maintain the need to build a relationship of respect and trust with the student.

If so, what led to this change? Was it a gradual process or a specific event?

As stated above, I try to maintain it as much as possible but the realities of the modern education system make it difficult to work. Class sizes make it difficult to connect with every student, particularly when you have thirty or more per block, the amount of curriculum expected to be covered, in our provincially examinable senior courses, doesn’t allow you the time to stop and explore an issue that interests you or the students. And then there are students that don’t want to have anything to do with you as a teacher, or the focus on the needs of the student grinds everything to a halt.

The challenge is finding a way to balance the different aspects of the needs of the student, the parent and the education system. Learning to remember that I am their teacher and while I am offering them trust and respect, I am not their friend, and I am responsible for preparing them to face the greater society as adults. It is easier to find that balance in the smaller schools I have worked in, because the one on one aspect of learning and teaching is important in every respect.

Has Twitter played a role in your evolution as a teacher? If so, how?

I am still working that part out. I initially went on Twitter to publicize the work I am doing outside of education (you may notice that from time to time), and only came to be a part of an exchange with other educators recently. It has been an excellent starting point to see different avenues and approaches being explored by teachers and seeing the different research being shared, but I have not engaged completely as yet. I joke that Twitter is what forced me to start my blog, and for that I am grateful, as it has allowed me to start to address larger issues in Aboriginal education, or to comment or questions I see arising.

Rob's Blog

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