Today, I present to you another of our most #RRBC respected, and uber supporter author
The Heart of Teaching Tour
I’m grateful to JINLOBIFY, my host of this seventh post of THE HEART OF TEACHING TOUR, and to Nonnie Jules of 4WillsPublishing who arranged it all! The full lineup for this tour can be found @ http://wp.me/P43s9i-2g
“I even allowed the kids to sidetrack my lessons from time to time when I felt there was a valuable point to pursue – especially if the detour involved a life lesson.”
Excerpt from John Fioravanti: A Personal Journey To The Heart of Teaching.
In my book, A Personal Journey to the Heart of Teaching, I described some of the difficulties I experienced as a young teacher to master my craft. It’s very easy to get caught up in the lessons planned for the day, and be inattentive to the goal of being present as a caring person. Too often, I would forget that many of the teenagers sitting in front of me were wrestling with tough personal issues. It’s hard to get excited about passing legislation in Parliament when you’re hurting or full of anger.
Later in my career, I would try to tune in to the prevailing mood of a class coming into the room, sometimes greeting them, individually, at the door. Often, I’d open the class with a prayer (encouraged in a Catholic school), and then ask how everybody was feeling. I never expected anyone to put their hand up and spill their emotional secrets; it was an attempt to let them know that I was interested in their well-being. If something was bothering me, I’d use that opportunity to do a little personal sharing with them. Then I’d get on with that day’s lesson.
Lessons in the social sciences – like History or Civics – usually provided ample opportunities to draw lines of relevance to current events or to common experiences in our personal lives. As a young teacher I would try to avoid the ‘pitfall’ of taking the lesson off-topic. I must cover the curriculum, after all! Later, I viewed the opportunities for lesson detours as ‘teachable moments’, especially if the detour caught the interest of the class.
Sometimes I’d get feedback from a student after such a lesson detour and I’d be told that he or she liked my class because they could get me off-topic. I’d smile because I was being told two things: first, the student liked my class and, second, he or she felt comfortable enough to share that with me. I would chuckle to myself that the student thought that these lesson detours were staged by the students to avoid school work. Who was I to disillusion them? Why tell them that in my ‘old age’ I had become skilled in sticking life lessons into the regular curriculum?
For much of my career, I had hammered writing skills in my History courses. The nature of my subject area demanded that students write a lot of reports, short essays on tests, and research essays. I absolutely abhorred reading piles of illiterate trash! For some strange reason, students would leave everything they learned about writing, in their English courses, at the door of their English classroom.
So I took the bull by the horns and taught them in History class. Eventually those lessons were published in 2002 as Getting It Right in History Class , a book for students, six years before I retired. Prior to that, I was challenged regularly by students about my writing skill lessons. Once I started using the book I authored in class, there were no more challenges, just raised eyebrows!
On top of the History content, writing and thinking skills, I deliberately set out to give my students a comfortable and safe environment in which to learn. I discovered that treating my students respectfully in class was key to this goal. It pained me when I saw signs that some students weren’t accustomed to being treated with respect. It meant they didn’t see themselves as worthy individuals. Knowing I couldn’t fix their personal lives, I tried to give that respect consistently so they might question their own poor self-image.
In addition to respecting my students, I sought to be honest with them – about my motives, my failures, and my own feelings. During my last five years, I came to the realization that when I expressed my feelings about something, that resonated with them. There were times when I’d blow my cool after 17 interruptions from knocks at the door, calls on the classroom phone, and call-ins from the p.a. system. Then I’d apologize and talk about my frustration. I allowed them to see the real me – warts and all.
Finally, I tried to let them know that I did care about them. Did I always succeed? Probably not! But because I showed them respect, and was honest about my mistakes, and was willing to apologize to students I had slighted in a fit of anger, I found them willing to forgive me. I wanted, above all, to be a real person to them, not their buddy, just an adult who was happy to see them each day.
I hope it was enough.
John Fioravanti is a retired secondary school educator who completed his thirty-five year career in the classroom in June, 2008.
Throughout his career, John focused on developing research, analysis, and essay writing skills in his History Classroom. This led to the publication of his first non-fiction work for student use, Getting It Right in History Class. A Personal Journey to the Heart of Teaching is his second non-fiction work; it attempts to crystallize the struggles, accomplishments, and setbacks experienced in more than three decades of effort to achieve excellence in his chosen field.
John’s first work of fiction is Passion & Struggle, Book One of The Genesis Saga, and is set within Kenneth Tam’s Equations universe (Iceberg Publishing). He claims that, after two non-fiction books, he’s having the time of his life bringing new stories and characters to life!
At present, John lives in Waterloo, Ontario with Anne, his bride of forty-one years. They have three children and three grandchildren. In December of 2013, John and Anne founded Fiora Books for the express purpose of publishing John’s books.
Book Purchase Links:
Amazon USA: http://dld.bz/dCm6v
Amazon Canada: http://dld.bz/dCm64
Amazon UK : http://dld.bz/dCm6P
Amazon Australia: http://dld.bz/dCmBB
Chapters/Indigo Canada: http://dld.bz/dCp5A
Barnes & Noble: http://dld.bz/dCp5E
“This tour sponsored by 4willspublishing.wordpress.com/