Amanda Wilson’s classroom looks a little different than most; the Grade 4/5 teacher shares the space with a teaching partner with a Grade 3/4 class of her own. “A typical day probably does not look like a typical teaching day for most people just because we’ve got double the kids, two teachers and three grades happening in there!” While the space can be divided by a large folding wall, they leave it open throughout the year, says Wilson. “We choose to run it like a team teaching situation with a 3/4/5 split.”
When the curriculum overlaps or allows, the teachers create activities for groups of three with a student from each grade. It gives Grade 4s and 5s opportunities for leadership while the Grade 3s receive extra help and support from some of the older students. “It’s been a really awesome experience,” notes Wilson. Last year’s students were the first to experience the set up in the newly-built school and she says she’s looking forward to having a shared classroom again this year.
For Wilson, being a teacher comes down to more than just making sure her students grasp the curriculum. “I know the content that we’re teaching kids is important and obviously there’s a reason that’s what we’re expected to teach. But the teachers that I remember from elementary school — I don’t necessarily remember what math skills they taught me or what I learned in their science class — I remember the way they made me feel. I think it’s all about building relationships and trust and knowing what each individual student is about and what they’re interested in and what makes them tick.”
A traveller in her spare time (part of her summer was spent in New Zealand and the Cook Islands), she enjoys sharing her experiences and adventures with her students. “I think they enjoy hearing about it and seeing the pictures,” says Wilson who says it also gives kids a bit of a global perspective. But, if she inspires them, it’s definitely a two-way street. “I’m always amazed by how much they can do and how much they know,” she says. “They are only nine and 10 so sometimes you have to explain things differently or in a way that they’ll understand but I feel like they’re capable of doing just about anything that you ask them to do as long as you take the time to make sure they understand what your expectations are.”