"How Do You Do It?  Claire Francis
I could write a blog post just on how AMAZING this woman is. Would you believe Claire and I have never met in person, yet I feel like she's my motivation coach who pumps me up every day? I believe I met Claire in a weekly Twitter Chat and was instantly drawn to her positive energy and her general love for everyone. Someone could express how frustrated they are with their progress and Claire, in 140 characters or less, made them feel like they could pitch their idea and make major profit. I admire her love for learning and her desire to help every student reach their potential so it is no surprise that I had to feature her on the blog.
Thank you, Claire, for participating and I hope everyone who reads more about who you are, falls a little bit more in love with the work we do.
Who are you? How long have you been working in the education field? What school district are you in?
Hi everyone, I'm Claire Francis. I am an educator in between Grand Erie and TDSB. I’ve spent about a decade working mostly as a substitute teacher.
What subject/ grade do you teach?
Currently I’m volunteering, but normally I work with high school students. I’m qualified to teach English, Drama, ESL and Special Education. I also took a course so that I could teach kids in junior grades.
Who was your favourite teacher when you were a student? What made them stand out from the rest?In high school I really appreciated a man named David Jones. He was wise and very supportive—I’ll never forget him. He always believed in me and my writing.
What was learning like growing up for you? Easy, challenging?
English was always my strong suit. In high school I developed a math phobia that’s with me to this day.
Who or what inspired you to become an educator?
After I graduated from university, my mom suggested that I study teaching. However it was only years later, after I pursued my TESL certification, that the light bulb went off. I knew that people had teaching careers, but until then, I hadn’t made a personal connection to the joy I got from helping people to learn. The idea of making a career out of it fascinated me.
Describe what your dream classroom would look like.
Ultimately I’d like to work with a diverse group of students in a school that’s focused on empowering them. Everybody’s human and I don’t expect perfection, but open minds are always welcome.
Tell us about a challenging moment you’ve faced in the classroom. How did you deal with it?
I just learned that the students I’m working with have dyslexia, so I’m trying to learn how I can be of service to them. If there’s something that I don’t know about working with a particular population, I like to dig in and learn.
What gets you pumped up before entering the classroom? (ex. music, car dance party, coffee?)
Music always soothes my soul—either pumps me up or calms me down. A quick walk during a free period also helps.
What makes you a great educator? (Come on, toot your horn!)
I’m kind, enthusiastic, fair, and above all, curious. I think curiosity is the engine that makes a great educator.
If your students could describe you, what would they say?
The other day a girl said I was more energetic than she was. I tend to be bubbly and enthusiastic. I find it hard to squelch that part of my personality for my students’ benefit, but I’m learning!
What was your best teaching moment?
I treasure the little things: the moment when I’m working with a student and they understand a new concept, a smile, or a thank you—then I know I’m doing something that feeds my spirit.
What do you do to enhance your personal learning?
I read, or do research on YouTube or Google. Every now and then I catch up with a good friend. If I’m curious enough about a subject, I’ll look for a free online course. I also enjoy attending public educational events. In my hometown there’s a brilliant couple who runs a series called Paris Lectures. Overall, I love it when people share their passions. We humans have so much to learn from each other. Any knowledge that we gain in real life is bound to help us as educators.
How do you balance your personal life from your teaching life?
That’s a challenge that I haven’t figured out yet. When I work as a substitute I don’t have any major difficulties, but when working full-time I know that I don’t have any “me” time unless I force myself into it.
Do you do enough to maintain your personal wellbeing?
I haven’t in the past. However these days I’m working a lot more on self-care. I’ve started to notice that the way you treat yourself goes hand in hand with the way the world treats you.
Have you ever experienced burnout? What/who helped you cope?
Yes, I’ve experienced burnout. The best thing that ever helped me with it was summer vacation. I know that sounds like a joke, but at the heart of it all, I’m serious. Even if I used those days to take a class I knew I couldn’t take time for granted. Rest is a very important part of staying sane.
What do you love most about teaching?
Knowing that I’m helping young people to grow. Also, I believe that as we teach, we’re learning. It’s truly inspiring.
If you could talk to your younger self (ex. elementary student, high school student, post-secondary) what would you say?
If I met high-school aged me, I would encourage her to take concurrent education (a university program that allows students to earn their B.Ed. while they pursue their undergraduate degree). Why wait? There was a gap between when I first graduated and decided to study teaching. I feel like I should have gotten into the profession a lot sooner.
There may be teachers reading this who are in need of a reminder why they’re great educators. What would you say to help lift their spirits?
Remember why you started. I know things can be stressful. Think of the signs—however small—that your work is appreciated. The true heart of teaching isn’t about the rubrics or test scores. It’s about the kids. No matter how challenging a class may be, if I manage to help one child, I consider it a blessing.
Jam Gamble - Connector of People, Ideas and Energy