During my last teaching practicum at Stamford Collegiate in Niagara falls, I also had the pleasure of teaching the Ontario Literacy Course. This class was for students who had failed the literacy test multiple times and needed the credit in order to pass high school. I was nervous to teach the class because I had been told that the attendance was low, the students lacked motivation, and did not have good attitudes. The class also had a unique dynamic to it because there were only five students in the class, which allowed them to receive more individual attention. So, my biggest challenge for my time with the OLC class was just encouraging them to come and stay in class! I had to figure out how could I get them to somewhat enjoy reading and writing while inspiring them to show up.
I came up with an idea. I had noticed a retaining wall adjacent to the school that was covered in graffiti when I first visited the school, and thought it would be a great spot to create a mural. I decided to make a proposal to the principal to have students in my OLC class help organize, design, and research for a potential community themed mural. The principal liked the idea and suggested that I get some other people in the school on board with the project.
So the mural was a go. The students in the literacy class also thought it was a cool idea and were immediately interested, although I think they really liked the thought of legitimately missing some class to paint a mural. The unit I was expected to teach was, “Belonging to a Community” so we made the mural community themed. The literacy class was expected to research uplifting quotations that related to problems in Niagara region as well as in the student population, things they could relate to on a personal level as well. They then had to write a persuasive paragraph about why their quotation should be used. As a class they wrote an announcement which asked other students in the school to submit their own uplifting quotations for a chance to be painted on the wall. The class had to read through all the submitted quotes and decide which were the best and most relatable while making sure there were none with too similar of meaning. Some of their favourites were quotes by Martin Luther King, Tupac, and Rocky!
The mural became a very collaborative experience. The Native Studies class came joined up with the literacy class and gave us ideas for Aboriginal symbols and imagery to pair with the quotations. We decided on the Medicine wheel and the Seven teachings which ended up working out very well thematically. The other Literacy Class also shared some ideas and helped on the paint day. The Specialized school to Workplace class buffed the entire wall grey so we had a clean slate to paint on not to mention sharing their paint smocks with us as well.
Once the final plan had been sketched out and the class decided where everything should go we showed the principal the draft. She loved it. We were finally ready to paint. On the paint day my OLC guys managed materials and told people where to paint and what colours to use etc. We had a number of student volunteers helping out with the job. We even had a barbecue for everyone helping out. All were proud and by the end of my time at Stamford, all my students were showing up to class.