You see, what the education program didn’t teach me is how to deal with every nuance that goes on in the classroom. It also never taught me ways to discover my passion. When I say passion, I mean PASSION! We all have the passion to teach. We all have the passion to foster growth in a child. But what we need, and what I never had, is something to say “THIS IS WHAT DRIVES ME! THIS IS WHAT SHAPES MY PRACTICE!” At the start of my teaching career if a parent asked me, “What do you do?” I would have had a very simple response, “I teach.” This is a very different answer than what I would say now. But those early years of teaching weren’t a complete waste for me. During those years, I got puked on, had my hair pulled, was jumped on by students overcome with joy and was even hugged by a parent saying, “Thank you!” I too had highs and lows. One minute I was overcome with joy and feeling proud and then the next moment I was on Craigslist looking for other jobs while having tears in my eyes thinking “I hate my job.” Self reflection of those moments in time has helped shape my pedagogy into what it is today.
To my students who sat in the desks over the first few years of my career, I’m sorry if I didn’t meet your individual needs. I dotted my “I’s” and crossed my “T’s.” I did everything that my education program taught me to do, perhaps but I failed you still. I didn’t mean to, I just didn’t know any other way. I just hope that you, despite me, are flourishing in high school.
But over time I found me! It took a while but now I am here. You see it took me time to see and feel what I am all about. I created a stepping stone approach to find me. I made a list of twelve educators who inspire me, and as bad as this may sound, then I made a list of twelve educators whom I wouldn’t want to be like. Then I became a sponge and soaked up everything that these twelve positive role models did. Sorry to those educators for stealing everything in your back pocket, it’s not my fault, I only wanted to be like you!
I would talk to these educators and take mental notes. If they liked a program, then the next day I was trying the program. When they bragged about a lesson, the next day I borrowed the lesson. When they discussed the benefits of certain platforms, then you guessed it, the next day I was on these platforms. I was not only a sponge but also a thief. Sorry about that!
Well, I’m not really sorry. Due to my somewhat mischievous actions I bettered myself and my students. I learned to create a personalized learning network, or PLN. This is a network, both face-to-face and online, where you challenge, help and lean on others. A friend of mine, Hugh McDonald, introduced me to Twitter, which in my opinion is the most important learning tool on the planet. Now almost everything I believe in stems from Twitter. Books, videos, lessons, blogs, and more that I accumulate from Twitter continue to evolve my pedagogy and better my practice. How could it not? Being a sponge and a thief, Twitter gives me even more people to steal from while exposing me to even more people I want to emulate. The kids who share the same classroom with me are now more engaged, have higher self-confidence and enjoy a deeper more meaningful classroom all because of my PLN.
This is a cyclical world. Don’t worry, I’m not going Jerry McGuire on you. I believe that good ideas and good deeds need to be paid forward. I don’t want new teachers taking years to find themselves, like I did. So when the opportunity came to have a student teacher, I jumped at the opportunity. Time to pay it forward! So now that I have a student teacher in my classroom I am already challenging her. I have asked her to put all those “dotting I’s and crossing T’s” lessons aside. Instead I show her the benefits of running a classroom where self-worth and intrinsic motivation must be present before any curriculum is taught. Up until this point, this idea was probably totally foreign to her. I teach her to go with the flow and not get stuck on meeting every learning objective, which in practice is often unattainable. I have gotten her and her cohort on Twitter, and have even gotten her to attend a Twitter ed-chat. And lastly I ask her, “What drives you?” “What gets you out of bed with a kick in your step?” I don’t accept the answer “teaching.” See, if a parent was to ask me now, “What do you do?” I would say, “I’m a passionate member of an upbeat, confident, risk-taking, child first, global community and it’s AWESOME!” Now, I don’t blame UBC, as this is a learn-as-you-go profession. They did prepare me to run a classroom, but some things need to be learned individually. We need to weave our own paths, even if you need to ride some coattails along the way!