Ok Jonathan So - I'm finally writing this post. Thank you for the push.
What are the moments that redefined my direction and made me really reflect on why I teach and how?
I'd like to think of my definable moments as serendipitous dominoes - events in my life that I may not have expected to have an effect on my life, but have changed my thinking for the better. One topples over to the next to set the chain of reflection in motion. While I'm only listing five here - I believe there are still many dominoes in my teaching career just waiting to be discovered.
1. Teaching overseas in New Zealand.
Although I may not have realized it at the time, my formative years as a beginning teacher (my first two years of teaching were here) in New Zealand really shaped my teaching practice. New Zealand and Australia have long been forerunners in progressive education. When I returned to Canada to teach, what I assumed was already standard practice was only coming into play here. I also got to experience what it must be like for some of our students to enter a school system entirely different (although not the case for me, but different enough) from their own home countries. There is still no way I can compare my experience to many of the students we see now in our schools - but I can recognize the privilege I held and still hold. From this experience, the vision of what I needed and still need to do to make everyone feel welcome, included , wanted and valued as part of our learning community has become clearer.
2. Becoming a parent myself.
When my sister and brother in law (parents of two under two) would sit dejectedly at the dinner table and not help to clean up - I admit it - I would judge. Why are they not cleaning up? Why are they so tired anyways?
Two years later and with two under two myself, I got it. Oh, boy did I get it.
The same can be said of my experience becoming a parent of a school aged child. I get why sometimes homework isn't done. I get why sometimes school work is not the most important - the happiness and confidence of your child comes first. As a parent of my own children who have their own insecurities and struggles with school - I just get it.
Being a parent has made me a better teacher. A million times so.
3. My first teaching job in Ontario.
My first teaching job, after coming home from New Zealand, was at Allan A Martin - home of the IBT program. As a drama major in university, my access to technology was limited. That was all about to change. My experiences at Allan A Martin led me into a whole new technological world that I'm still learning about more every day. Perhaps, most importantly, I learned how to let go...and let students take the driver's seat in their learning. I realized, quite early on, I was in a losing battle. Our students knew so much more than I did - and that was ok. We were all in this together.
4. My M.Ed
I have always wanted a M.Ed - and this year I finally finished it. One of the biggest defining moments in my teaching career via this degree was the discovery of the maker movement in education. As a teacher librarian, I fell in love with the possibilities the maker movement had in developing a vision for our learning commons. My final project explored how to assess learning through making using pedagogical documentation. What this project really emphasized for me was the true meaning of constructionism and what making really means in the context of teaching and learning our schools. Are we truly community that learns? Through my research, I discovered Angela Stockman (author of Make Writing- 5 Teaching Strategies that Turn Writers Workshop into a Makerspace). If you haven't read her blog posts or her books, I encourage you to do so. She is one of the most phenomenal educators I have met and her vision of how making and assessment can and should play out in our schools is something I wish to explore in greater detail this year. I have have so much more to learn.
5. My PLN
I have built a professional learning network that is stellar. Twitter has certainly defined my teaching practices by putting me in touch with people I would never ordinarily have met. How many conversations have I had (or lurked in on) with people I don't know? Questions I may have had that were answered? Too many to count. Yes, Virginia, Twitter friends are real!
The OLA SuperConference has also radically changed my professional learning network and the opportunties for growth therein. I have met so many people that have challenged my thinking and supported me throughout the years from all across the province and country. Most of these were my real Twitter friends to begin with, but are now my real Twitter SUPER FRIENDS!
These learning experiences have dominoed and I think will continue to domino (I don't know if that's how you spell that - and I don't think domino is a verb either...) into other learning opportunities and growth. I hope it never ends.