Reflections on a Year of Professional Growth
The time I took off teaching this year has been an amazing learning experience. As I set out to take more risks in my life, I was rewarded with incredible opportunities for growth. This was a year of learning driven by me, the learner and it is one I will cherish.
As I share my learning from this year, I have outlined the leadership competencies I feel my learning addressed. The competencies are 4 areas of leadership my school district has specifically identified as goals for teacher leaders. They are as follows:
1.) Coach for Success
2.) Communicate Effectively
3.) Focus on Leading for Learning
4.) Understand the Larger Context
My Learning Adventures
1) I became an active participant on Twitter:
(Focus on Leading for Learning)
After attending and presenting at a ConnectEd Conference in May 2012, I was introduced to the twitter world. At the conference, a wonderful person took me through the twitter process, from setting up an account and following people to sending my own tweets. I went from a “lurker” to a “contributor” and now I am working on inviting my own staff members to join, and developing a PLN (Professional Learning Network). My teaching partner and I have already agreed to set up a classroom account for our grade 3′s the following school year.
All the other risks I took this year stemmed from twitter. Being part of twitter is like being in a room full of amazing, talented people and hearing all their conversations. I am mentored by educators inspiring me to be my “best” by directing me to articles, apps, websites, book titles, online chats and conversations. The resources and connections I have discovered have been shared with my own staff. I have set up a school hashtag for my staff as well as the schools in our cohort division group and am encouraging colleagues to become active participants by sharing and teaching them about twitter.
2) I started a Blog:
It was hard to write about innovations in the classroom when I was only teaching one day a week. I put off writing my blog because I felt I had nothing to offer other educators. I had to adjust my thinking and learn to write for myself rather than for an audience. My blog is where I write about my reflections on what I want to know and who I want to become. I love knowing that I can visit my blog and read about the things I have accomplished and the risks I have taken in my teaching. It’s a terrific learning experience taking the time from your teaching to reflect and record your hopes and dreams about your teaching journey.
3) I participated in an ETMOOC!
(Understands the Larger Context)
I joined an ETMOOC without even knowing what it stood for! ETMOOC stands for (Educational and Technology Media Massive Open Online Course). They’re free, online courses that are open to anyone. The ETMOOC course I participated in introduced me to new people in the field of education, encouraged me to make a short video about myself using a variety of tech tools and introduced me to digital storytelling. All of these are available for viewing on my blog under the category ETMOOC.
The rest of the course was completely overwhelming but I was so proud of myself that I completed the first two tasks. I learned about new forms of technology that are available to teachers and tried things I didn’t even know existed. As a new learner to technology, I was thrilled to discover the range of activities offered in order to complete a task. I appreciated the differentiated course content and experienced the excitement a learner goes through when trying new things. It opened my eyes as to how and why I should teach this way too.
4) I Skyped!
(Understands the Larger Context)
First, I had to find a purpose for wanting to Skype. I wanted to compare life in the country to life in the city with my grade one Social class. With my class living in the city, I decided to search for a teacher who taught in the country. I put my request on twitter and found a teacher from a small town in New Zealand. After receiving a Skype lesson from one of my staff members, I practiced skyping with my grade one class and the grade one teacher with whom I job-share. We fixed any technical difficulties and I was on my way to setting up a Skype date.
The learning experience was awesome! My class got to see another class in a different part of the world and learn about life in their town. Kids will always remember doing and taking part in this experience more than what they could just read or hear about. I am thinking of ways I can continue flattening my classroom walls and reaching out to others globally.
5) I Shared and still SHARE with others
(Coaches for Success, Communicates Effectively, Focuses on Leading for Learning)
From my twitter handle, my blog, Google docs, and ideas for lessons to acts of inspiration, motivation and general “people building,” I shared. It’s not easy putting yourself out there. Things that are important to you are not always that important to others. Sometimes your thoughts or questions reach no one. But when I feel something can truly benefit others, I put it out there. My colleague once told me that he didn’t feel it necessary to share everything you do with others. He found it to be self-aggrandizing. I don’t agree. I learned from one of my followers on twitter that if you aren’t sharing, you aren’t learning. That resonated with me and so I share. What you put out comes back always, in all ways.
6) I Practice Mindfulness
(Understands the Larger Context, Coaches for Success)
The one thing I rediscovered this year was something I knew all along but got lost in the hustle and bustle of life. The art of ‘being present’. Being present is accepting that the only time is “NOW”. When we are focused on the now, we are focused solely on what we are doing or who we are with. We are mindful of others, compassionate, empathetic and able to appreciate life’s simple pleasures, like breathing! A leadership course on Mindfulness helped me practice mindfulness both informally, by monitoring my awareness and concentrating on one task at a time and formally, through meditation. These practices help develop meaningful, authentic relationships with my students, their families and my colleagues.
7) I continued to Team Teach and work Collaboratively
(Coach for success, Focus on Leading for Learning)
I collaborated with the other grade one teachers in Social Studies and invited them to participate in team- teaching two classes of grade one students. We started from day one and outlined the behaviors and procedures needed for when our classes united. It was incredible to see the blended classes work together, listen to each other in discussions and adapt to different learning environments. The growth I experienced in my own teaching by having another teacher teach with me was valuable. We created quality assignments, shared in our assessments, reflected on what was learned and what needed improvement and discussed our own viewpoints on the teaching and learning that was taking place. These conversations would not have happened had I taught alone. Teachers, open your doors and flatten your classroom walls. The profession is so much more engaging and inspiring when we work and grow together. It my hope and dream to convince administration that giving assigned time for collaborative work is essential if we want to see inquiry based learning, innovative projects, and meaningful assessments, in our schools.
These are some of the learning experiences I encountered during my time off teaching for the 2012-2013 year. In taking a risk to reduce my teaching time and stay at home with my two children, I grew as a parent, a teacher and an individual. I grew in all ways! These are blessings I take with me onto my next learning adventures.