Connect. Collaborate. Risk. Innovate.

Connect. Collaborate. Risk. Innovate.

Saturday, 30 November 2013

Through a Parent's Eyes

          In the midst of preparing an "Ignite" presentation on my passion of "Collaboration and Connectivity" for a district session in January, I began to think back on my earliest, most profound and inspiring professional development experiences. Interestingly, I quickly realized that it wasn't a conversation with a colleague, or an article by an educational leader that I identified as most impactful, it was the conversations and daily interactions with my 11 year old son, Ben.

My Inspiration!
           Apparently, it can be difficult having an English teacher as a mother, or so I've been told. Apparently, having someone proofread your Math homework can be annoying. One evening as I sat reading the paper at the dining room table while Ben was pushing through a particularly gruelling session of seemingly unending homework, I let out a frustrated sigh. Ben looked at me with scorn in his eyes and remarked,
          "Hey, I don't know what you're sighing about. It's me that has to do all of this homework!"
          And of course, he was right. But I was reminded of how intensely I wanted Ben to have a positive and enriching educational experience, and I felt strongly that completing hours of homework was in no way reinforcing the intrinsic love of learning that I had hoped to instil in my son.
          This, and numerous other experiences, is how my 11 year old son helped to shape my philosophy on education. On a daily basis, I remind myself when I look out at the sea of faces in my classroom, that these students are someone's son or daughter, and that their parents have the same hopes and aspirations for their child as I do for mine. This profound insight informs ever element of my teaching, from lesson planning, to assessment, to daily interactions in the hallways. However, I find that keeping this thought forefront in my mind is most important on those occasions when a discipline issue may arise. I consciously consider, how would I want Ben to be treated in a similar situation? How would I want him to be spoken to by his teacher? How would I want him to feel about himself at the end of the conversation?
           Don't get me wrong, this isn't always easy when a teenager is doing their very best to "push your buttons", but in those moments,  I believe it is even more important to remember, this is someone's child. Ultimately,
                                  I strive to be the kind of teacher that I want for my own child.
  I see my students not through a teacher's eyes, but through a parent's.
I want my students to know that I care.


Saturday, 16 November 2013

Creating a Culture of Collaboration: Overcoming Teacher Isolation

          Teaching is difficult. Teaching in isolation is even more difficult. Strange to think that in a profession where one is constantly surrounded by hundreds of students and teachers, that isolation is even an issue. But after years of accommodating challenging and diverse learning needs, holding numerous meetings with parents, slogging through endless marking and adapting to shifting curriculum, many teachers choose to simply close their doors in an attempt to restore some semblance of order and control to their domain- their classroom. Unfortunately, behind those closed doors, teachers may become increasingly detached, dissatisfied and stagnant.
          In an attempt to decrease teacher isolation, one of the goals of Learning Partners, Sullivan Heights school based mentoring program, is to provide our colleagues, both new and experienced, with an opportunity to "open their doors". Even though Sullivan Heights is already an amazingly collaborative and friendly school, at a recent Pro D event, some teachers expressed a sense of frustration that within the constraints of our extended bell schedule, it was becoming increasingly difficult to find the time to meet with fellow teachers and to get a sense of what they were doing in their classrooms. After all, just as as we encourage our students to learn from each other, teachers can also gain inspiration, knowledge, and support from each other.
Sullivan Heights numerous "strengths"- but teacher isolation is still a factor.

          With this in mind, the Learning Partners program is in the process of facilitating a school wide "Teacher Drop in Day" on December 10th. On this day, through a combination of release and prep time, interested teachers will be able to "drop in" on various classrooms throughout the school. Likewise, host teachers have volunteered to "open their doors" to encourage their colleagues to visit and check out the many creative and innovative activities that are occurring in their classrooms. This is a unique opportunity as many of us haven't had the chance to see another teacher teach since our practicums. I must admit, I was somewhat hesitant as I sent out the initial email asking for the names of people who would be interested in hosting and/or visiting. But almost immediately, I began to receive multiple emails from teachers who were excited both by the prospect of being able to get a glimpse inside someone else's classrooms and also by the opportunity to share their teaching practices. My list of hosts and visitors continues to grow! As Learning Partners continues to plan and prepare for "Teacher Drop in Day", our hope is that even more teachers will volunteer to "open their doors", not just on this day, but throughout the school year, perhaps in some small way decreasing the overwhelming sense of isolation that can be so pervasive in the teaching profession.