The past two years have been the best professional development I could have asked for – ever!
Two years ago I began a journey with a group of educators brought together to achieve a common goal, to complete our graduate diploma program through Simon Fraser University. This course was called Learning and Teaching Through Technology. For some it was about furthering their education and for others it was originally not just about the learning but also about the pay raise that was to come at the end. Over the course of two years many changes occurred within this very diverse group of learners. What transpired will forever impact how I view, not only my learning, but the learning of my colleagues as well.
This Langltt truly was a diverse group. We came from a variety of backgrounds, from a variety of teaching experiences and brought with us our own philosophies of teaching. Some of the students in the course were in the early years of their teaching career while others (myself included) had already been teaching for quite some time. It was fantastic to sit at a table where, on any given night, there might be a grade 2 teacher, a special education teacher, a French prep/Social Development teacher, an English 11 teacher, a PE teacher, and a grade 12 IB math teacher; crazy variety to say the least.
When we first met we were all asked to share a bit about ourselves, to share a bit about where we were at in our teaching careers and what we hoped this course would do for us. There were a few who were literally at the end of their rope with teaching. They had lost their desire, their passion and were thinking of getting out. Others brought with them tremendous baggage that needed to be worked through for them to move forward in their careers. And others, well, they wanted to change the way education was being delivered and wanted to set about carving a new path.
Each of us had our own journey to travel, and travel we did. As I reflect on these two years I have to wonder how our instructor got through it all. He had a mission for us, he wanted us to determine what was important for us, to dig deeper into our own learning and for each of us to make our own meaning of the readings, discussions and field studies. Many balked at his approach because, many of you will understand, teachers for the most part were great in school and knew how to do what they were told to do. They are not so good at the open ended constructivist model of learning, though, and this caused many uncomfortable moments. I will be forever thankful that Matt Rosati guided us through this experience, that he did not give up on his methods and encouraged each of us to find what was important to us and travel our own journey. It was not about what he wanted but what we wanted.
Over the past two years I have grown substantially as a learner. I have been exposed to a plethora of approaches to teaching that I did not know about or had forgotten about. I have been introduced to many exceptional educational leaders that made me question what I was doing. I was asked to create inquiry questions around what I was doing or wanted to do in my class and complete field studies on these. But most importantly, I was asked to reflect on my teaching practise and to question ‘WHY?’ at every turn.
Much of my growth came from sitting in a library week in and week out with 23 other educators hearing their stories, listening to their ideas and debating where education is heading or should be heading. I cannot state this strongly enough- I was truly inspired by my colleagues in this class and they have helped to push me to be a better me. How can you not be inspired by a teacher who, when he began the course was simply “showing up”, but has become an educational leader in his school and a mentor in his district. Powerful learning was taking place; he is just one example of the growth mindset that developed in the class. My growth may not have been this extreme but not all change needs to be giant leaps, some can be baby steps too, as long as change and growth are taking place.
As I ruminate on the past two years my wish is that all educators have a chance to ‘go back to school’. I know that the time needs to be right, the money needs to be available, but every teacher should be encouraged to do more than just a single day Pro D. I would hedge my bets that if all teachers went back to school this would change the face of teaching as we know it.
I have so loved being back at school and the learning process that I am now contemplating doing something I said I would not do because I am already 23 years into teaching. I think I may just, well maybe, if I don’t back out, apply to do my Masters. It is only one more year now that I have completed this course so the thought, as scary as it is for me, is floating around in my brain. This is something I should have done a long time ago but let it pass by. Now may be the time.
Participating in this course has reaffirmed for me that teachers get into this professional for all the right reasons. But for some they become stuck, some get into the fixed mindset. I truly believe that with support, encouragement, and a great program, (with a great instructor) we all can regain a growth mindset and make a difference in this profession.
I want to sincerely thank all the members of Langltt cohort; you have inspired me to keep growing, to keep learning.