Trust the folks at TeachThought to bring out the heavy hitters in the last few days of the challenge. Today's question - How have you changed as an educator since you first started? - is a doozy. I have changed in more ways than I can count and am changing on a daily basis, always trying to push myself to be the best educator I can be, so how can I possibly answer this question in a blog post that will be of a somewhat readable length? The only way that I can imagine to share this information with you without boring you to tears (or keeping you up all night - I suppose it's possible that you will find my journey down memory lane with a detour down major reflection alley as remarkably scintillating as I do) is to whip out a good old, David Letterman-style Top 10 list covering all of the highlights (and maybe some of the low lights too). Insert the drum rolls as you see fit.
Top 10 Ways I've Changed as an Educator
10. I am no longer a silo. To be honest I've never been very good at the close-your-door-and-teach-all- day-without-talking-to-another-adult thing but when I started teaching I still spent far too much time, particularly as an LAT, working without cluing others in to what I was doing. These days, I try to make other teachers a fundamental part of my teaching so that we can best meet the needs of the students together. Student success hinges on the connections between all of the adults who make contact with that child, even for the briefest of moments. I can't afford to do my own thing and the kids can't afford it either.
9. I (sort of) know what I'm doing. Looking back, I realize now how little I actually knew in my first few years of teaching. I feel bad for those poor kids who probably could have done a lot better if only they had had a teacher who had it even halfway together. Oh, I thought I knew what I was doing but hindsight, as they say, is 20/20. I had no clue.
8. I don't try to do it all. As a brand-new teacher I coached everything, ran everything, said yes to everything. I no longer do that - 1) because I recognize that kids are better off having an expert show them something new and 2) because I recognize that a lot of the time I am not that expert. Oh, and there might be a little something called work-life balance that I've learned over time. Kids help a lot with that, kind of forcibly really.
7. I know I don't have all of the answers. For teachers or for students. Happily, I am the type of person who likes to find the answers so if you come to me with a question I can't answer, guaranteed I will find the answer for you. Even if I have no real reason to do it. Which gets me in to trouble sometimes, as it can eat up a lot of time I probably should have spent doing something else. I am working on a new mantra this year - Not my circus. Not my monkeys. Thank you Poland. And The Huffington Post.
6. I am a voracious learner. My first few years of teaching were dedicated to 2 things - 1) desperately trying to keep it together and 2) desperately trying to make it look like I wasn't desperately trying to keep it together. There was definitely some teaching that went on in there but with the wisdom of time I can clearly see that it was mediocre at best. I didn't have time to really learn anything; I was too busy doing. So now I am making up for lost time. I am a sponge, soaking up every bit of knowledge that comes my way, experimenting with it and then making it my own.
5. I am not afraid to experiment. To be fair, I have always been open to trying new things as a teacher. However, when you're working on just staying one or two pages ahead of the students in math, you don't yet have the tool kit you need to be truly, comfortably experimental. Now that I have a number of ways of teaching that I enjoy and have shown themselves to be successful time and again, I feel confident enough to wander off of the page a bit (sometimes a lot!), to take those successful strategies and build them in to something truly wonderful. And if it falls flat? Oh well, lesson learned - try again tomorrow!
4. I (sort of) know how to manage a classroom. I say sort of because there are teachers I know who are far superior to me in this regard and I feel like I have so much to learn in comparison to them (see point 6) . Can I run a decent classroom? Sure. Is it everything I want it to be? Not even close. But it is light years better than what, to me, was an attempt at a well-run classroom back in the early days of my career.
3. I am way more organized. I am not, by nature, an organized person. One of my all-time favourite anecdotes involves a conversation that went a little something like this - Colleague: "I wish we could all be as organized as you, Bryn." Me (eyebrows raised incredulously): "Have you seen my office?! (which, at that very moment had several tables and desks that were unrecognizable due to the gigantic piles of stuff on them), Colleague: "No, no, not your stuff, your mind!" Ohhhhh. Apparently I am able to keep a large amount of information organized in my head (although that has taken a beating since having kids! Mommy-brain doesn't ever go away, apparently) but my stuff? Look out, that stuff might swallow you whole. This, however, has been an on-going project for me and one that I know will pay dividends in so many areas of my teaching so I am working on it, slowly but surely. And I'm hopeful that I'm better at it than I was when that fateful conversation was had.
2. I am more connected. Although very similar to the idea that I am not a silo, here I mean less in the actual teaching sense and more in the professional development sense. Perhaps that's splitting hairs but I do think they're important hairs. That I am more connected, I think, is one part personality and one part time. I am a naturally outgoing person so I seek out connections with other educators, looking to learn as much as I can from them. I also think that time has allowed me to meet more people, both in person and on-line (it also allowed for the connectedness of the internet, which, let's be honest, didn't really exist when I started teaching). So, not only do I no longer teach alone but I also do not learn alone.
1. I am purposeful. Kristi just wrote a post about being purposeful in your teaching and I couldn't agree more. As a new teacher I spent a lot of time assigning and not enough time considering why I was asking students to do certain things. Now, however, I spend a significant amount of time thinking about why I am selecting a certain activity or why I am asking to students to hand in a particular assignment. In turn, I try convince other educators to look at things with the same critical eye. Our students deserve nothing less than our most well thought out, purposeful lessons.
I'm Bryn, teacher, mom, book lover, athlete. I am passionate about literacy, collaborative teaching and finding new and innovative ways to engage & motivate all kids. I hope you find something that speaks to you here on my blog and would love to hear from you too!