I read some great blogs this week from @mrsoclassroom https://mrsoclassroom.wordpress.com/2017/08/23/top-5-defining-teaching-moments/ and @cashjim that were also discussed by Doug Peterson and Stephen Hurley (@dougpete and @Stephen_Hurley) on the voicEd.ca Radio-athon today on This week in Ontario EduBlogs. They were talking about what they felt were their top 5 defining moments in their teaching career. They got me thinking about what my Top 5 Defining Moments in my 23 year career have been so far. Certainly, there would be more than 5 - narrowing it down is the tough part. Here are my thoughts.
4 Years of Supply Teaching
After becoming certified to teach, I spent 4 years as an Occasional Teacher in the four boards which would eventually be amalgamated into the Thames Valley District School Board. I would take any assignment offered. A school would call (sometimes incredibly early in the morning after a late night at my part-time job) and I would go. At the time, you could supply at any grade range or specialty, so although I had done my teacher training in Intermediate/Senior History and English, I was working at every grade level and just about every subject. Young and eager to start my teaching career, I was yearning for some Principal, somewhere, to give me my own classroom and a chance to show what I could do. I was so green, I just had no idea about all the things I didn't know that I didn't know! I look back at those years of traveling as a valuable apprenticeship that taught me so much about what kind of teacher I wanted to be, what I really wanted to teach and the importance of the relationships I would one day build with my colleagues and students.
Moving Full Time into the Realm of Special Education
Those years of Supply teaching resulted in my investing in several AQ courses to learn some of the things I needed to know more about. More importantly, they exposed me to some of the various teaching jobs that related to Special Education and how taking the Special Education AQs through to my Specialist would improve my practice and be beneficial to my Students. When I moved into full time Special Education work, I found my home. It wasn't just that it was a good fit for me, it was as if I had received my calling. I would have been an OK History and English Teacher, but I have a passion for Special Education that makes me push myself harder and be better every day.
After my first six years as a full time teacher, I decided to switch schools. At the time, the move was mainly motivated by a desire to shorten my daily commute from 40 minutes to 15. What I didn't realize was that I was becoming complacent and a little too comfortable in my first school. By switching locations and the type of classroom I had been working in, I was forced to change so much about what and how I was teaching. It was just the shake up I needed to re-invigorate my practice and my passion for education. Change is always hard, but it is also a huge opportunity for learning and growing. I'm much more open to change and now when I am facing a tough decision, I remind myself about this first big change I made and how it had such a profoundly positive effect on my career and life.
Deeper Thinking and Learning about Educational Technology
About a Year and a half ago, I decided to take another AQ. The Ontario Teachers Federation was offering subsidies for taking Math and Educational Technology Courses. I have always enjoyed taking an AQ every so often, but not the cost. At first, my motivation was mainly financial - I though, "Hey, great! I can take another AQ at a third of the normal cost." I was always open to computers and technology in the classroom. Heck, I was an early adopter of the SmartBoard in our school, so I signed up to take an AQ course through Western University: Integration of Information and Computer Technology in Instruction with Instructor Rodd Lucier (@thecleversheep). Talk about a mind blowing experience! By the end of the course my brain was so full of new ideas and new understandings about how to integrate technology more effectively in my pedagogy. I felt electrified and as eager as I was the day I graduated from the Bachelor of Education program. I loved it so much I went on to take Part II and the Specialist Course. I have improved my practice by 500% or more by doing this - just understanding the SAMR model alone made a huge difference in my classroom.
I've always enjoyed PD, and getting together with colleagues to discuss best practices, but until I learned how to leverage Twitter for my Professional Learning Network, I had a pretty limited professional circle - mostly teachers in my school and board. Through the previously mentioned AQ course, I noticed that I was not using Twitter in any meaningful way. By getting Twitterpated and following so many amazing teachers world wide, I have opened myself and my classroom up to so many opportunities that I would not even have known existed prior to that, from all the various Google apps to the Global Read Along, and so much more. And the beauty of it is, it never has to stop! The connections you make just keep taking you further. While this can, on occasion, become a trip down the rabbit hole, it is always a fascinating trip!
So, take a minute to read the blogs that inspired this post, listen to VoicEd Radio (www.voicEd.ca), think back on your time in the classroom - and share the Top 5 Defining Moments in your Teaching Career.