My blog is titled “The Challenge to be Better” and it seems appropriate considering the professional changes that I have recently been undertaking. The last week of my career has been absolutely mind-blowing. However, before I discuss these pedagogy-shifting changes, I would like to give a little “prologue”, if for no other reason than to be honest with myself about my past teaching practice and pedagogy.
This year I was bored. Bored and comfortable. I had been at WHS for two years and finally received the “holy grail” of teaching at the end of last year: a continuous contract. However, as I started this year it became apparent that, although I was now “secure” in my job, I was no longer happy. I found myself being pulled in many directions (mentorship, AFL, Positive Behavior programming, and RTI). I am not opposed to any of the above initiatives, practices and policies. In fact I have seen the benefits in all of them. The problem for me lied in the belief that I had to “do” all of them and demonstrate a “mastery” of them at the same time.
By December of this year I was jaded, disengaged and actually heard myself say aloud: “I hate my job”. (Yes- I am fully aware of how that sounds- and even more aware of how it feels to wake up and hate going to work). This was incredibly upsetting for me, because despite the pitfalls, policies, and bureaucracy that sometimes comes with teaching, I had always been able to say with conviction: “I love my job”.
To say that I was a good educator during this time would be a lie. I closed my classroom door, closed my mind, and hoped the “hate” would pass. I was upset with myself for “giving in” to the system that I had repeatedly been told burns out teachers within the first five years. I felt lost, tired and believed I had nothing left to offer to “my kids”.
By February I had decided that no amount of “closing myself off” was going to make me love my job again, and it certainly was not going to make me a better educator for my kids. Teachers convention came along at this very pivotal time. I had resolved myself to the fact that I was going to try something new and go to sessions that might not be “English Language Arts” centered. I wanted to use more technology in my classroom, however, I was absolutely unaware of what was out there, what my district would allow me to use, and what I could actually learn and implement.
The session I chose to go to was led by Alec Couros and to be completely honest, I still have no idea what it was titled. I remember reading the “very brief” session description, which mentioned 21st century learning and technology tools for the classroom. BOOM. Done. I entered the session as an educator totally bored and left an educator full of questions, challenges, and a willingness to LEARN AGAIN. I went back to hotel room, downloaded the twitter app and set up a twitter name for myself. I had absolutely no idea what I was doing… LESSON #1: twitter- not facebook. I was lost with the # and @ symbols everywhere, but what I realized very early on was that if I clicked on a link @courosa posted I was connected to a blog, a video, or even a news article that had to do with education.
For the next two months I would describe myself as “a quiet twitterer”. I had no followers, which was ok, because for the first time in a long time, I was learning. I was reading about other educators struggles and successes, I was watching TED/TEDEd videos like they were going out of style and realizing that other educators were using technology in ways I had never even dreamed of.
Sometime in April I read a twitter post about a conference called ConnectEd, the first “networking” conference of its kind in Canada. I retweeted it, because I wanted to remember to check it out. Prior to this I hadn’t been interested in participating in anymore pd, as I was burnt out in terms of policies, programs, and new initiatives. That night, however, I went back to that tweet, clicked on the link and read about the conference. 21st century learning and networking… My interest was piqued and I paid closer attention to any tweets regarding this “ConnectEd” conference. Little did I know that ConnectEd would not only keep my attention, but cause me to pause, reflect, and change my thought process in an attempt to be better.