For the last month or so I’ve found myself spending a lot of time reflecting on the first half of the school year. My reflections have led me well beyond the start of the 2017/2018 school year so I might as well start way back with a conversation I had with my mom as a new teacher.
My mom was a primary teacher for over twenty years. When I was new to the profession, she told me a story of how, when she was hired, she became ‘the’ grade two teacher at a small school in the interior of BC. She told me that, although she loved teaching, after working in the exact same grade for over seven years, she was more than ready for a change. She still loved teaching and she was magical when working with children but teaching the same grade in the same classroom in the same school for seven years became repetitive and boring. From that experience, she believed teachers should move grades or teaching assignments or schools or something at least every five years to stay fresh and avoid boredom.
I’ve often thought about that conversation. The best example I can recall about seeking change in my teaching career came when I was halfway through my sixth year teaching high school art and photography (amongst a couple of other courses). I loved it. It was a really great job. But after 6+ years of teaching in the same room and having the same teaching assignment, I felt like I was in a rut. Work was too repetitive, even with different kids and different admin and all sorts of other changes. My mom, I remembered thinking, was right. A change was needed every so often, even in a good teaching situation, to stay engaged.
Fast forward almost ten years. Last year I was loving my job but, due to my husband’s work, we made a huge move to a different part of the province. I was lucky, as mentioned in my previous post, to secure a teaching position at Navigate NIDES, a really interesting school with all sorts of distributed learning and blended learning programs and some very innovative educators.
Talk about a change.
When I was in the process of accepting the new teaching job, I had a long talk with my dad, who was also an educator (mostly in high school as admin) for over 30 years. He told me that a big change at this point in my career would be really good for me. He was very encouraging and excited about the opportunity at Navigate for several reasons, and specifically talked about several positive aspects of a big career change at this point in my life.
I can’t help reflecting on the fact that both my parents, over 20 years apart, offered very similar advice on the positive aspects of change. And I’ve been thinking about how the big change has impacted me for the last six months or so.
One thing I’ve noticed is that I’m in a constant state of processing. I empathize with the little primary kids I spend my time with each week. They are constantly processing and learning how to draw, sing, count, be kind, read, write, etc. Just when they think they’ve figured something out, something new comes along. There are so many steps and levels and parts to their learning. I work hard to protect the level of input they are experiencing so as not to overwhelm them. I’ve made so many comparisons to my learning in this new position and my young students’ steep learning curve. It’s been an unexpected comparison that fits surprisingly well.
The shifting and stretching of my pedagogy is noticeable. I’m in a new place with new colleagues; it’s like I’m a brand new teacher all over again. I’m doing my best to pay attention to what my defaults are and when I should rethink them. This uses much more mental energy than I expected but it’s a good exercise and neat to see what’s staying, what’s shifting and what’s being thrown out the window.
In order to have the best year possible, I’ve made self-care my number one priority. While change is good and exciting and fun (one favourite weekly lesson involves learning letter sounds through using alphabet puppets – oh my gosh, so much fun!!), change is also often exhausting, uncertain and sometimes downright scary. Eating well, ensuring I sleep enough each night and establishing a new exercise routine has been really helpful in staying healthy and maintaining energy levels.
I’m living a growth mindset. All those quotes that are tweeted out and shared on Facebook have a whole new meaning since last fall. I love it. Even though I never stop processing and find myself rethinking things to the point that I’m sure I must, to others, seem indecisive, I like the push beyond what was known and comfortable. It’s new and interesting. It’s a breath of fresh air. It’s like I’m living again for the first time in a long time.
I can’t help thinking of a conversation with a colleague about a year ago. At the time I told her that, for the first time in my teaching career, I actually kind of, sort of, most of the time felt like I almost new what I was doing. Teaching, I said, was finally easy. As soon as the words popped out of my mouth, I remember thinking I’d jinxed myself somehow. And I had I guess, in a good way, well before the big family move was even a possibility.
So, now that all those ideas are out, I guess the big ideas at this point are that change is good and parents are always right. Not surprising, but definitely a fitting end for a post written on the Family Day Long Weekend.
Sent from my iPhone