Inquiring about Inquiry-Based Learning to Straighten out the Path

This post is years overdue. Literally. I think it’s like a dam ready to burst in my head and I’m guessing it will be a learning experience to even just write it out. Writing about it will be therapeutic, at the very least, and, at the other extreme, this post could quite possibly cause a snowball effect – I’m almost hoping for that to be honest. Interesting, too, that I’m finally deciding to post it now, especially if you read my last post or have followed my thoughts in various online spaces over the years.

For three years, the Elementary Connected Classrooms (ECC) project has run a year long, collaborative inquiry project. At my first planning meeting, as a brand new, member of the ECC, I was handed the article, ‘Learning in Depth: Students as Experts’ written by Kieran Egan. This article was the first piece I’d ever read on Egan’s take on inquiry-based learning. While I had constantly enjoyed project-based learning before reading that article, and I had read An Imaginative Approach to Teaching, another of Egan’s popular works, my practice since reading that article has not been the same.

The ECC team read through and discussed how we could integrate the whole idea of an inquiry project into our collaborative learning space. We decided to devote each Friday’s video conferencing lesson to the inquiry project. We would take turns planning lessons and being the lead teacher, which meant that every three weeks each of us would be responsible to teach the next lesson in the unit. Student choice was built in as a crucial ingredient and we quickly realized the the context of the inquiry project would also be a great way to teach students a variety of other skills such as how to effectively search for information online and how to evaluate websites. We also recognized we could merge curricular content from Social Studies, English Language Arts, Science and more to create a truly cross-curricular learning opportunity full of multiple ways for students to connect ideas and experience deep learning.

One area that still proves to be a challenge is explaining how this all works to parents. They want to know how it’s marked (it isn’t – weekly assignments based on the task at hand, e.g. can you find a primary and secondary source of information and explain the differences between the two?, are marked, but the overall project is not), what subject this fits into (a whole bunch depending on the topic the student chooses and the way in which they decide to learn about their topic) and where this ‘curriculum’ comes from (the provincial Integrated Resource Packages and each individual student). It’s great to have all the questions and communication lines opening between home and school and it sure keeps me on my toes as far as being able to articulate exactly what we are doing, how it all comes together as the year goes along and why we are doing it.

A quick and accessible document created to help parents understand what the inquiry project is all about can be found here. It needs to be updated as the project has evolved each year based on the students but that document has proven to be an invaluable starting point for planning purposes as well as communicating with others. Thanks to my colleague, Brooke Haller, for giving me permission to share that as she’s the one who originally wrote it up.

One tricky aspect to all this is that the inquiry project never looks the same two years in a row; it doesn’t even look the same from student to student within one lesson, not to mention from week to week and class to class. Inquiry is a path of learning that leads into the unknown every, single time. It can be really challenging to lead thirty students down thirty completely separate learning paths, and it’s about as non-traditional as any method I’ve explored as a teacher, but it is amazing when the learning starts to deepen and kids start getting super excited about what they’re learning. It’s the palpable positivity of the learning process during inquiry working time and the pride and ownership that students show once they get rolling along that makes it a tangible, worthwhile project to embark upon.

There’s much more writing to come on this. I needed to start somewhere, but I’m thinking I need to stop somewhere too, for now, at least. If you have any experience teaching from an inquiry-based point of view, I’d love to hear from you. Or, send this along to anyone you think may have some thoughts to contribute. I’m officially embarking on my inquiry about inquiry-based learning, something I unofficially started three years ago when I read that first article. The fact that it’s taken me three years to get to this point and actually write about it attests to the messiness of my own learning process here. I’m hoping that the writing will straighten out my path, just a little bit.

Cross posted on The Elementary Connected Classrooms Blog here.

Imagery – Night Falls 3 by thebmag and Nature Trail #4 by Chalkie_CC, both accessed on April 15, 2013 from Flickr.com and used with Creative Commons permissions.

The Calm After the Storm, or Complete Life Slowdown

I usually take a long time between posts. I am a mother of two extremely active boys (active as in their energy levels – not active as in over-enrolled in too many activities – good to distinguish between those two), I’m a teacher who’s never figured out how to do the job efficiently and I always seem to have some added bits to my job that I like to include as a growing professional but that do take up some of my time. Aside from that I have my private life, something I rarely write about on here, which needs time as well for running, reading, napping, among other things. I have a full life and I’m grateful for it, but I’ve had to shift gears recently and before I get back to blogging solely about work, I need to transition my mindset with this post. So, while I usually have lots going on that gets in the way of blogging, this past three months or so of quiet in this space reflects the overall quiet in my life for a  very different reason.

The simple reason for the downshift is that I’m sick. I’ve been very sick since December, but was getting sick from last August on. It’s a recurrence of a simple but all-encompassing condition that has led to a huge simplification in my life. Am I taking medication? Yes. Is it working? Sort of. Will I get better? Yes. That last question and answer are the only two that really matter and once I figured that out I was able to relax and be thankful that it is the type of illness that can be treated either through medication, a procedure or surgery. Until I’m better, I just need to relax and chill out and let a bunch of things go. Not easy for a person like me. I don’t do “sit and relax and do nothing” very well.

I was a bit startled, in the midst of being sick and still at the mopey, panicky stage about not being able to function at my usual 110%, to read a couple of posts by others who were going through rough times too. And not just any others, but people I look up to in the education world. First, after being forced to cancel my registration at a conference I’d been looking forward to attending, I read George Couros’ post I’m Tired. George wrote that post while at that same conference that I was supposed to be at.

When I get tired, or rundown, or sick like I am now, I always think ‘why can’t I be like ____? They can go, go, go, go, go and accomplish all sorts of things and never get tired or sick. Why can’t I do that?’ and George is one of those people that I watch and think that about. His post made me realize that maybe even those super-productive and mega-successful people out there that I watch and try to learn from aren’t quite as perfectly indestructible as I think they are.

Soon after reading that post, I saw a tweet about Shelley Wright’s post I struggle: lessons I’ve learned from being an inquiry teacher. Shelley is another one of those productive, ‘how does she do all that’ people that I watch and learn from. To read about her struggles, in connection to George’s post, stopped me and made me think. Not only do those super-achievers crash and burn once in awhile, they also experience the same (in Shelley’s posts on inquiry – exactly the same) challenges that I try to ignore and work through. And when I ignore and plow headlong with positive determination through day after day of tough, hard emotional and physical work, it takes it’s toll. I’m not indestructible, nobody is, and while I realize that at some level, it’s not getting through that stubborn, ambitious, must-keep-going, thick head of mine, hence illness that will last for at least 3-9 more months.

Two connected posts, at a time when I needed to realize that it was time to stop and just ‘be’ for awhile and let my body and mind have some time to heal, were enough. I found a way and stepped back at work. I stepped way back at home. At first I thought I just needed physical rest, but after two months of that not working I discovered that it was holistic – mind and body. Not only a quiet, rested body, but a calm, relaxed mind – that final piece in place was the magical ingredient.

Letting go in total has finally allowed my system to start recovering. I’m sleeping 12-14 hours a day. I’m still taking the medication. I still have to pace both my body and my mind. But I do, after months of wondering what I was going to do with my ailing body and scattered mind, feel some hope. I’ve found, at last, a sense of calm that things are going to be okay.

I may have little to no cognitive clarity or anything resembling mental acuity but those who know and care about me are patient and seem to be enjoying, for the most part, my scatter-brained, laid-back, who-cares, attitude towards life these days. Thank goodness I’ve been teaching for 17 years and still love it, as that experience and love for what I do makes it possible for me to continue to work, something, up until last week, that I wasn’t sure I’d be doing after Spring Break. And thank goodness for a supportive, if small, network of family and friends who love me and are helping to pick up all the slack I’m just happily leaving behind me.

So with that, I’m hoping that now I can move along and start getting things back to normal, professionally and personally. I’m thinking this is now the calm after the storm. Hopefully it doesn’t take me another three months to post, but if it does, I would wish that it’s because my life is back to normal and not because of a health-enforced, complete life slowdown.

Imagery: Morups Tange by sramses177 and storm a brewin’ by Steve took it, both accessed March 22, 2013 from Flickr.com

Reflections on New Leadership Roles

Way back in September, I posted about my new leadership roles this year. A couple of weeks ago, Aviva Dunsiger posted this comment about my last post:

I found this to be a really interesting post! I love what you’re doing now in terms of leadership, and it’s definitely clear that you have a lot to share. I’m curious though: now that you’ve begun these leadership roles, what do you think of them? What other leadership opportunities do you want to explore? I’d love to hear more.

Aviva

Life, as usual, took precedence over my free time to do things like blog, but I did promise Aviva that I’d think on her questions and post a reply! So Aviva, here goes…

Role #1: Lead Teacher of the Elementary Connected Classrooms Project

I think of this role as my first taste of administration. I’m in charge of the team (our Elementary Connected Classrooms (ECC) blog with tons of info here!), in charge of the budget, responsible for running our various meetings, and I’m the one reaching out to other teachers for the expansion of the project into communities in our school district. I’ve also been responsible for submitting proposals to present at conferences. I lead the ECC team and feel more responsible for the overall success of this project since becoming the lead. There is a great deal of paperwork and added responsibilities that I had never dreamed of before entering into the role. I am very thankful that Brooke, the former lead and still a close colleague of mine, has been a mentor to me as I continue to learn this role.

One aspect of the role that has been great professional development, a real eye-opener, as well as just plain enjoyable, is the seat on the District Student Achievement Team (DSAT). This group, led by the superintendent Teresa Downs, is made up of the eleven project leaders in the district. All are full time principals or part-time/full-time upper admin in the district; I am the only full time teacher. We meet once a month, participate in a book club (we’re reading Karen Hume’s Tuned Out - a book right up my alley!) and participate in a certain level of decision making concerning student achievement. It’s a day I look forward to and the experience offers a nice insight into many aspects of the profession that I wouldn’t otherwise be privy to. I feel fortunate to be included as a member of this group and do what I can to learn from it and contribute as well.

Role #2: Mentoring a Teacher Candidate

This role has been a real mind-shift for me. I’ve had to let somebody else teach in my classroom!!! That is a tough thing to do, and strange, and difficult to get used to for me as I LOVE to teach my students. That said, my teacher candidate is wonderful and what I miss out on teaching is made up for in a new type of learning. I’m forced to articulate clearly the most essential elements when answering her question or making an observation. How do you simplify 17+ years of experience into a few sentences or a discussion or written observations? It’s challenging me to be concise and be aware of my pedagogy in almost abstract terms ( I’m thinking abstract as in the visual arts in which an idea or image is reduced to it’s most simple/basic form).

Aside from the personal shifts in mindset, I’m also gaining insight from a new educator’s fresh perspective, I’m watching new lessons unfold before my eyes as she teaches and I’m enjoying the chance to work one on one with students while she takes the lead. Being able to work with small groups and spend time with individual students is a luxury with a large, complex group such as the one I have this year and I’m looking forward to that for the next three months. Finally, being around a new almost-teacher like Tracy is a motivating and inspiring experience. She loves working with kids, she is full of fresh enthusiasm and she and I share many similar perspectives on how to work with children in a school each day.

One last, interesting note is that I’m a local who grew up and graduated in this small town, only to return to teach and now mentor another local (Tracy) who also grew up and graduated in this small town, only to return to be a student teacher here. I think that’s a pretty unique situation to be involved in!

New roles to explore

As far as new roles, I’m not sure on that yet. I’ve always thought that after my children grew up, graduated from high school and left home that I would want to go into administration. These new leadership roles have given me more insight into that possibility. I’ve also found that I don’t like being out of my classroom, although I do enjoy the DSAT meeting days and the opportunity to collaborate with others. It’s a tension I’m guessing that many administrators have dealt with and I know for certain now that I want to teach for a long time to come still.

I’m sure that if I wanted to move into administration that that route would be open for me, if not now, then at some time in the near future with a bit of ambition on my part, but I’m even more sure that, at this point, I want to teach and walk into that room and work with those amazing, brilliant, energetic, bursting-with-potential kids each day. I’m teaching my dream job and happy to be here for awhile. The leadership roles are pushing my thinking, making me, I think, a better educator to those kids and for that, I am extremely grateful and thankful.

Well Aviva, I hope that answers your questions. Thanks for pushing me to think this through. I am also grateful and thankful to you :)

New, official leadership roles for the first time

For the first time in my teaching career, I am officially in a leadership position! I’ve always thought I’d work towards that eventually, but also have always said no, or shied away from working towards that type of position. I have had many reasons – children at home, Masters studies to complete, the desire to focus only on the act of teaching – and yet this year, for the first time, I find myself in not one, but two, leadership roles. I’m finding priorities are shifting and I have a few new things to focus on in relation to the number one priority of my students.

First Role: Connected Classrooms Coordinator/Lead Teacher

In June, Brooke, my amazing colleague and then lead Connected Classroom teacher made a parallel move within the district to become the lead Connected 8 teacher. That move resulted in a leadership shift in the Elementary Connected Classrooms with me becoming the new lead! I met with Brooke in mid-August to learn about my new role and was excited to see all that I would be responsible for. It’s a definite change in mindset and now I have a real reason to start learning about leadership. It’s something I’ve always thought I’d eventually turn towards at some point in my career and this is a great way to ease into it a little more gently. Interesting how personal relevancy can so profoundly change one’s perspective.

Second Role: Mentoring a Teacher Candidate (Student Teacher)

On the first day of school this year, for the first time in 16 years of teaching, I’ll have a student teacher (or, as she is called through her university, a teacher candidate). Although she doesn’t actually start her practicum until Tuesday, she and I have been working together all summer via texting, email, twitter, several sessions at the school and one evening tea in my kitchen. There is so much more to being a teacher than showing up at school. To me, and to many, it is a lifestyle, and that, I think, is one thing that I want to share with her. It’s a lifestyle that I love (most of the time!) and I want her to understand so much more than the curricular learning outcomes and strategies to use for teaching place value.

One bonus for me is that I feel motivated and excited already. I’m already benefitting from the opportunity to be a teacher mentor. She keeps thanking me for taking the time to involve her and communicate with her, but I keep thinking that I need to thank her for the injection of added interest and excitement she’s bringing to my practice. I think she is going to be a great teacher, and I’m excited to help her along and watch her take these last final steps into the profession.

Where do I start?

Leadership is one of those words that’s everywhere. I always paid attention, but always felt that it didn’t really apply to me. We all, however, can be leaders and I understand how I fit inside that definition, but personally it felt as if the real leaders were the administrators, upper district administrators and others in that type of position. Suddenly, I fit under my own umbrella and a whole new tangent of research, learning, reading, people and possibilities are meaningful. There is a lot that I want to learn, but with time becoming scarce as school goes back in next week, I need to choose my first few steps carefully.

So, books to read, blogs to find, tweeps to follow and a long talk with my dad (a high school administrator for 30 years and the president of a large teachers association for a few years too) to help me get going! What do you think? Any ideas on where I should start?

 

Imagery by Plug Us In and used with permission from Flickr.

Summer Detour and the Detour Bag

At the start of the summer holidays, I wrote about a detour. I wrote about my purposeful move away from thinking about teaching all summer long, something I had done for years. I love teaching, and I love learning about learning, and I love reading about new research, and it’s easy to get caught up in spending summers in an altered working mindset. This summer, I detoured off that path and, as tomorrow I start back to work full-time prepping for students next week, I thought a little reflection would bring closure to my summer.

The detour was a bit of a bumpy ride to begin with, but I was determined to shift my mindset so that being a teacher would fade into the background. I admit it didn’t fade easily. I had to push it aside for awhile. In retrospect, it was wonderful to focus on nothing directly work related and instead put all my energy into everything else in my life. The struggle for balance was blissfully absent once I’d pushed aside the temptation to stay in the teacher mindset all summer.

I did all the things I listed in my original post. The boys and I read, biked, swam, and made things. We watched movies together, made cardboard box forts in the living room and spent time being bored.  We traveled through this beautiful province to visit family and friends. We spent rare, special time with the oldest of my nephews. We laughed, fought, goofed around, teased each other and tested one another’s patience. We grew closer. I hope everyone had a chance to do that – my students, my friends, my colleagues near and far. It’s that relationship piece that people always talk about working on in their classrooms. I hope we all remember to work on it at home, too.

The best part? I was able to focus on being a mom. I let my two energetic, growing boys have all my attention. I used to think that working full-time made me a better mother. I used to think that I’d be bored being a stay-at-home mom with kids. I wondered this summer how I could have ever thought that at all. What was I thinking? Was I delusional? Young and foolish? Trying to convince myself that working was better for me and the kids? I love staying home with my boys. It’s precious time that could not be better spent.

I did do one thing on my own. Because I like a challenge, and love to create, and knew that I’d need something interesting and novel to grab my attention and focus on this summer, I made a knitted, felted bag. This may not seem like anything interesting or special to you, but to me, through the summer, as I carefully interlocked yarn stitch by stitch, it became a symbol of my detour. It was the one goal that I set out to achieve this summer, not to read the latest ed leadership book or finish my Masters degree, but to simply finish a bag.

I think I learned a lot more from the process of knitting that piece than I ever thought I would. First off, it was much more difficult than anything I’d ever knitted before. I had to jump in, just do it, take the risk. Also, I made some mistakes and had to figure out how to fix them, or, in a couple of cases, learn to live with them because I couldn’t figure out how to fix them. I had to persevere when it started to get boring. I had to pay attention so that I wouldn’t miss a stitch. Tonight, to finish the project, I went through the process of felting – another thing I’d never done before and one of those things that you realize you have no control over, you just have to do it carefully and hope it all works the way you wanted it to. Many teaching and learning metaphors can be found in the process if you look just a little bit closer than most would.

So, in the end, with work tomorrow, all I really have to show for my summer is a bag. A little, knitted bag, that’s a bit crooked, and according to my older son, looks like a hat upside-down. I call it my detour bag.

It was only a little project, but not so little of an accomplishment. To me, it symbolizes a summer where, day by day, as with stitch by stitch, I slowly bound my family closer and closer together. A little project which gave me the reminder that I was detouring from work to focus on family, and symbolized my priority on having a closely knit family at the center of it all.

 

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Sometimes you have to stop teaching to learn the lesson

Today I felt like telling a story. This story has waited a long time to be told, almost 20 years to be honest.

It’s shaped who I am as an educator and stays close to my heart even now.

The day started as most Tuesdays started for me at the time. I woke up early, caught the bus, and arrived at Charles Dickens Elementary, an inner city school in Vancouver, to do my weekly volunteer work. I was learning how to be a teacher and I needed volunteer experience in a classroom to gain entry into SFU’s very competitive PDP program.

I loved Charles Dickens Elementary. The old brick school was demolished a few years ago and was rebuilt to modern standards. If I could, however, teleport that old brick school with those teachers through space and time, I would work there forever and make sure my children went there too. The school was led by a nationally recognized, award-winning principal and the librarian had been my grade three teacher. She was kind enough to bring me in, introduce me around and arrange the volunteering schedule for me. But that’s another story to tell.

Back to the Tuesday morning. This particular morning I was to spend time in the grade 2/3 classroom. As I arrived I noticed that Blaire (not his real name), the teacher, was busy speaking with a family I hadn’t seen before. The family, I soon learned, were refugees to Canada who had recently arrived from a war-torn country in Africa. This was their second day in Vancouver, the first day for their children to attend school.

Soon after the day started, Blaire asked me to work with the little refugee boy registered into grade three. To this day I cannot remember his name but I can picture his face like I saw him yesterday. He was fairly tall for a boy of that age, stocky and strong. His skin was a rich, dark brown and his eyes looked sad and overwhelmed, yet curious. He had thick, curly, springy-looking hair. 

I immediately asked Blaire what he wanted me to do as I had not been in this situation before. Blaire told me to see if I could figure out anything about the boy, if he could read, talk, draw, count, etc. so, with that broad, yet helpful, direction, I asked the little boy, with both words and gestures, to accompany me to a circular table at the back of the classroom.

I soon figured out the boy could not speak any English. He would point to himself and say his name when I pointed to myself and said my name. He couldn’t read English, couldn’t count from what I could tell, didn’t seem too interested in books and didn’t draw when I put paper and pencil in front of him. As it was math time for the rest of the class, I soon pulled out some math manipulatives, cards, dice, counters, etc., and decided to teach him to play a math game.

I knew a few different dice games and spent the next twenty minutes trying, and failing, to teach him a math game using the dice. I kept reminding myself that this was his first day in school in Canada and that I needed to show patience and kindness. It was extremely frustrating to me and seemed futile. He didn’t seem to understand anything I was doing but still sat there looking at me and trying, sort of, to play along, even though I could tell he had no idea what I was doing. I wonder now what he thought that day – what he thought about me, what he thought about what I was doing, what he thought about his first day at school.

I admit that after twenty minutes I was discouraged and a part of me gave up. I stopped trying to teach him and instead just rolled the dice around with him.

In was then that I learned my lesson.

After about five minutes of rolling dice around, I noticed a change in his behaviour. I’d noticed earlier that he did a certain movement with the dice and some counters, but I had misinterpreted that as him not understanding the game I had been trying to teach him. He did that certain movement again, and this time I also noticed that his body posture had changed and he looked right at me. He seemed to have a purpose, to be trying to show me something.

I stopped trying to be a teacher and started being a student.

The boy was trying, had been trying for quite some time I realized after reflecting on the whole thing, to teach me a game using dice and counters. It didn’t take long for me to begin to understand what he was trying to teach me. After that, he, being a great teacher, taught me how to play a very simple game, something young children would play, I’m guessing, in his home country in Africa. There were no words, no shared language between us, but suddenly, after nearly an hour together, we were having fun and playing together. At one point I was rewarded with a huge smile that reached all the way to his eyes – I’ve never forgotten that.

Even though we couldn’t talk to each other, he somehow managed to teach me a game. With no words, he managed to teach me. Just think about that from a teaching point of view for a minute. But, and this is the important part, he wasn’t able to teach me until I stopped trying to teach him. As soon as I stopped, as soon as I paid attention to him, he taught me.

Sometimes you have to stop teaching to learn the lesson.

I’ve never forgotten that little guy and that lesson that day. It speaks to me and my teaching philosophy still. Children have so much to teach us, if only they have the chance. If we stop trying to get through that lesson, or finish the unit before the end of the month, if we stop all of that and just pay attention to our brilliant students, they do, I believe, have a lot to teach us.

 

Imagery: Portrait “Untitled“ by Michiel Van Balen from Flickr.com, photo of the old Charles Dickens school taken by Rom@nce and accessed from http://www.panoramio.com/photo/9961621 July 25, 2012.

 

Digital Footprint Summer to do

Even though it’s summer and I’m purposefully not doing anything work-related, I’m going to create a Summer to do list. I already have a list full of daytrips, family events and other household necessities. This post is the summer to-do specifically related to my digital footprint. Here’s my summer to do:

  1. Change my twitter avatar. Convocation was last fall, and although I am still in that Masters mindset, and I love that photo because my dad took it, it’s time for a change.
  2. Re-acquaint myself with Google Reader. I have a great list of brilliant people. I need to read what they’re thinking. And I’d like to comment on 2-3 posts per week.
  3. Write. Blog. Post. Simple.
  4. Get back to digital photography every day. My Flickr account has been lonely.
  5. Create an about.me page to consolidate all the corners of my digital presence.
  6. Actually use the Posterous account I created awhile back.

I’m guessing that’s enough. I’m also guessing that it’s precisely because I’m not doing anything work-related, my ingrained-listing habit is feeling the need to organize some of my idle summer time.

I guess we’ll all see how much of this I get done. Did I miss anything important? What else should I add to my list?

 

Imagery by me.

 

Detour

I am trying to keep away from the field of education this summer. Despite my mindset to avoid anything work related, I keep getting drawn in – reading a blog post here, checking twitter there (okay, all the time), and thinking that, hmm, maybe I should finish reading one of those books I bought and started during my Masters last year. The Masters year and thesis writing last summer are two reasons why I need to avoid a work mindset this summer.

Every time I start to get drawn in to professional development, I remember a tweet by Alec Couros that I saw on the last day of school:

I have a great deal of respect for Alec. He’s a smart guy, and he’s right. I need to resist the Ed literature. I need a detour. I need rest. I need a summer with a different purpose. I want to focus on learning “something outside of the expected”. And through that, I’m going to keep my mind open to the relevancy and connections I can make to becoming a better teacher even though the purpose, the focus, will be far removed from work. Detours do connect back eventually, though, and my learning will connect back too, I’m sure, in late August when I’m preparing for the next school year to begin.

So, (don’t laugh), I’m knitting, (yes, knitting…) and just started a project that is well beyond my comfort zone. I keep thinking about how I like the challenge and how I don’t care if I make a mistake because I’m a beginning knitter just learning and it’s a project purely for my own satisfaction. There’s a whole blog post applicable to teaching just waiting to be deconstructed in that last sentence right there.

I’m also bringing my sons along on the detour. One is working on mastering the art of juggling, and not just three juggling balls, but a screwdriver, and two other, both-different, round objects. Watching his energy, enthusiasm and determination while trying to master that feat is joy to watch.

The other son is focused on reading. I’m hoping this is the summer he’ll finally start to read on his own for pleasure. He’s also focused on friendships and learning how to be a better friend. And finally, one thing he wants to get better at this summer – pretend wand battles with the magic wand his dad made him. Kids are so darned cute…

Other plans for us all are to draw, to build, to make crafts, to create. Also to move – bike riding, swimming, running, walking – all things the luxury of time affords. And to read, and write (I’ve decided blogging doesn’t count – another post on that hopefully soon), and organize, and plan, and cook, and bake. Lots of diversions to choose from now that I’ve decided not to work this summer.

The detour is engaging so far. It’s a refreshing change from the norm. It’s a breath of fresh air from the heaviness of thesis writing last summer. And it’s only just begun!

Detour used under creative commons license and accessed July 10, 2012.

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Questions

?

I’m supposed to be preparing to travel, but my head is spinning with thoughts and ideas. Where did the school year go? How am I going to fit in all the things I had planned with the time that’s left? Have I missed any important lessons, lessons not in the curriculum that my students needed, need, to know? I guess the thoughts and ideas are really questions.

At one point in the year, my admin started a meeting by asking the staff to describe their mindset in one word. My word was ‘questioning’. Since the masters coursework last year, that’s my mindset. It’s kind of driving me a bit crazy because I constantly question, think, think from a different direction, add another layer to my thinking or the issue at hand, etc., etc., etc. I do this to all conversations and thoughts. As I do that, I continue to learn how the coursework last year impacted me on a professional and personal level.

I still can’t quite wrap my head around the way the that year has changed me. I thought I’d go to SFU, learn some things about teaching, work that learning into my teaching practice and that would be that. But I’m still processing my learning, and as I process I’m discovering that this new mindset is more a mindset of change and questioning rather than a new static level of teaching practice.

So, instead of getting ready for my trip, my mind spins with questions. Instead of joining in on conversations in the staffroom, I sit and listen and wonder, sometimes, if I can actually say what’s on my mind. Instead of going to work each day and leaving happily tired, I leave with questions and wonderings that go unanswered. It’s unsettling, scattered and uncomfortable.

I guess I’m still getting used to the new outlook, mindset, and way of thinking. I wonder how long it will take to get used to…

Disillusioned

Not sure if disillusioned is the right word. According to the Apple Dictionary, disillusion means “disappointment resulting from the discovery that something is not as good as one believed”.

I don’t think it’s disappointment I’m feeling. Searching deeper, according to the Apple Thesaurus, disillusion has a similar meaning to “disenchanted, disabused, disappointed, let down, discouraged”.

Discouraged, yes, but that’s only part of it, although, that idea fits. Disabused, absolutely not. Let down? Maybe. Disenchanted sounds promising. The same source as above defines disenchanted as “free (someone) from illusion”. Hmm, getting closer, and the idea of ‘ignorance is bliss’ comes to mind. The origin of the word is basically the reversal of enchantment. Interesting thought. Thinking backwards helps to get closer.

The thesaurus, once again, helps to focus the flavour in my mind, suggesting that “fed up, dissatisfied, discontented; cynical, soured” hold similar meanings as disenchanted. The fed up, dissatisfied, discontented all fit. Cynical, I hope not, and upon inspecting the definition of the word, thankfully not. Soured, no. But that makes me think of people in the job too long, unhappy with the job to long. Soured describes them well.

After all that, still not sure how I feel. Now that the first school year since completing my masters degree is nearing the end, what is this state of mind that I’m in? I don’t recognize it, it’s new. It has settled in, I think, as a result of the masters learning. It creeps in, despite the fact that I still love working with students in the classroom each day, enjoy helping them, teaching them, learning alongside them. I take comfort in that. I do enjoy the kids and the learning.

So why do I feel so apprehensive of this new mindset? And what does it mean for me, my students, my future students, the career I love and feel so ‘right’ in?

 

Image by gingisklown and accessed from Flickr.