Where to next? Reflections on my future and lessons from the past

Where to next? Reflections on my future and lessons from the past

Reflections

One of the first things I read in the Teacher Education Program that spoke to me was a quote by Milton McClaren: “When we transform experiences and rework our records of events, we develop intellectual ownership of them.”

This quote speaks to me because it puts in words something I have long known intuitively as a writer, but what I had never consciously expressed: reflection allows me to own my experiences rather than them owning me.

My practicum still owns me

I am still recovering from my thirteen weeks in practicum and I feel like the practicum owns me. I don’t own it, yet. I use the word recovering because I am mentally, physically and emotionally exhausted. I thought I would feel jubilated, victorious, but I don’t. I feel somehow strangely defeated and empty.

The last weeks of my practicum were difficult. Due to some unfortunate events, the inquiry website my class worked on for over four months was cancelled. All the work that students had put into creating the website was deleted. The students didn’t even have a chance to see all the work they’d done, or celebrate it. And the worst part about it all is that they blamed me because I was unable to tell them the reasons why the project was cancelled. We tried to make up some excuses, but the students didn’t find them credible.

In particular, there was one student who I had assigned to be the project manager, and that student and I had become very close over the year. That student in particular was very disappointed in me personally, and did not even say goodbye to me at the end of the year in any meaningful way.

I don’t want my entire practicum to be clouded by those last few weeks, but the experience shook me. It made me question myself as an educator. Not in my ability to teach because my practicum reports speak to that loud and clear, but in my ability to play “the game.” The politics, the unspoken rules, the social maneuvering…. I have never been a game player.

So, I’m feel a lot of anxiety about this coming year and I’m really questioning my place as an educator. Where do I belong? What role suits me best? Where will I feel at home? Where will I be welcomed and appreciated?

Where to from here?

Now I arrive here, in the middle of July, my practicum three weeks behind me. For EDUC 452, the final course on teacher inquiry, I’ve been asked to create a professional growth plan. This requires me to reflect on:

  • What is important to me? What are my values and how will that shape my professional choices?
  • What am I interested in learning as I go forward in my career?
  • What is expected of me as I enter the workforce as a TTOC?

1. What are my values?

I think my values are pretty clear—I have spent the last two years really hammering out my values as they relate to my role as educator. I value inclusion and diversity, and ensuring that all students feel welcome. I value relationships above curriculum and I have devoted my inquiry to learning how I can implement this into my practice. I have made a lot of headway.

However, as part of my Professional Growth Plan, I took a Teaching Perspectives Inventory self-evaluation, and it became clear that I do not live out my values in my practice to the extent that I would like. Here is my graph.

If you look at Intention (I) then you see that I intend to be an educator who focuses on Nuture (caring) and Development (student-centred). Ie. that I intend to be an educator who values relationship and student needs over curriculum needs. When you look at Action (A), however, then you see that all perspectives have a score of 11 or 12, which means that in actual practice, I place almost equal emphasis on transmission (content), apprenticeship (skills) and social reform (critical theory) as I do relationship and student needs.

Is this bad? No. But it does show that while I value being an educator who is student-centred and heart-lead, my actions do not always bear that out. This video below explaining the perspectives and what they mean was quite informative. Dr. Dan Pratt, who developed the TPI shares that “We want to go for a differentiated profile… [because] it shows that you know who you are and want to be [as an educator].” I would add that it also means you know how to get there; ie. you have the skills.

https://youtu.be/9GN7nN6YnXg?list=PLt-kn1KWuxREd8udSq_OQ9Mhjz4CUQnVT
So this follows that I need to look a little more deeply into how I can align my actions with my values. This can mean two things: 
  1. Where do I value content and skills over relationship?
  2. Where do I fail to act according to my values?

The resulting goal from this reflection

After considering all of this, my goal is to steep myself more deeply in inclusive classroom practices. For example, UDL and Backward Design, but I honestly am not so interested in these. It’s not to say that I have exhausted what they have to offer, but that I personally feel like I want a more human approach, rather than curriculum approach to creating an inclusive space.
 
I’m not sure where to find that, but I have learned a bit from Kimberley Barthel on this topic, so maybe I can look into her work a bit more. 
 

2. What am I interested in?

Outside of my life as a teacher, I am a writer who has worked in the communications field for the past ten years. Although I wouldn’t label myself as passionate about technology, I have learned that, compared to most people, I am fairly technologically saavy and I know how to use and enjoy using technology in the classroom. I also found out during my practicum that my students really benefit and are motivated by learning about/from/with technology. 

Last week we had a fantastic presentation from Cheryl Angst about gamification of the classroom. She shared her experience with improving the student experience through gamification. She shared her latest inovation on this front: using Twine to build an interactive, non-linear story that students can explore while they build on their curriculum. Here is a fantastic guide for gamifying the classroom, and I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Chris Aviles’ Twitter, which is packed full of 

This presentation excited me very much because it combines my passion for creative writing with my interest in using technology in the classroom, so I would like to dabble in this coming. 

The resulting goal from this reflection

Learn various ways to implement technology in the classroom, particularly in ways that support my pedagogical goals of inclusion, and that stimulate me personally. 

3. What is expected of me in my professional role as educator?

I added this last question because although it is dry and uninspiring, expectations are what will cause me the most anxiety coming up, so I know I should prepare for them. 

Beyond what is expected of me in the classroom, which I do feel I have a handle on to some extent, is what is expected of me socially, politically and administratively. What district will I be teaching in? What are their unspoken rules? What politics do they espouse? How will I know when I’ve crossed the line? What are the lines? 

The resulting goal from this reflection

I want to learn more about the Delta School District, and the Surrey School District, where I’ll be working as a TTOC. What should I look out for?