Looking back at my time through the ETAD program, I find myself quite different than when I entered. Even in the last few months, my viewpoints and philosophy has changed. Prior to my current role as a teacher coach working specifically in educational technology, I had a very difficult time applying and seeing the relevance of a lot of my graduate studies learning in the classroom. I always struggled with how my learning would improve my students’ learning experiences. However, now that I find myself in a new role, this struggle of relevance has completely changed. All of a sudden, nearly everything covered through my ETAD coursework is relevant.
In the classroom, I find reflection and feedback the most valuable tool I can provide my students. I don’t care about marks and numbers to represent learning, but I do care about giving students the tools to improve themselves. Learning doesn’t end. Even though our schools call for us to have definite start and end points, we can’t confine every student within those boundaries and expect them to thrive. As my role as a teacher coach, I find myself able to really apply this philosophy. Luckily, the teachers that I work with are looking to improve themselves, want that meaningful feedback, and allow me to push them reflect deeply and challenge their practices in an attempt to strengthen them.
The best thing I believe that we can do for learners, no matter their age or context, is to create learning opportunities that are authentic. Ideally, these opportunities will reflect real life, relevant situations that learners can engage deeply with. However, realizing this is not always possible with the curriculum presented to teachers, I believe that even if the learning task and outcomes may not be truly authentic to learners’ lives, at least the process in which they learn can be. By utilizing the tools and resources that students use regularly outside classrooms and learning spaces, we can offer students the ability to strengthen learning skills and mindsets no matter the content.
We know each student learns differently, and that our approaches to teaching work to varying degrees of effectiveness with each. That’s why we differentiate. However, this often gets lost while providing professional development for teachers. Like students, it is imperative that we differentiate for teachers and meet them where they are at. A big part of this is building relationships with learners. If any teacher hopes to make meaningful changes in learners, it is essential that they start with relationships to understand their learners’ worldviews and work towards understanding them. Only by starting there can teachers start to encourage the risk taking and mindsets needed for real learning and growth to occur.
As a classroom teacher, I always struggled with collaboration. Not that I don’t play well with others, but how to find time and ways to make it happen with teachers who have little to no time available to do so. As a coach, not only can I collaborate with so many people all of the time, I can create opportunities for others to collaborate. I value this so highly because I have seen how effective collaboration of teachers can be and increase student and teacher experiences in the classroom. It is a personal and professional goal of mine to collaborate more and share as much as possible.
As I’ve already articulated, learning doesn’t end. It definitely will not end here for me. I have a skillset and knowledgebase that will allow me to connect and collaborate, share and learn with so many other like minded teachers (hopefully some of my ETAD classmates!). I fully plan to continue to Tweet and connect with others through the wonderful platform and Twitter Chats. I also hope to engage again in professional, reflective blogging as a way to keep myself honest and pushing myself to learn.
One of my biggest gaps in knowledge is in Treaty Education and First Nations Ways of Knowing. I somehow got through my undergraduate degree with very little coursework surrounding it and, while teaching in the United States, it wasn’t the same level of importance as it is Canada. I hope to continue to learn as much as I can about this through personal and professional development and by asking the tough questions.
I feel the need to share that this philosophy has been scrapped, rewritten, and changed more times than I care to count. I fully anticipate that it will continue to change and develop into something I am more pleased to share as a representation of my thinking and how I approach learning and teaching.