When Doors Open – #IMMOOC Week 1

As I reread the introduction and chapter one for my first #IMMOOC blog post, I came across a section I had highlighted last October when I first read The Innovator’s Mindset, “Change is an opportunity to do something amazing” (p.2).  Not only did this simple sentence with a complex meaning speak to me then, but even more so now, for many reasons.

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Three years ago, I decided to leave my amazing school division (which was my second home) to teach closer to my physical address and my soon to be children’s school, for the sole reason of having more time with my kids. I wasn’t looking for change, but an opportunity came up that would allow me to have more time with them (or so I thought), so I took it. As it was, I was travelling one hour each way to go to work so I was really spending the equivalent of 10 full time work weeks on the road per school year. I was so eager to get that time back and spend it with my kids.

I knew the division I was walking into had a lot of catching up to do, but it wasn’t until I started working there that I realized how much. Knowing I had been doing a lot of good things in my classroom in terms of pedagogy and relationship building, I was shocked at how very traditional this new school and division was to me. I felt I was running against the current and getting nowhere. I felt inefficient and lost some of my drive. I struggled my first year in that environment, but I survived (and yes I mean survived) because I was in it for these 18 kids who challenged my thinking and gave me purpose. Regretting my move and feeling deflated, I was so happy to become pregnant with my third child, because I would have a break from this isolated working environment. I suppose when you work in an environment for so long, you don’t question the way of doing, because that’s how it’s always been. We need time to learn with and from our colleagues, reflect on our own practices and get students involved to make learning relevant and meaningful, for both students and staff. As George Couros states, “There is no end to growth and learning. Schools, more than any other organization, need to embrace a commitment to continuous learning.” (p.9). When we know better, we do better. Some staff members at my school hadn’t had the opportunity to see how things could be different, could be better, could be amazing, because some just do and redo what has always been done.  We need time to discuss, share, reflect and adjust to connect with our students and make deeper learning the new standard.

As I returned to work this past September, I had a better attitude towards my school because I was thrilled to see my oldest child start Kindergarten. I saw her in the halls and at recess. Knowing far too well that I wanted her learning experience to be rich, meaningful and significant, it encouraged me to be more vocal and share what I knew to people who asked about Hangouts, flex-seating, Seesaw, or other projects I had going on. There is so much potential for what learning can be! And what’s most exciting for me as a parent of a child who attends this school is that many teachers are embracing change. They are experimenting with flexible seating, adjusting their table heights, allowing kids to have a voice and choice. This year, a book club among a handful of keen staff members facilitate discussions and reflections on how we are building relationships within our school and developing secure attachments with our students. That connection piece is coming along well!

A few months ago, I prepared my CV, not because I was unhappy where I was, but because I came across a teaching opportunity that I wanted to be a part of, which just so happened to be in my first school division (my first home). I wasn’t looking for change but this dream job presented itself to me as a locked door and I wanted to be able to walk through it. To do so, I knew I had to knock, introduce myself, prove myself and the key would be then handed to me, if I was the right fit. Seeing as this new school, opening in September, represents everything that this book is, I needed to ensure that my teaching practices where still in check, along with my mindset, which has always been do what’s best for your students. When I got the phone call offering me my dream job I was over the moon. I was beyond excited to be part of a team who believed learning is creating not consumption and who collaborated, communicated and allowed students to have their voice be heard.

When I first mention my new move this coming September, usually people respond  by saying “You’re willing to commute to the city again? or “Won’t you miss seeing your kids in the hallways?”. My answer simply put is yes. Actually, since working in my children’s school, I’ve actually missed my commute. It was my me time to reflect on what was happening both personally and professionally. As it stands now, I take my teacher hat off, walk forty steps to daycare and put my mom cap on. I have next to no down time.

I feel this tremendous amount of guilt because I’m leaving my kids behind to pursue my dreams and my professional goals, to seek learning opportunities that will make me grow. After reading George Couros’ recent post Working on “Meaning”, followed by @AnnickRauch’s post, Balance vs. Meaning, I was relieved I wasn’t the only one who had this sense of guilt. Mom’s should be selfless not selfish. Ironically, I believe this move will make me a better mom because of the embedded self-reflection time into my day. Another response I get often is “Oh, it’ll be nice to work in a brand new building”. Yes, but the large windows and fresh paint aren’t the reasons I want to be there. It has everything to do with the learning that will take place there.

Even though my time at this current school was short, I learned a great deal and if I happened to inspire only one teacher to make changes in their pedagogy, that will have an impact on students, their families and the school community. George Couros reminded us all at the very end of the first live episode with A.J. Juliani and John Spencer, it doesn’t matter if you have a million followers or a few. Even if your post has an impact on one person who read it, subsequently you’ll have an impact of 20 something students. We can’t forget the image that one stone will create a ripple effect once it is thrown in water. But to make a ripple effect, the rock has to immerse itself in its new environment. Only then can it make waves.

The choice is in your hands. You decide whether the change will be amazing or not. Ultimately, when it comes to change, we decide whether we knock on the door, open the door, walk through the door, or build the door. No matter what is found on the other side, you’ll learn something new, or at the very least something new about yourself.

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