I want to preface this post by saying that I have only been teaching for 11 years now but in those 11 years, I have, in my opinion, seen some life changing moments as a teacher. The moments that redefine your direction and make you really reflect on why you teach and how. This post came about when I was tweeting away, like I usually do, about Self-Reg and I mentioned in passing that this was one of my Top 5 defining moments as a teacher. Well, I got a reply back asking my what my other four were. I did respond but thought that this would make a great post.
For those that missed the tweet, I stated that my top five moments where:
1) constructivist teaching
2) izzy going to school
3) gradeless classroom
4) completing my Masters
— Jonathan So (@MrSoclassroom) August 22, 2017
Let me elaborate a little more.
I was actually volunteering when I started exploring the pedagogy around constructivist teaching. To be honest this was life changing. When I first thought I wanted to be a teacher I was very traditionalist. I grew up having to memorize, practice and then replicate. School for me was easy because I could replicate. I will preface that I don’t think I ever liked school but I went and did well. The principal at the time was a truly remarkable woman and well ahead of her time. She allowed me to sit in on many of the school PD sessions, where I heard Alex Lawson, Cathy Fosnot and other teachers talk about teaching and more importantly constructivist teaching. She also allowed me to question and ponder. It was here that I saw the power of allowing students to be at a disequilibrium and how it created deeper and more concrete understanding of the concepts being taught. I am so thankful for this experience has it has molded me into the teacher I am today.
My Daughter (Izzy) going to school:
This by far has been the greatest impact on me as a teacher. I know I have spoken about this a lot but being a parent has been so reflective and eye opening. That first moment that Izzy went to Kindergarten was life changing. For the first time, I understood what it was like to be on the other side of the fence. I saw why parents always asked me, “How are they doing?” and I understood what it felt like not knowing how to help or even what to help with. Izzy being in school also led me down a path to many other very interesting life changes: Self-Reg, Collaborative Problem Solving, Going Gradeless, thinking about DOERS instead of DOING and what school really is all about. It is funny, I thought that I was doing a great job as a teacher, and to be honest I probably was, but seeing her struggle made me see that I could do more as a teacher. So from the moment that she went in the door I strived to be the teacher that I wanted for her.
This has been a very recent turning point in my career. If you want to read about the journey feel free to search my posts or click here. In a nutshell, I felt that my students were not meeting their potential. Furthermore, I felt like I was jumping through hoops to get them to reflect and make it part of their lives. I questioned, what do marks really tell us? Could I define the difference between an A- and an A+, or even better a B+ and an A-? What was the difference? I had no clue. When I read Star Sackstein’s books my eyes were opened. I saw the power of feedback and how grades hindered my students from reflecting and seeing their own learning process. Now I am trying to hone this skill and have students reflect more about their learning.
Completing my Masters
We have all been in PD or even AQs that meant absolutely nothing. They were a waste of money and time but my experiences in my Masters has forever shaped my teaching. My thesis work was on Fractions but it was also on how effective my questions were as a teacher. I was able to video tape and really see how I taught. More importantly how those questions impacted my students learning. It was here I saw the importance of wait time and asking certain types of questions at the right time.
I’ll end with this but learning about self-reg has been truly transformational. I see behaviour, students, and life in a different light. I use to firmly believe that a strong strict line was all you needed to keep a class under control but I was wrong. Seeing what could impact students and even more important than some students (if not all) had stressors that caused their behaviours was eye opening. Now I see the world in a new light. I am able to often see problems before they arise and therefore stopping them before they even happen. It has also been remarkable to see the changes in kids when you show them you care and that you want to help them.
Well, these are my five changing moments and I am wondering what yours are. Please let me know what yours are.