Friday, 11 September 2015

What I Learned about being a Teacher…This Summer

Back to School - the time when students and teachers reunite with friends and colleagues and often begin the conversation with the question, “What did you do this summer?” The time when students write to various prompts that could be summarized as “How I spent my summer vacation.”

For me, “back to school” began mid-August in Ontario as Anne, Sandra, and I met for our Summer Institutes in Mississauga and Sudbury. One of the luxuries that co-presenting allows is time to record some of the language used by my colleagues, Anne and Sandra, as well as the educators who attend the sessions and share their thinking and expertise. I keep a pen in my hand and my learning journal open so that I can capture the words exactly as said and reflect upon them in the moment and into the future. Sometimes I adopt the language, making it part of my way of teaching. Other times, borrowing a phrase I heard Anne say many times when I was a classroom teacher trying to figure out what really worked for me, I adapt it to fit my own teaching style.

The phrase that I have been thinking about for three weeks now came at the end of an account Sandra shared about her classroom-based work. As she concludes a demonstration lesson with a group of students and twenty or so teacher-observers, Sandra says to the students:

“This is what I learned from you today about being a teacher …”

Such a simple, authentic, and oh-so-elegant way to model and to be in alignment with our learners.  To show students what lifelong learning looks like rather than just talk about it.

And so, with this language in my head and in my heart, I met and worked with teachers and leaders in the Prairie South School Division in Saskatchewan where I learned what it really looks like to have all teachers – JK to 12 – using the gradual release of responsibility model to teach and assess reading comprehension.

I added to my understanding of what it means to be a teacher in Hay River, NWT, working with the South Slave Divisional Education Council. I now understand more about authentic learning in the North and teaching and assessing while taking an inquiry stance.

Here in Winnipeg, with a team from the Louis Riel School Division, I am learning what connects us as early years teachers of reading and writing… both in English and in French.

These examples are my first foray into trying out the phrase “this is what I learned from you about being a teacher.” It is language I need in my career-long inquiry into what it truly means to be a teacher.