Today is the last day of the 2013 – 2014 school year for me. Honestly, last year was one of the toughest years of my career and this year was one of the best.
I started teaching in September of 1993 at the Abu Dhabi International School. I was 23, I had graduated from university in May, was married at the beginning of July and moved overseas in August. It was a big year. Outside of a few trips as teenagers to the US with our own families, neither my wife or I had ever really traveled outside of Canada before, but we had new education degrees and no jobs so when an offer came in, we jumped.
It was exciting, scary and fascinating all at once.
After moving back to Canada, my wife and I both managed to get jobs in our home town of Snow Lake, MB and we’ve been here ever since.
I only realized this morning, on the last day of school, that this was the end of my twentieth year of teaching. Over that time I’ve taught grades 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 8, 9, and 11. I’ve mostly worked as an elementary or middle years classroom teacher but I’ve also served as a curriculum consultant and as a subject specialist high school teacher.
I was thinking back on that first last day of school. About how excited I was to have survived the year. I was thinking about the changes I’ve seen and the challenges that education, teachers and classrooms are facing. So here is my “after twenty years” list:
- After 20 years I still love teaching and kids. While we all have good days and bad days, there have been very few days when I rolled out of bed and thought I should be doing something else.
- After 20 years I’ve learned that education is constantly in a state of crisis. When I first started it was whole language teaching that was “ruining” education for kids. It moved from there into problems with employability and now we are into challenges around technology and innovation. While I am a huge believer that education needs to be continually changing to stay relevant, I think we are going to survive.
- We are all human. I’ve seen a lot of bad things in 20 years as a teacher. Situations at schools, with homes and families which should never take place. Most teachers can probably say this. I’ve met teachers who change kids’ lives and teachers who simply collect a pay cheque. Education is most of all a system built by humans with all of our mistakes and imperfections. We all need to be patient with kids, teachers and our systems.
- Kids and families are changing for the better and for the worse. I’ve seen amazing kids pass through the doors of our buildings. Talented, passionate people who excel in many different areas. I’ve also been yelled at by parents who felt that I had harmed their child in some way. Parenting and teaching are tough tasks in our society right now and we all need all of the support that we can from each other to help kids to grow into successful people.
- It is an exciting time to be alive. Technology, knowledge, connections and possibilities no matter who you are or where you live seem to be everywhere. I work as a classroom teacher in a small town in the middle of nowhere, but I’ve also spoken at international conferences, managed communities of learners, been connected with universities and research centres and learned entirely new fields of high tech knowledge. I’m currently living in Snow Lake and partnering with a teacher in Virginia to develop learning resources for a company in California. (I love the internet!) Learning in many ways is the centre of my life and I love to help kids to see that they are in no way limited by their geography.
- The physical stuff of education: books, buildings, supplies and technology is getting to be a larger and larger challenge. Who pays for it all? How do we pay for it? What is worth paying for? Is this model sustainable? A strong, well financed public education system is a great achievement of technologically advanced, democratic modern societies. The cost of ignorance is much higher than teaching salaries and supplies. We need to find a way to make this all work.
So there’s my 20 year list. Anyone else want to add to it? What’s on your list?