I recently discovered a website named Teachmeet New Jersey: Fresh Ideas for Education. The site introduces educators to its readers by conducting short interviews. I really like that idea so I asked a few people from my PLN to answer a few questions about education. Enjoy.
How long have you been teaching?
This is my 12th year of teaching. I began as a secondary school physical education/math/science teacher and then moved into elementary administration 4 years ago. As an administrator, I believe it is important to continue to teach; this year, I teach grade 3 reading.
Has your educational philosophy changed since you began teaching?
My philosophies have significantly changed. When I first began teaching, relationships with students were very important but I was someone who taught like I was taught and just blended in with the system. I punished and rewarded students for academics and behaviours (using grades, prizes, detentions, late marks, etc), desks were often in rows, homework was always given, assessment was mainly summative, and most of my teaching was standardized (not differentiated). Why did I teach this way? That is how I was taught, how my practicum sponsor teachers taught, and how many of my colleagues taught.
If so, what led to this change? Was it a gradual process or a specific event?
After I started to gain confidence as a teacher, I began to reflect on how to best motivate kids. I noticed that what I was doing as a volleyball coach was working and began to bring those strategies into the classroom. More descriptive feedback, less focus on results, more collaborative activities, and less reliance on rewards and punishment. At that point I was taking baby steps; significant changes happened through educational conversations that took place during my Master’s of Education coursework. Through this program, I became much more reflective and began to question my pedagogy as well as the structures of our education system. People like Nel Noddings, Maxine Greene, Michel Foucault, Alfie Kohn, Kieren Egan, and Sir Ken Robinson filled my mind with reflective questions about the way we teach our kids. When I became a vice principal, I had the privilege of working with a principal that had a strength-based leadership style that encouraged me to focus on intrinsic motivation. She continually challenged me to see the positive attributes in people and focus on their strengths, rather than their deficits. So this has been a gradual process over the past 5 years that has lead me to have a strength-based, passion-driven philosophy of education.
Has Twitter played a role in your evolution as a teacher? If so, how?
When I completed my Master’s program in 2008, those reflective educational conversations with peers and professors were lacking in my life. A friend (@kyegrace), who is a leader in social marketing, encouraged me to try Twitter and blogging to try to develop connections with other reflective educators. Two years later, I have seen my passion fueled by educators around the world who continually challenge and support me in my views on education. To be completely honest, without the support of my PLN on Twitter, I would not be the educator I am today. These connections have helped to develop both professional and personal relationships that make every day that much better! My educational mentors are now not only educators in my district but also parents, teachers, and admin from around the globe.