Tuesday, February 22, 2011

A Short Conversation with...Shannon Smith @shannoninottawa

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.

Shannon Smith

How long have you been teaching?

I began teaching in 1998. I taught high school English and Special Education in Ottawa and Toronto and then took an extended leave to be home with my two children until they entered Kindergarten. I have been back in school for 4 years -- 1 1/2 of which were as a special education teacher and 2 1/2 as a vice principal in the elementary panel.

Has your educational philosophy changed since you began teaching?

Yes. My educational philosophy has evolved over the years as I have been exposed to diverse experiences. While a deep commitment to students remains the foundation in which my educational philosophy is grounded, it is constantly being refined as I reflect on experiences, asking myself, “What did I learn today?”

If so, what led to this change? Was it a gradual process or a specific event?

There are many specific events and people who who have had a tremendous impact on my philosophy. Any struggle provides plentiful learning opportunities, so it would be accurate to say that students, staff and parents who challenged me the most, helped me grow and refine my philosophy. I approach situations from an appreciative inquiry perspective, always looking for the best of situations and people. I have the following quote from Michelangelo hanging above the door of my office, “I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free”. Each time I leave my office, I am reminded that it is my work to create a school climate where everyone can be at their best.

Has Twitter played a role in your evolution as a teacher? If so, how?

The tool through which I reflect and refine my philosophy is my blog, shannoninottawa.com. Through Twitter, I have connected to educators across the globe. My PLN includes a variety of stakeholders in education - teachers, parents, trustees, superintendents, principals, instructional coaches and others - who share my passion for learning, but whose experiences and philosophies are diverse. As well as engaging in conversations via twitter, members of my PLN drop by my blog to leave comments, many of which push my thinking on issues and ask me to continue growing and learning.

As well, I make time to visit the blogs where members of my PLN share their thoughts on a wide cross-section of issues around education. Reading what others have to say and joining in the conversations via the comments provides yet another opportunity for me to engage in learning on an ongoing basis.

Finally, the intermediate level students at my school publish their writing to our blog - thewritingisonthewall.edublogs.org. When my students post to the blog, I often send out a tweet using the hashtag #comments4kids to ask members of my PLN to visit the blog and encourage these young writers by leaving a comment. I believe that connecting my students to a global community of knowledge and experiences is one of my main responsibilities as a lead learner in my school community.

Shannon's Blog

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