On March 2, while checking my Twitter, I saw a plea from Zoe Branigan-Pipe, an instructor at Brock University in Hamilton - she wanted people to Skype her class about "messages to her graduating class". I volunteered, and then thought "what the heck am I doing?" I had laryngitis and was under strict orders from my husband not to talk. But Zoe called, and I answered.
I must have looked like a bit of a kook, with my cartoon black hair and Minnie Mouse voice and rambling thoughts. I think I said things like "don't be discouraged if you don't get a job right away" and "nothing will ever prepare you for teaching on your own, but you have a great support network online to help you" and "keep learning - if you don't want to learn anymore, find a new job" (and I think I muttered other things like being a supply teacher, which I think is good experience for all educators, and how being a teacher-librarian is the best job in a school, and it's good to volunteer, and how my son whips my butt in gaming - it was all a little random). I don't flatter myself to think that 5 minutes on a screen will inspire or become etched in their memories. I remember what it was like for me as a soon-to-be graduate.
I graduated in 1996 and that was probably the most stressful year of my life. In addition to the usual worries of "what if I don't get a job?" and applying for different school boards, my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent surgery and chemotherapy. I was itching for a classroom of my own; after 6 years in unviersity and 4 of those in the Faculty of Education, I thought I was ready. You are never truly ready, but even in preparing our own students for the future, it's hard to anticipate each twist and turn. I think we need to be willing to go along for the ride, make learning fun and enjoyable, embrace technology and new ways of learning, and treat every student like a treasure.
Someone on my staff is just like that, and I'm very sad because after Easter, she'll be leaving. She's an LTO, covering a maternity leave, and I've learned so much from this "new teacher / future teacher" that I really mourn the lack of face-to-face PD I get just from being in the same building with her. The teacher who is returning is great, don't get me wrong, but this person embodied so many of the qualities I admire in great educators:
(yesterday she brought in her iPad and showed me how to use an app that translated word to speech much more quickly than our old Dragon Naturally Speaking programs on our desktop computers at school. She regularly checks out the SMART Exchange to find great templates for doing attendance or running other activities. Her students participated in World Math Day and competed with kids all over the world, online. She's the only other staff member at my school - not counting me - that's on Twitter. Her hubby was the one who advised me about selecting a domain name for our school Google Apps account.)
(she was part of tke K-2 Inquiry team and worked so collaboratively with her peers - and with me - sharing all sorts of resources, ideas, strategies, etc. I nominated the team for a Premier's Award for Teaching Excellence and I hope they win it. None of the team would consent to an individual award, but they agreed to be nominated as long as it was as a team.)
(I love how she interacts with her students! I've watched her class as she's taught and it's just magic. Add to that her abilities to coach volleyball...)
(she GETS it, more so than most teachers I know. I chose one of her grade 1 kids to speak at the OLA Superconference on the Learning Commons, partly because so many of the things she does aligns so well with the Learning Commons philosophy > learning partnerships, integrating technology, equity of access, genuine student inquiry, shared leadership. She even took it upon herself to help coach the little girl when she first appeared too shy to speak in front of an audience. The grade 1 student bowled everyone away with how articulate she was, and we were able to share some of the things she does in her class with her awesome teacher - like a Speakers Corner, where kids talk into a tape recorder with their ideas if they can't tell the teacher right away, and the teacher downloads the audio into files marked with the students' names and previews them to see how they demonstrate student learning.)
I am sad that she is leaving our school. I offered to poison or maim some older teachers so that she could get a position at our school (I am JOKING, so please do not call my principal to report I'm planning assaults) because I wish we were the lucky staff members to get to hire her permanently. Future teachers, don't despair - if you love it, you'll do it somehow, someday.