Life is a long journey of exploration, discovery, laughter and tears, wonderment and despair, shared love and lonely thoughts, and we never stop learning as long as we keep our minds and hearts open. I have always loved the moon and the night sky, I could sit for hours just looking up at the sky and wondering what life exists beyond the bounds of our planet and marveling at the vastness of the twinkling blackness.
I have been a teacher for more than 30 years, but I have been learning since the day I was born. I have had my ups and downs over the years, there have been days when I wonder why I ever thought I could be an effective teacher, but a whole lot more when I have been amazed at the feeling of wonderment I have when lessons go with a zing and there is a buzz around the classroom of joyful learning.
Somebody once said “The secret of teaching is to appear to have known all your life what you learned this afternoon.” and my lecturers at Uni said on our first seminar that teaching is like being in a play, in which you play a role, that starts again every morning as you walk into the classroom and finishes as the bell rings at the end of the school day.
So what now? Where do we start? Where did we begin? As I said before I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t learning. There may have been a time in my late teens and early twenties when I thought I had “arrived”, that I must know all that there is to know because I was now “old” and “wise”. I was the adult standing in front of a classroom full of spotty faced adolescents, I was the Gymnastics coach faced with the adoring gazes of a group of little girls hanging on my every word. Or maybe I needed to convince myself that I knew more than they did and that I had amazing words of wisdom to impart because really I was full of doubt about my own abilities? Maybe …? But looking back I know that I didn’t know all there was to know, I will never know all there is to know and I am happy knowing that I don’t know all there is to know! I enjoy always finding out new things, learning from other people – yes, even those younger and “less wise” than me! We can all learn from each other and should always be happy to do so because that is the way we develop as human beings.
So why start this blog? Well this all came about because I got involved with the appraisal team at Dio. Coming from the UK, I had already been through the changes to the Professional Development/Appraisal system over the last 10 years. The school I was teaching at there was at the forefront of developing ways of delivering Professional Development and adopted an appraisal system that seemed to work, was non-threatening but still robust and rigorous. Teachers were given some flexibility in the way that they worked with their peers and reflected on their teaching practice and their goals. It was a hybrid system that encouraged teachers to look at educational and academic goals as well as areas of their pedagogy they could develop and improve. There was also space to look at areas of their school life that were outside the classroom and how they might want to develop extra-curricular actuivities with students such as sports team coaching, EOTC opportunities (DofE, language trips), arts and music. There were still some staff, especially older ones and HoDs who found it difficult to get away from the idea that older, more experienced teachers should be the observers and younger, less experienced teachers should be the observed. Some also found it difficult to believe that we could have effective learning conversations if we weren’t in the same subject area. There were those who embraced it wholeheartedly and those who did as little as possible and carried on “ticking boxes”, those who resisted and said there just wasn’t enough time to have “conversations”, those who sort of thought it was a good idea but couldn’t really work out where to go with it, and a whole lot more in between! I don’t think things are much different on the other side of the world!