Wednesday, October 5, 2011

World Teacher Day

Today was a great day.  I had the opportunity to connect with several staff and students, and after what has seemed like a hectic first month, it was a welcomed change.  The Bill 33 consultation process and paperwork is complete, some of our SADE reporting and Class Size and Composition data has been extracted and analyzed, the timetable appears to be balanced and 1701 reporting has been taken care of.  These are only a few of the first month's priorities.

Today was a day for me to get into classes, and connect with staff and students.  I also got the chance to express some of my appreciation for all that the people of our school do.  Since it was World Teacher Day, I purchased donuts for the staff (a small token), and with some students, delivered them to classrooms around the school with a heartfelt "thank-you".  Tomorrow, I am hosting an appreciation lunch for the members of Student Council who assisted us during the first week homeroom classes with the tasks teachers could not perform due to job action.  I also got to observe a couple of excellent lessons today, specifically one of a teacher going through the evaluation process where she very effectively got students talking about bullying and ways to combat it, employing all kinds of technology (powerpoint and video examples for her own discussion, as well as promoting student cellphone use for their own anti-bullying PSA videos), and she handled the class with an easy aplomb.  It was a pleasure to be in the room and throughout the hallways during the day.

It got me to thinking about the impact of teaching.  Being World Teacher Day, I wanted to show some gratitude to the teachers at Burnett, as well as the inspiring people who have helped shape me into the person I am today.  I know that there is a call for reform in education, and as we move forward into a largely unknown future, we do need to look at constantly improving how we go about our business.  That does not mean, however, that everything we are doing and have been doing is wrong.  I look at the experience I had as a student, and recall it fondly, but when I compare it to the experience I see today's students getting, and the people they are becoming, I am exceedingly impressed.  Students today are even more tolerant, literate, creative, thoughtful, and socially and environmentally aware, to list only a few of the skills we see in our students each day (check out blog posts by Chris Wejr and Cale Birk on this topic).  Much of that must be attributed to how they are being taught.

I would also like to take the time to applaud the efforts of some of the more influential teachers I had while growing up.  I always enjoyed being at school, and the things I learned and the experiences I had created positive memories, and lessons that will last a lifetime.  Acknowledgements to Chris Kennedy for his post, A Little Bit About Mrs. Caffrey, that has inspired my reflecting.

  • Mrs. Webster-my grade 1 teacher.  I was new to the area, having just returned from the United States.  I didn't know many people, but her classroom was so welcoming and warm, I could not help but become comfortable with her and my classmates.  
  • Mr. Porter-my grade  4 teacher.  A year I will never forget.  I was hit by a car in early November, and nearly lost my life.  Mr. Porter helped both my friends and myself get through a very difficult time.  Always the teacher, when he learned of my accident, he used the skeleton hanging from the door for Halloween to talk about what had happened to me, and performed an anatomy lesson of sorts to inform the class of which bones had been broken.
  • Mr. McTavish-high school PE teacher and rugby and basketball coach.  A man many of us looked up to and tried desperately to impress.  A national level rugby player and fantastically inspiring coach who put countless hours into the lives of the students in his classes and on his teams.  Extolling the virtues of discipline and hard-work, his lessons still resonate with me today.
  • Mr. Hallett-high school Biology teacher.  A teacher passionate about his subject area, but more importantly, someone students saw as a real human.  His sense of humour outdid all the others, as he dressed in black on test day.  It was his challenge to us to see if we could outperform his exams.  He honestly wanted us to.  Most indicative of his impact were the number of students, past and present, who showed up at his funeral a few years after our class graduated.
  • Mr. Auman-high school basketball coach.  Provided me opportunities in something that I loved, and nurtured my thirst to learn, improve and chase my dream of playing the game that has helped develop so many of the life skills I value most.
  • My parents-the ultimate educators.  Their teaching continues today, as I learn from them how to raise my children.  A nurse and and a professor, they have dedicated their lives to helping others, and have always worked hard doing so.  They set the bar for my sister and me, have supported us beyond measure, and we are fortunate to have had them be the role-models they are for leading a happy, successful life.   
  • Too many others to list-coaches and mentors from my young adult life until today.  Constantly asking me questions, provoking my thinking, pushing my efforts and modelling the ethics required to make things happen.

So to all of the fantastic teachers I had growing up, and to the wonderfully dedicated and talented educators I see all around me at Burnett Secondary, keep up the important and inspired work that you are doing.  Please know that you are making a difference in the lives of many, and that you are greatly appreciated.  Thank you.

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