Top Five Defining Teaching Moments

Jonathan So (@MrSoclassroom) recently threw out an interesting challenge on Twitter for teachers: What are your top five, life-changing-as-a-teacher moments? His original post on his top five really got me thinking about what has made me stop, re-evaluate what I do, and change direction in how I teach. These are all fairly recent moments for me, so I'm guessing there's a little bit of memory bias in here, but here they are... :)

In chronological-ish order of occurrence:

1) Flipping my Classes - Handing the responsibility of learning over to my students was definitely career-changing. I learned so much from my students in terms of how they learn (because they were each choosing to learn in their own way), and how they collaborate, and  I saw first-hand how the allowance of self-paced curriculum can reduce stress and deepen understanding. It was humbling as I discovered my lectures weren't a necessary part of the learning process (students mastered even some of the hardest concepts with just small nudges, not a big, time-consuming presentation). Flipping my classes allowed me to spend so much more time talking with students, helping them where they needed help, and getting to know them so much better.

2) Making Global Connections - On a personal/professional level, I have never been so challenged, encouraged, and inspired as I have been by my PLN. Twitter has been instrumental in helping me connect with many teachers who teach similar grades and subjects, and even more teachers who teach dissimilar grades and subjects, thereby diversifying my learning. For my students, where I have been able to connect my classes with others, the learning has been incredible: broadening their horizons and giving them authentic audiences.

3) Ditching Effectiveness - At a Ministry of Education workshop on assessment a few years ago, we were encouraged to ditch the word "effectiveness" on our rubrics, and replace it with any one of a multitude of words that better described (to both teachers and students) what was expected of our students. Instead of being effective (which is so incredibly vague), we could hone in on certain skills and ask students to demonstrate precision, fluency, consistency, flexibility, breadth, or logic, among others. We called it the magic of page 18, referring to page 18 of Growing Success. This revolutionized my approach to rubrics and assessment.

4) Hedgehog Concept - After reading Good to Great (Collins), I was inspired to define my own hedgehog concept: what are my core values and strengths, and how do they help me focus on my big, hairy, audacious goal (BHAG)? I'm trying to apply this to my current role with the board, as well as my role as a gymnastics coach, and my role as an extra-curricular activity supervisor. I'm even trying to extend it to my personal life. I love the simplicity of it, as well as the depth. As things get more and more complicated, I find this to be a very grounding concept.

5) Strings - I had no idea what strings were (in the context of a math class) until a fellow board co-ordinator introduced me to them this past year. I learned even more about the power of the string from Cathy Fosnot's work in the #notabookstudy this spring (for elementary), and then through Pam Harris' work this summer (for secondary). I love how they change the approach to learning math, trying different methods, and then building on what students know as they work their way through a landscape of learning. I even tried some strings out on some young guests this summer! I was looking forward to integrating strings into my grade 11 math classes this semester, but now that I'm back at the board office, I'll have to file that away for another time. Hasn't changed my teaching practice (yet), but has definitely changed how I view how math is taught.

What are your top five defining moments as a teacher?


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