Here I am, eight short weeks away from the Provincial Instructor Diploma Program (PIDP) finishing line… Or maybe this is the starting line? The start of a learning journey which has merely been paved by the PIDP. Either way, what an insightful journey it has been so far. I started at the back end of 2014 with a few years teaching experience under the belt but a very limited education on how to actually teach, hence the title “aren’t we all just winging it?”. I’ll quote my first professor in the PIDP “its ok John, I ruined peoples lives for years too”. Albeit a lighthearted comment it resonated, my pride made me defensive of my practice, my inner voice said “hey, I do ok thank you”… Here’s the truth, I may not have been ‘ruining’ lives but (beware cliché ahead) if I knew then what I….well, you get the idea.
It’s a coincidence that my last assignment in 3260 was a digital project on using Video recording as an instructor feedback strategy (“Hit record” below), as I have a lesson which I videoed about a year ago that I have reviewed a few times recently. Just this week I took Audrey Millers advice from her article “does this lesson make me look fat” and treated it like a ‘close read’ …It’s awful, I’m lucky that I had built a very good rapport with my students because although mildly entertaining, the lesson lacks so many things which I have researched and worked on over the last 16 months. I use a very loose version of “one minute paper” to pre assess knowledge, other than a few YouTube videos there are no real student engagement techniques, I had a habit of saying ‘super simple stuff’ (which really irritated me), I tended to focus on certain students for answers and glance over others in a presumptuous ‘they know the answer’ sort of way. The lesson material was horrible, think bullet points and out of date pictures, all things which at the time seemed ok, or even good to me…the list goes on. I wasn’t ineffective by any means, indeed all the students typically did well throughout the year, but I was far from as effective as I could or should have been. Our job as educators is to give the learner the best learning experience that we can, and at that point I was. However, if I were to approach a lesson today like I did a year ago I would be doing my learners and myself an injustice.
How do I describe the learning that I have experienced within the PIDP in a blog post? How about this “I am no longer defensive that I was ruining peoples lives” it’s true; I was ill-equipped by comparison. As an Engineer, I have spent my life thinking critically about processes or inanimate objects, figuring out the reasons things don’t work or the best solution to a problem. Naturally one would like to assume that this way of thinking trickles down to a personal level, but if I had to hone in on the most prominent piece of my learning from the PIDP it would be that I wasn’t nearly as critical or reflective as I should have been about myself and my practice; crudely speaking I was ‘bashing my way through’. I’m fully aware that I won’t suddenly rip off my tweed jacket and morph into ‘Super Teach’ just because I’ve completed a teaching qualification, this is just the beginning. Two professional aspirations of mine as I mentioned a few posts ago, are to achieve the professional status of Qualified Teacher, Learning and Skills (QTLS) in England, which is my country of citizenship (“Since 1 April 2012, Society for Education and Training (SET), members with QTLS status have been recognized as qualified to teach in schools”) and to hopefully progress onto a Masters program in Education here in Canada. So, when will I be ‘qualified’? Now? On successful completion of a Masters? After 25 years of teaching? EVER?? Does being ‘qualified’ really mean anything? You could be the best surgeon in the world but if you choose to attempt open heart surgery with a set of marigolds, a screwdriver and a blunt pair of craft scissors are you going to be efficient or successful? Is ‘qualified’ then just a term proving to others that you have passed the necessary prerequisites to practice your particular profession? My opinion is that ‘qualified’ means that yes you may have gone through the schooling, but more importantly you are confident in your ability and you strive to keep on getting better. To keep pushing our professional practice we must be lifelong learners, honest with ourselves, objective and reflective. As I said our role as educators is promote learning in the best possible way; people change, concepts and theories change and therefore to remain current if not ahead of the ‘game’ we need to make sure we do not rest on our teaching laurels.
“Our whole life is an Education, — we are “ever-learning,”every moment of time, everywhere, under all circumstances something is being added to the stock of our previous attainments. Mind is always at work when once its operations commence. All men are learners, whatever their occupation, in the palace, in the cottage, in the park, and the field. These are the laws stamped upon Humanity-Progress, Advancement, Growth, Activity” – Edwin Paxton Hood, Self-Education: Twelve Chapters for Young Thinkers, 1852, p12.
“Progress, Advancement, Growth, Activity” this is what I have learnt from the PIDP.