Personal Profile (gulp)

Posted: November 22, 2010 in Uncategorized

I am a veteran teacher, in chronological terms, working in a High School, the same one for the last seventeen years. This means I have attained a certain level of comfort in many areas that beginning teachers have to work harder at, such as classroom management issues, relationships with parents and other members of the stakeholders community, and the general comfort that comes from knowing just about all there is to know about the “mechanics” of my school. I am very comfortable with the curriculum the ministry wants me to teach every year. In this sense I am a veteran.

But I am still very much the same person I was when I began my teaching career. I love working with children: I consider it a huge privilege, perhaps even more so now than when I started out. I am not afraid of trying new ways of doing things, whether that mean using new assessment techniques, new planning systems, or new technologies. I continue to look for better ways to do things, better ways to deliver the curriculum. I am eager to find new and more proficient ways of connecting to students’ and their lives/realities; how can I make the material I teach them more interesting and pertinent? I want to use technology to the extent that it will a) be a “hook” for the students initially, but mainly be a more efficient way of conveying whatever it is I want to convey and b) enhance our (students’ and mine) learning experience.

Learning by doing, a hands on approach, is what comes naturally to me in terms of learning. I learn better if I read the “owner’s manual first” but I still usually read it only after failing at trying it on my own. I used to be called a type 4 learner; the kind that has to be given information in many different ways but always allowed to roll around in it until I’ve figured out what it means. I need variety. I usually meet major learning challenges by rolling up my sleeves and getting to it. I am not afraid to ask for help and with that in mind I like to line up some “people” help i.e.experts in the field that I can consult as I go along. I will usually also refer to a variety of back up learning tools and methods such as online resources, print texts, DVDs, blogs, and so forth.

This has led me to learn many new skills and strategies, particularly becoming familiar with severalĀ  new technologies and software. I have learned not to hesitate to ask for help. I have learned that my younger colleagues are often a great source of advice, knowledge, and expertise in many of the new technologies I’m trying to learn. Moreover, having mastered previous challenges, I have developed, built up, and enhanced my confidence (e.g. “if I was able to learn that, I can learn this”). I have learned to ask questions when I don’t know the answer. And sometimes when I do.

What challenges me most is a recurring fear that has been with me since my first years in elementary school and that I suspect every one deals with to one extent or another. This is the fear of not being good enough, that I’m not up to the task, that it’s too foreign, or just to complicated. I don’t mean the very healthy fear that keeps me from trying unsecured tightrope walking above the Grand Canyon: the fear we come with as human beings, designed to keep us alive. I mean that little voice that comes from who knows where, that voice that says you can’t do this, you’re not good enough to do this. I usually deal with this by walking right through the fear and not giving in to it. Thankfully over the years this has become easier but it still surprises me that I have to continue to contend with it.

I work best in an environment where I feel safe in taking risks, voicing opinions or answers that may be wrong or contrary to popular thinking. I respond very well to posititive feedback and criticism. I work well in groups that are learning the same thing or focusing on the same topic. I also work very well alone. Physical well being is very conducive to my learning well and effectively. I must preferably be well rested, well fed, and unstressed. I find that when these conditions are not met my learnign is hindered, slowed down considerably, or sometimes halted altogether. I have to watch out for what I call the arrogance trap: the feeling of “I already do that!” I also have to watch out for the Peter Principle, that posited (my words based on iffy recall) that a person keeps getting better and better at their job until, after five years of doing the same work, they reach a level of incompetence, where they think they don’t have anything left to learn. Another challenge in learning is when I don’t meet with immediate success; this can sometimes discourage me. I can also get angry when technology doesn’t work, or do what it’s supposed to do. These situations are often out of my control but if I’m not careful I can spend too much time thinking about it when I could be doing more productive work.

Finally some of my characteristics as a learner that I feel serve me very well are my inquiring nature, my lack of fear in asking questions and asking for help, and, probably my most valued quality as a learner, my stick-to-it-ness. I will stubbornly keep going until I meet with success because the alternative is just not an option I will envisage. What is the option? Not learning? Even my failures are learning experiences that eventually lead to success in the original learning endeavour. Unless I give up. But my determination to see things through usually ensure that doesn’t happen.

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