Teacher’s convention has been somewhat of a permanent fixture in my calendar every February ever since I started elementary school. As a kid, you’re excited for a few extra days off around the Family Day weekend. As a university student in education, we began to understand concepts like professional development- as in the case of convention- and how learning new strategies enhanced your practice.
Convention itself has a lot to offer every year, and the first time I attended as a new teacher, I learned very quickly the flow of those two days and what to expect. Big names like Ken Robinson, Chris Hadfield and Clara Hughes would headline as the keynote speakers. Some with the intention to inspire you; others to invite you to dream along with them about all education could be.
The dreams were big and bold, but at the end of the day, what about practicality? How can these dreams become reality? The trick was finding the answers in the breadth of information offered.
As you move from speakers to exhibits, it became a whole new world. Scouting the booths for the best treats or freebies while simultaneously try to dodge those that just seemed to want to sell you something. The exhibit hall was a maze of programs, products and people, and it became a game of sorting through it all to figure out what was worthwhile. After all, there were more than enough people promoting the best programs- it was hard to know what might actually work for you.
This year, I stood on the other side of the booth. It’s amazing the difference in perspective you gain by simply standing on the opposite side of a table with a few brochures, a bowl of candy, and draw box to hopefully entice people to stop. I recognized right away the “avoid” tactics I used to try so I wouldn’t have to talk, and I have admitted to doing a quick reach and grab for a bottle of water with a polite smile before heading off again. I became one of those people that teachers were sizing up to see if I was worth their time. Jim Matthews took time from exhibiting with me to facilitate a session on educational buzzwords and their importance in 21st century learning. I believe in what we do and I know he believes in what we do, so how do we make others believe in what we do?
Personalized learning. Character education. Bullying. Positive school culture and student/ teacher relationships. These are some of the words that represent what we value and recognize as important in education today. Some we’re working towards, some we’re struggling with, and with others we don’t know where to begin. It is easy to be overwhelmed if you look at the whole picture and see where the missing or misplaced pieces are, instead of seeing the pieces that already fit well and are helping to complete the picture.
The same goes for ourselves. It is easy to be frustrated in what we perceive as our weaknesses- we look at what is wrong with the picture instead of looking at what is great about it. Ask instead, what are your strengths? From there it is much less daunting to look at what needs improvement and how to use your strengths to accomplish that, one piece at a time.
The same goes for education. I love to be inspired as much as the next teacher- those amazing “what if’s” for what a classroom could look like are wonderful to think about, but how does that happen? By breaking it down, one piece at a time. That’s what we do, that’s what we believe in, and we’re pretty sure we’re not the only ones.
Everyone is great at something. Once you recognize what is great about you, it is much simpler to help someone else on the journey of discovering the value in themselves and what they have to offer. It’s what brought me to education in the first place, and that focus is what eventually put me on the other side of the booth.
I shifted my perspective in what it means to look at the student. Instead of focusing on the latest and greatest educational theories to discover how to reach students, I simply focused on them first. The rest of the pieces- the practices that will encourage them as learners- will be easier to place from there.
By: Breanne Mainprize, Impact Society