I guess it is about time that I share on here the podcast "Inspiring Women Series", hosted by Shannon Mullen, that I was asked to participate in last week. Shannon is one of my long time and dearest friends. Not only do we share a birthday, but we also shared many formative experiences in high school together. Shannon is inspirational women herself - highly educated, articulate, thoughtful and adventurous. When she asked me to participate in her podcast, I was humbled.
Here is what Shannon shared as an introduction to our conversation:
“I’m just one person trying to leave the world a little better than I found it.”
The seventh episode of the Inspiring Women Series is my conversation with Megan Valois, a high school teacher in the Ottawa Catholic School Board and a longtime friend of mine.
Since she is one of the hardest working, most caring, and most positive women that I know, I feel fortunate that Megan was willing to share her story, insights, and passions with me.
Megan grew up in Ottawa, Ontario, where she currently lives and works. As a young girl, she was inspired by her father’s commitment to volunteerism, and became dedicated to community service herself.
“His name on a bulletin board wouldn’t mean anything to a lot of people…but the people who did know him were greatly impacted by him, and that’s the type of person that I want to be.”
During high school, she volunteered at her church, was involved in her school’s Youth Ministry and Peer Helping programs, and spearheaded the Student Ambassador Program for Kids Help Phone in Ottawa. In 2002, she received the Governor General’s Caring Canadian Award for her contributions to the greater community.
“It’s just the little things that, cumulatively, create a person’s legacy.”
After “fast-tracking” from high-school, Megan completed a Bachelor of Arts degree at Acadia University in Nova Scotia. Following her graduation, Megan moved back home and earned her Bachelor of Education degree at the University of Ottawa with teachables in English and History at the Intermediate and Secondary Levels. She also has additional qualifications in Special Education, Primary/Junior Education, and French as a Second Language.
Megan has been working as a high school teacher for 10 years and is currently teaching Grade 11 English and Grade 10 history, including a “sheltered class” which consists of only ESL students. As a teacher, Megan is passionate about differentiated instruction, Assessment for Learning, 21st Century Learning, and the use of technology in the classrooms. Megan moderates Canadian Ed Chat and has completed her Google Apps for Education training. In 2012-2013, Megan received the honour of being one of five teachers recognized by Queen’s University as “Associate Teacher of the Year.”
“I would love to do something that has a big impact on education.”
As she is very invested in ongoing professional learning, Megan uses much of her spare time networking with other educators online, preparing for conference presentations, and attending professional development workshops. However, since giving birth to her son, Ethan, just under two years ago, Megan has learned to balance her passion for teaching with her family responsibilities.
In this episode of the Inspiring Women Series, Megan discusses her passion for education, the unique challenges of being an “army wife” (her husband, Travis, serves in the Canadian Armed Forces), her desire to make a difference in the world, and the importance of surrounding herself with positive people.
“I thrive on positive energy because when you are around like-minded people who really want to make a positive impact, it really causes you to look inward as well and ask yourself: ‘Where is my passion? What is my fire? Where do I want to go? What do I want to do? What kind of impact do I want to have?'”
Here's the results of our conversation if you'd like to listen to our whole conversation: https://shannonmullen.me/2016/06/09/inspiring-women-series-a-conversation-with-megan-valois/
In the past few days, I have spent a lot of my time reading about the Stanford University campus rape case and sharing articles, including my brief thoughts, on social media.
And maybe I’m not going to make a lot of friends by sharing these thoughts. Maybe people who don’t want to discuss serious issues and want to keep everything lighthearted will un-follow me. Please, feel free.
“Silence, like a cancer, grows” - Simon and Garfunkel
Because, as a woman and moreover, a teacher, I feel it is extremely important that I speak out on issues that are not only dominating national and international news headlines but ones that can and will very likely impact the lives of the students who I teach.
I recently watched the Netflix/CNN films documentary “The Hunting Ground” on the recommendation of a former student who has a college diploma in social work and is currently completing a university degree in the same field.
I would love to say that it was astonishing in what it portrayed but the sad reality is that it was not. Distressful, appalling, nauseating? Yes. Shocking? No.
One in five college women will be sexually assaulted. That means that whether I want to admit it or not, I have and will teach students who have and will end up being sexually assaulted. Statistically, that is a fact. And that makes me literally, not figuratively, sick to my stomach.
Sexual assault is rampant on college campuses. And the statistics are very likely conservative… on the low end of the spectrum… of actual assaults given that victims of these crimes often do not report these crimes for a host of reasons, including fear, shame, guilt and trauma to name a few.
It is also important to take a moment to refute the naysayers. Significant research has been done on the topic of false accusations. It is estimated that between 2-8% of cases (from Hunting Ground documentary, multiple sources) that are reported are, in fact, false. I am not condoning this in any way, shape or form. Any person who falsely accuses anyone of a crime does not only a great injustice to that person they falsely accuse but also insults the entire criminal justice system and all of us who support and believe survivors. So please be cognizant that I am not in denial about the fact that false accusations do exist and my heart goes out to the men and women who are falsely accused, as they are also victims. I stand with them as I do with all other victims.
That said, the majority of cases are not false accusations. In fact, in many cases, the accused is a repeat offender. In one study cited in “The Hunting Ground”, a staggering statistic was presented: “Less than 8% of men in college commit more than 90% of sexual assaults”. I was stupefied by this.
This is why we need women and men to join their voices together to decry sexual assault and rape culture. We know that very few men are raping women. We know that most men are loving, responsible, respectful people. We need them to join with us to reprehend those who commit these crimes.
If you are unfamiliar with the recent case at Stanford University, please allow me to fill you in on the key facts.
A young woman, who was inebriated and unconscious, was sexually assaulted behind a dumpster in the early morning hours one January day in 2015. By sheer miracle, two young men, Ph.D. students, were biking to a party and observed Brock Turner on top of this girl. They noticed she was not moving. Not at any point. No movement at all. They immediately approached and questioned him. He fled. One stayed with the victim, still unconscious, while the other pursued the assailant, Brock Turner, and physically restrained him until police arrived. If not for their selfless and brave actions, who knows what would have become of “Ms. Emily Doe”.
Brock Turner was found guilty of three sexual assault charges. The usual sentence for such a crime is up to 14 years in prison. He received 6 months… possibly as few as 3 with good behaviour. All the more insulting is that Brock Turner’s father, Mr. Dan Turner, felt that this sentence was far too severe for “20 minutes of action” in a 20 year life, as he so stated in his letter to the court. (See link to full letter below).
The survivor of the Stanford assault committed by Brock Turner has become the face of the spirit and resilience of survivors. Ironic, in that we do not know who she is, by name or appearance. And yet, this speaks to the power of words to touch the human spirit and rally people towards the cause of justice.
The eloquent and impassioned letter shared by “Emily Doe” in court after learning of the ‘slap on the wrist’ that her rapist received, is something that will resonate with a generation.
“Ruin a life, one life, yours, you forgot about mine. Let me rephrase for you, I want to show people that one night of drinking can ruin two lives. You and me. You are the cause, I am the effect.”
“You took away my worth, my privacy, my energy, my time, my safety, my intimacy, my confidence, my own voice, until today.”
“And finally, to girls everywhere, I am with you. On nights when you feel alone, I am with you. When people doubt you or dismiss you, I am with you. I fought every day for you. So never stop fighting, I believe you. Lighthouses don’t go running all over an island looking for boats to save; they just stand there shining. Although I can’t save every boat, I hope that by speaking today, you absorbed a small amount of light, a small knowing that you can’t be silenced, a small satisfaction that justice was served, a small assurance that we are getting somewhere, and a big, big knowing that you are important, unquestionably, you are untouchable, you are beautiful, you are to be valued, respected, undeniably, every minute of every day, you are powerful and nobody can take that away from you. To girls everywhere, I am with you. Thank you.”
The courts may have denied her justice by sentencing her convicted rapist to only 6 months in prison but justice will be hers. She will have the final word. Her suffering will be acknowledged. Her legacy will not be one of victimization. Her legacy will forever be that of courage in the face of unspeakable injustice. And while none of this will ever take away the hurt and the pain and horror that she has gone through, hopefully she will realize that there are so many millions of people who are supporting her and believing in her and proud of her for being the “lighthouse”.
Vice President of the United States of America, Joe Biden, shared a beautiful open letter (https://www.buzzfeed.com/tomnamako/joe-biden-writes-an-open-letter-to-stanford-survivor?utm_term=.sob7aQVqG#.kpex9PWn6) to “Emily Doe” today. I hope that everyone takes the time to read it. He expresses what so many of us are thinking and feeling and sharing.
I do not know your name — but I see your unconquerable spirit.
I see the limitless potential of an incredibly talented young woman — full of possibility. I see the shoulders on which our dreams for the future rest.
I see you.
You will never be defined by what the defendant’s father callously termed “20 minutes of action.”
His son will be.
I join your global chorus of supporters, because we can never say enough to survivors: I believe you. It is not your fault.
What you endured is never, never, never, NEVER a woman’s fault.
And while the justice system has spoken in your particular case, the nation is not satisfied.
And that is why we will continue to speak out.
And so, speak out I will.
I will stand with survivors. I will decry rape culture. I will speak out against privilege in justice. I will not be silenced by fear of what people will think.
Stand up for what you believe in, even if you are standing alone. And standing alone, I am not. I stand with millions of men and women, all over the world, who know that human dignity and rights matter and that no one has the right to victimize another human being.
“The seriousness of rape has to be communicated clearly, we should not create a culture that suggests we learn that rape is wrong through trial and error.”
"The idea that your son has never violated another woman next to a dumpster before isn’t a credit to his character. We don’t get kudos for only raping one person in our lifetime."
– John Pavlovitz
I will teach my students that every person has worth and value and no one EVER has the right to hurt you in any way.
"Hear my words that I might teach you
Take my arms that I might reach you" - Simon and Garfunkel
I will be a part of the solution. I will not be a part of the problem. I will add my voice to the chorus. I will stand with survivors.
Joe Biden Letter: https://www.buzzfeed.com/tomnamako/joe-biden-writes-an-open-letter-to-stanford-survivor?utm_term=.msxakbK0r#.yqgbeP6Ng
Mr. Dan Turner Letter: http://heavy.com/news/2016/06/brock-turner-father-dad-dan-turner-full-letter-statement-stanford-rapist/
John Pavlovitz Letter: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/john-pavlovitz/to-brock-turners-father-from-another-father_b_10339418.html?ir=Canada+Living
Rape Survivor Statement: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/the-stanford-rape-case-read-the-victims-full-courtroomstatement/article30329342/
Hunting Ground Movie: http://www.thehuntinggroundfilm.com/
As a Canadian History teacher who also happens to be an Army wife (and the grand daughter of a WWII soldier and daughter of a Canadian Navy service man), I am very passionate about the importance of Remembrance Day. As such, I make an effort to try to educate my students about the importance of this day.
If you're looking for a resource, please feel free to use this Google Slides presentation with your class:
Lest We Forget.
So after a year's hiatus (no, I didn't give up on technology or blogging... I was on maternity leave!), I'm back at it!
I had an idea today while looking at my Twitter feed. I follow a lot of AWESOME people. Mostly people in education related fields. And while we all share a lot of the same priorities and interests, we all have our certain set of true passions.
I've decided that starting next week, I am going to have a themed, weekly, "Follow Friday" post. I will link to the reasons WHY I am encouraging you to follow certain educators, based on their particular passion. For example, one week I might have assessment gurus to follow and the next might be digital citizenship passionate educators, or literacy passionate educators.
Each of us (and people in all walks of life and careers) have many interests and talents to offer, so this is certainly not to "pigeon hole" anyone but we often have a thing or two that shines through for us (for me: DI, student success, assessment, edtech). I hope to highlight this each week!
I welcome anyone else interested to join me in the #FF challenge by choosing people from their Twitter lists who match up with my weekly theme! Hopefully, together, we can all find more engaging, passionate and inspirational teachers to follow - because there's thousands upon thousands of them out there!
First #followfriday theme for September 4th is: Brilliant (Edu) Bloggers!
So choose your favourite educator-bloggers and show them some #FF appreciation!
#followfriday for September 11th is: Google Gurus
Choose the educators you think are Google geniuses and show some #ff love! Use the hashtag #ffchallenge15 (#ffchallenge is in use!)
#followfriday for September 18th is: Amazing Advocates
Choose educators, thought leaders, etc. who advocate on behalf of students in a bold and passionate way and share their passion with others! #ffchallenge15
I am very sorry that I had to miss your exams on Tuesday and Wednesday (today). As many of you have heard by now, I was in a car accident before school yesterday. I was assessed at the hospital and released and am doing okay!! Thank you to those who sent messages of support. I appreciate it very much!
Thank you for a great semester. I hope that you all have a wonderful and relaxing summer and a great year next year! I hope to have the chance to see you when I pop in for a visit with the baby!
Monday morning I was greeted with tragic news when I opened my inbox at work; the 14 year old sister of one of my Grade 9 students had been killed in a car accident on Sunday evening. His parents, other sister and grandma had also been injured in the crash. Even as an adult, how does one begin to comprehend this kind of tragedy?
Obviously, my first thoughts were with my student; how unbelievably painful this loss must be and hoping that he was coping, as best he could, with the support of his loved ones.
And then, in reading the news as I always do, an article caught my attention.
Now, there's certainly no right or wrong way to grieve, but if you knew Joe, you would not be surprised at all that from this tragedy he is not only grieving, but seeking to make a difference... because that's the type of kid that he is. He's the one that is always smiling and always has a kind word for everyone!
"Joe Rabay has also started a seat belt campaign called “Wear it for Carine” and is handing out bracelets at Frank Ryan Catholic Intermediate School, where she attended Grade 8."
Even in his time of deep loss and at only 15 years of age, Joe is reaching out to others to honour his sister and prevent a tragedy like this from happening to another family.
Please share Joe and Carine's story and take your own pledge to buckle up and "Wear it for Carine".
I'm excited to have the opportunity to lead some professional development on Google Apps for Education at my school in the next few weeks.
Back in early March, I presented on Hangouts and Scripts at our Ottawa Catholic School Board IT conference - SummIT X. As someone who is passionate about Google, it was lots of fun to present on the advantages of using GAFE! If you're interested in my sessions, check them out here:
Since Windows XP is no longer being supported by Microsoft next year, our focus is really on using GAFE, which our board has been using for a few years now. In order to help my colleagues make the transition, I am offering some brief sessions. I will be doing my best to Hangout on Air for most sessions so keep your eyes peeled for later posts!
Google “Docs” 101 - Beginner Session (April 24)
Are you interested in learning how to log in to Google docs to create documents, make folders, upload your files from your USB “to the cloud” (on Google!) and share and edit documents with anyone in the world? Want your students to submit their work online and you can see exactly what time it was submitted and when it was last edited and by whom? Want to create a document that several people can work on at once, and be able to see exactly WHO typed what part of the document? Join us for this session all about how to get started with Google Docs!
Google Forms 101 - Beginner (May 15)
Are you familiar with how to log into your Google drive? Are you comfortable using Google docs but want to learn more? Do you want to learn about how to make surveys and even quizzes using Google forms? These are a great tool for formative assessment - and they are quick and easy!!
Google Hangouts 101 - Beginner (May 29)
Have you heard of Skype? Are you interested in having the ability to video conference with anyone across the world, for free? You can not only video call together but you can work on shared documents (from Google docs) WITHIN the call and work together! You can also use this to call other classes or do PD/meetings from home!
Simplify your life with Google! - Intermediate (June 5)
Are you feeling comfortable with the basics of Google? Do you want to find some cool tools (apps/extensions/scripts) that will make your life EASIER?! Join this session to learn about tips and tricks that will save you time!! You’ll learn how to clear a page of ads, screencast, block ads on YouTube videos, automatically “mark” formative assessment quizzes and more!
First of all, I feel terrible about my delay in posting this. No excuse, other than being busy, and we all are!!
I was really humbled to be nominated by 3 people:
Michelle Cordy (@cordym)
Jeffrey Humphries (@itechteach)
Amy Bowker (@classcollect).
Michelle and I met online through Canadian Ed Chat (#cdnedchat). Together, we worked our way through our Google Apps for Education certification! She is a resourceful, intelligent, and caring 1:1 iPad Grade 3/4 teacher who blogs at: http://hacktheclassroom.ca/.
Jeffrey is one of the awesome people in my PLN, who also happens to be from Ottawa... where I am!! He regularly participates in #cdnedchat, which I moderate, and I have learned so much from his contributions... especially because he is way more tech savvy than I am! :) Check him out here: http://www.technology4all.ca/blog.html
Amy and I met at #EdCampOttawa... she was one of the organizers. My favourite part was how we saw each other and both recognized each other from Twitter.... "Hey, you're @MsValois! Yes! You're @classcollect." Had some great conversations with her that day about DI and love what she is doing with education in her class. Her blog is just awesome: http://classroomcollective.tumblr.com/ Tons of resources and ideas!
Here is how it works:
11 Facts about Me:
1. I have a cat and a dog (German Shepherd): Fynn and Jack. I was terrified of big dogs until we got ours!
2. My favourite city to visit (of all time) is Washington, DC. I am obsessed. I went twice in 4 months!
3. I didn't get my first SmartPhone until last May!
4. This past summer, I read 1 book every 3 or so days! (Yes, I don't have children... haha!)
5. I run on coffee as fuel! My daily order from Tim Hortons is an extra large with 2 cream, half sugar and a creamy caramel flavour shot!
6. I don't like shopping; crowds bother me.
7. This year for Thanksgiving, I cooked my first ever turkey!
8. I rarely watch TV; I only really follow 3 shows: Homeland, Criminal Minds and Law and Order SVU
9. Except for two school field trips (last year and year before), I can't even remember the last time I went to a movie theatre! I am pretty sure the last movie I saw was the 3D Christmas Carol with Jim Carrey in 2009 with my Mom!
10. I am proud of my husband; he is in the Canadian Armed Forces and has twice deployed in service to the CAF.
11. If I had to choose between sweet or savoury, I'd always choose sweet.
11 Questions for me:
1. What Disney Character would you be?
Mary Poppins! Not a traditional Disney character but it is a Disney film! :) If I have to choose animated, Belle. I think she's the least "damsel in distress" of the Disney princess group; at least she shows some bravery and conviction.
2. What is the coolest app you have read about or use?
Right now, it's just Chrome Extensions in general.
3. Have you ever skyped in your classroom?
No, I prefer Google Hangout. :)
4. What twitter chats do you follow?
Too many to list but I'd be remiss if I didn't shout out to the chat I help moderate: Canadian Ed Chat. #cdnedchat - every Monday at 8pm EST.
5: What is the best thing about teaching?
6. What is your favourite stationary item?
Do Post It Notes count? Love those!
7. Cake or Ice Cream?
Cake, but only with butter cream icing... or else I scrape off the icing.
8. House Pet: Snake or Ferret?
I'd rather stick a pencil in my eye than have either. I guess snake.
9. Favourite Movie?
I can't choose one! Fried Green Tomatoes (I watched it more than 25 times when I was a kid... around 9/10 years old) and the Life of David Gale.
10: Best gift you ever got?
Hmmm. Probably the scrapbook my Mom made me for my 16th- symbolic. My parents also bought me a car (99 Sunfire!) when I graduated University with honours. That was pretty awesome!!!
11. Why did you want to become a teacher?
See answer 5. ;)
My "sunshine nominees"
Because I love DI, so much, I am differentiating this assignment for my blogging needs! ;) I am listing 11 people to follow on Twitter. If they have a blog, you can check out their blog too and they can answer the questions, if they choose. But there are some great people on Twitter who may not have blogs.... or active blogs.. and maybe this will be a reason for them to start blogging or continue! :)
I know that both Jennie and Jason have already been mentioned but I really had to include them both on my list.
1. Dana Ariss (@danaariss). Blog: www.daariss.wordpress.com
2. Theresa Wells-Taylor (@thecandydish)
3. James Petersen (@jpetersen02): Blog: www.mrjpetersen.weebly.com
4. Paul McGuire (@mcguirp) Blog: http://paulmcguire1.wordpress.com/
5. Nicholas Ferroni (@nicholasferroni): He writes for the Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/nicholas-ferroni/
6. Jason Markey (@JasonMMarkey): Blog: http://jmarkeyap.blogspot.ca/
7. Stephane Crete (@stephanecrete)
8. Rola Tibshirani (@rolat): Blog: http://learninginprogess.blogspot.ca/ and http://ensemble-together.blogspot.ca/
9. Shannon Smith (@shannoninottawa): Blog: http://shannoninottawa.com/
10. Moss Pike (@mosspike): Blog: http://cinisetfavilla.blogspot.ca/
11. Jennie Magiera (@msmagiera) http://www.teachinglikeits2999.com/
Questions for my nominees: (Some of these "borrowed" from other posts!)
Yesterday was the second part of my teacher performance appraisal (TPA) - some of you probably call these teacher evaluations. Ours is a multi step process: an initial meeting to discuss objectives/criteria and sharing session, in-class observation and follow up session.
For my TPA, I asked my vice-principal to come and observe two of my classes - my Grade 10 Applied History class and my Grade 9 Academic English class, as these classes have very different dynamics. My Grade 10 History class is a very energetic group. Sometimes we struggle with focus, attention and staying on task. This is all a part of the reality of teaching and so I didn't shy away from having this class as one of my 'observation' classes.
It got me thinking of something that Jennie Magiera said at the GAFE conference this week (Trust me... she said it better - she's way more witty than I am... but you'll get the idea). She said that she used to be so excited and proud when the principal would walk by her class and all the students were completing silent, working away in their rows with their books. Score one for the teacher being in total control! Woo hoo! And yet, she said that same thought now makes her shudder! The idea of someone walking by her class and seeing rows of children in complete silence is the exact opposite of what she wants to represent her as a teacher! And I feel the same way!
Why is it that we still have this outdated, archaic idea that a quiet classroom is always a better classroom? Sure, we don't want kids swinging from the ceilings, throwing things across the room and yelling obscenities! But, what about "productive" noise? Is it better to have rows of silent students pretending to do worksheets or is it better to have lots of noise coming from students who are learning?
Here's a little clip of my students engaging in "productive noise". Instead of doing "comprehension questions", we do "learning stations".
What does this have to do with my performance appraisal, you ask? I told my students that the vice-principal was going to be dropping in to observe the class; I didn't elaborate because I didn't want the students to act differently (better or worse!) based on his reason for being with us. I just wanted them to not be surprised when he showed up. I explained to them that I welcome admin to come visit us anytime to see the cool things that we are learning!
Before class started, a student approached me and said: "My brother made a bet with me that you are going to act differently today because the VP is here". What?! - I thought! I asked her to explain that to me. She said that they thought that I would be "more traditional" because admin was coming to my class! I assured them I would be doing nothing differently than I normally did!
At the end of the day, I asked him... so, did I act differently?
Well, PHEW! I would hate to think that because admin comes into my room, I go from energetic, bouncy, joking, smiling, modern connection making, team work loving teacher to some kind of robot... some "non tolerant" teacher! Strict? I don't need to be "strict" by the definition they go by... my students know my expectations! They know that my classroom runs on respect and relationships! I don't need to yell or tell them all to be SILENT; they know when to listen (usually! They are STILL kids - they have their moments!) and when to get learning! I have MY style that works for me and my students! It's not about what other people do or don't do... it's not a competition or a comparison! I know what is going on inside my four walls and I adapt my teaching and learning according to my class dynamic! I wouldn't change just for the sake of perception! We are who are! (Sorry, didn't mean to make a Ke$ha reference.... #edufail).
But I have to wonder... why did they think that I would change? Is my way of doing things so 'uncommon' and 'untraditional' that they think what I am doing is something I need to cover up or hide from the higher powers? Where do our students get the messaging about what teaching and learning looks like? Do they think there is only one style that is okay? Do they think that people perceive noise and movement as bad? And on that last question... are they right?
This was a very interesting experience for me; not only from an evaluation standpoint but because of what it taught me about my students' perceptions and certainly, it re-affirmed for me, that many of them enjoy the way I do things.
(Photo courtesy of Edutopia.Org via Lisa Dabbs. No copyright infrigement intended.)
Here's something that I have been thinking about for a while... professional development. I have so many things to say about refining, revamping, re-assessing professional development opportunities for educators.... but I'll try to keep the focus narrow this time on one or two aspects.
The realm of professional development opportunities have been greatly opened, enriched and enhanced by the power of the Internet. Web searches, podcasts, resource libraries and sharing, websites, Twitter chats, Google Hangouts, virtual conferences, online libraries web 2.0 tools are just a small sample of the amazing ways that educators can connect online as never before, opening a whole world of collaboration and learning that was not available before!
I love my PLN. I have learned so much online through the amazing educators that I connect with. In fact, I love them so much, I wrote a thank-you letter in an earlier blog post! For that, check here: http://assessmentforlearning.weebly.com/1/post/2013/11/to-my-pln-what-i-need-you-to-know-ce13.html
But here's the thing... I appreciate traditional PD also. There are some really amazing conferences out there. This year alone, I can name 5 that I would like to have attended. What's the barrier? Funding. The biggest barrier, for me, is the lack of funding available for professional development opportunities. Take the GAFE summit in Montreal, for example. It's taking place on Saturday and Sunday, December 7-8. Transportation there/back (either fuel and parking, or train ticket) is about $100. Add in a night or two at a hotel (if I take the train, I'd have to go Friday night, because it doesn't leave early enough on Saturday) at $120 a night. Top that off with the conference fee of $249 and even eating thrifty costs money and a weekend conference costs almost half a grand! That's a weekend conference with no supply cost built in! ECOO happened in October in Niagara Falls. Again, same situation! Transportation, hotel, food, conference cost, supply teacher cost... you're looking at almost $1000. Don't even get me starting about ITSE in Georgia this year. The plane ticket alone is almost $500... add in 4 night of lodging ($600) plus food (~$200) and conference cost ($380), you're looking at closer to $1500.
The point? I can't afford $3000 in professional development costs a year. I wish I could. I am passionate enough that I will give up weekends and summers for PD (in fact, I often spend evenings and weekends at free PD, such as EdCamp Ottawa on November 23 of this year!) but I can't shell out that kind of money, on top of all the other expenses in my life and in my profession. When the only funding available is a 1/3, 1/3, 1/3 split every 2 years, I appreciate this but I can't keep up with all the new and amazing opportunities available without breaking the bank!
And I get thinking... so many other organizations provide opportunities like this free of charge. As someone with many close family/friends working at various levels of government, I know that they often go on all-expenses paid professional development, across the province, country and even world. They are not asked to pay conference fees... not even their own food cost or flight cost. Meanwhile, if I want to attend a really great conference... even if it requires me to miss NO days of work, I'm still shelling out $250-$1500. And I think this is an issue. I think it's hindering me from becoming the best I can be.
I think if you want teachers to be better versions of themselves, you need to provide tangible opportunities for growth and inspiration. And in my board, I am lucky that we have great consultants and board staff who travel to conferences and bring back learning but here's the reality: sometimes, teachers get tired of hearing all the great conferences that consultant X went to and all the great things that department X wants teachers to now use in their classes. If you want your teachers to get inspired and motivated and excited, you need to send THEM to these conferences. Let them network and see awesomeness (yes, I used that word) in ACTION! Let TEACHERS come back from these conferences and share their learning with their colleagues.... showing how they are implementing these great things in a classroom. And while it's important for consultants and superintendents to learn about these initiatives and share them with teachers, sometimes it's even more important for people who are in the classrooms every day to learn these strategies first-hand and implement them and share with everyone else: "this is what I'm doing and it's working and I can help you do it too!" Because lateral professional sharing and collaboration is powerful.... usually much more powerful than top-down sharing.
And I say this from experience. A few years ago, I had the amazing experience of an all expenses paid trip to a Ministry Differentiated Instruction conference in Toronto. And it DID pump me up! I came back SO inspired that I created this DI strategies booklet (https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B3R3CWEwwMLYMk1kRlp2b25seUE/edit) in one weekend! It has been shared with my staff, other schools in our board and even given out as a resource by the Student Success department at my school board to all DI teams. THIS is the power of PD!
And so I hope that maybe, someday, we are able to revamp and reassess the access to great PD that teachers have. Are we meeting their needs? How are we hindering students by not providing teachers with ways to access opportunities to improve themselves? What can we do to challenge teachers and keep them motivated, invigorated and passionate, like I was when I came home from Toronto and when I reached out to my online PLN.
Because sometimes, we need to remember that money spent on PD is not an expense, but an investment.
Who am I?
Hi! I'm Megan. 21st century learner and teacher. I am passionate about DI, assessment, student success and #edtech. My blog is where I share what is happening in my classes, my professional learning and sometimes things that are on the outer circle of education. Comments always welcome!