I have always believed that as long as you are learning and growing you are living. But as soon as you stop wanting to learn and grow, you start dying.
I know that this may sound a bit morbid, but the point that I am trying to get across with this is that I have always been a firm believer in life-long learning. In fact, this idea used to be the motto for the Durham Board of Education (“Learning Today – For Tomorrow”) when I started teaching in 1991 and it’s what initially attracted me to working for the DDSB.
Flash forward more than 27 years and we are now “igniting learning”, but the emphasis is still on all of us, students and staff alike, growing through learning.
When educators stop wanting to learn and grow then, in my opinion, that’s when it’s time to retire. And even though I know that at some point I will have to retire and make room for a new generation of educators, I am hopeful that, when that time comes, I will still not feel the need to retire. In fact, even though I can retire in a few years, I have no desire to do so as my role as an Educational Technology Coach is keeping me young! For me, it’s the Elixir of Life. Let me explain why.
I have never wanted to be complacent as an educator. Even though I have used a learning management system for the past 15 years or so (WebCT, then Moodle, then D2L), and could very easily have done the same assignments for my classes every semester, I always felt it necessary to update and improve on my teaching. I always wanted to have enriching and engaging lessons, made even better by using the most effective technology, in order to help my students be as successful as possible. I loved modifying my methods of delivery dependent on the needs of my students. I also loved modifying the focus of the curriculum that I delivered based on the experiences of the students in my classes. I was never satisfied with being “good enough”. I always wanted to push myself as an educator and push my students in the same way. For me, accomplishing this entailed always reading the latest books on educational practices, taking online courses, taking additional qualifications, and even instructing additional qualifications during my tenure as an adjunct professor for Queen’s University Faculty of Education. It also meant improving myself as a mentor and leader through taking my principal’s qualification courses and even walking the walk by having a stint as acting vice principal. All of these experiences have made me the educator that I am today and have kept me feeling, and hopefully acting, young.
I feel that I am having a positive influence not only a classroom level but also a system level.
Most recently, however, my role as an Educational Technology Coach has pushed me more than any other previous role. I am now not only an educator, but I am also a mentor for other educators. While as a teacher I felt that my influence was large, and that I was able to positively affect around 180 students a year, in this relatively new role I feel that I am having a positive influence not only a classroom level but also a system level.
I often joke with my fellow coaches that I feel like the Far Side comic where the student asks if he can be excused from class because his brain is full! This must be an age thing (I recently turned 51) because I sometimes find my brain almost hurting with all of the information I am absorbing and then sharing with my colleagues. In this role I am now using both sides of my brain! The English teacher in me is used to using the right side of my brain, but I have always found mathematical concepts mind-bending. With teachers asking me for help with Math lessons, Science lessons, Google Sheets, and even recently coding, the left side of my brain is also getting some strenuous workout now! I feel the neurons firing up every day!
But this is what is keeping me young – and wanting to continue my learning journey as an educator. Technology is always changing and the ways of using it keep on getting better and more effective. Because I am passionate about what I do, I hope that others are equally as passionate about what they do. And I hope that they are pushing themselves to always be better.
…ask yourself the questions “Am I still learning and growing” and “Am I still passionate about what I do?”
So if you are a perhaps only a few years off retirement, or even just feeling a bit stagnant as an educator, ask yourself the questions “Am I still learning and growing” and “Am I still passionate about what I do?” If not, then try and find an area of education that challenges you and perhaps even pushes you out of your comfort zone. Perhaps that’s technology. Perhaps it’s not. It doesn’t really matter what it is. But find something to do with educational pedagogy that excites you. It’s a cliche but it’s true that a change is as good as a rest.
Hopefully you will find, like me, that even if pushing yourself makes your brain feel “full” sometimes, it will also energize you and (re)ignite a passion for both learning and growing. The Elixir of Life? Perhaps a bit of an exaggeration. But it’s pretty darned close and, trust me, your students (and your brain) will benefit from (and appreciate) your passion! And it will keep you feeling young!
Feel free to reach out to me if you want to explore your learning journey or just want to chat about educational professional practices and/or technology. Join me on Twitter, check out my website or connect with me through email. Or just leave me a “like” or a comment below.
Until next time keep learning, sharing, and growing as both a person and an educator!