“But we will be a family. We will make a difference.”

Being a connected educator is both a blessing and a learning challenge. There is so much wonder, positivity and amazing ideas that are shared; at the same time, one can easily feel like they are not up to par with other educators. Therefore, with my kids in mind, as I prepare to return to the classroom as a high school English teacher next year, I felt compelled to share some of my thoughts with my future students.

A letter to you, my student

I may not have a perfect classroom.
I may not have all the flashy colours.
I may not be able to brag about all the free things I can get for you guys.
I may not be able to offer you a 1:1 experience.
I may not have all the best flexible seating.
I may not be able to control school funds and how they are spent on you.
I may not be able to post my classroom to a Pinterest hall of fame.
I may not be able to give you access to every possibility imaginable…

But,
I will give you my heart.
I will share joy on a daily basis.
I will show empathy, compassion and kindness.
I will create learning adventures.
I will push you harder than ever before.
I will believe in you.
I will let you know you matter.
I will always be there with you.
I will help you change the world.

You see,
We may not make headlines.
We may not get 25 000 likes or followers.
We may not be cited in research.

But we will be a family. We will make a difference. We are in for the ride of our lives.

I can’t wait to meet you and begin our learning journey together. You are amazing!

Mr. Nowak

 

Do what you can

Every single day that a child walks into our schools should be a day filled with joy, excitement, belonging, awe and growth. We owe that much to our kids.”

Every morning, my day begins with a thought, an image, a Tweet of positivity, of encouragement or hope to start the day off right. This morning after sharing such an image, a member of my Twitter PLN replied with a response sharing a short film that she thought of when reading the tweet: “Don’t be afraid to fail. Be afraid not to try.”

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Thank you Vicky Vinton (@VickiVintonTMAP) for sharing this message today and for inspiring me to write this morning. A link to the video can be found here: https://www.nytimes.com/video/opinion/100000004882589/ten-meter-tower.html

As educators, we often want to try new things. We look on social media, we go to conferences, we exchange ideas with peers and we suddenly get a burst of inspiration; we are filled with a sense of awe and energy. Plans are made, notes are jotted down and we look forward to our return to our school to start implementing some of the amazing things we just learned.

Then reality hits us. We go back to our classrooms, our schools; we go back to the pile of grading, to the cluttered chaos that needs to be organized, to the emails that came in, to the messages from parents or administrators asking us for replies, for answers, for forms, etc. Our good intentions and our focused energy become diverted by the traditional routine that we have left.   We never abandon ideas intentionally, but the energy and time it takes to make that change happen is often what holds us back.

But beyond that, there exists are great fear within us. A fear of what the change will bring. When you change something, you have to be comfortable knowing that the new adventure or the new journey will not be certain, will not be mapped out and will create a sense of instability. It is easy to go back to our jobs and go back to our routines and say: “This is how it has always been, this is how it always must be.” What we need to realize is that as the world is changing and evolving at a fast pace before us and so we ourselves must be comfortable with the idea of change.

In the video, many people respond to fear and new adventures in varying ways. There is doubt for some, uncertainty for a few and yet boldness for others. It didn’t matter whether they were accompanied or encouraged by others, sometimes that fear and self-doubt became too strong and led to abandonment. So what does this teach us? We need to refocus and reflect. We need to change our own perception and our mindset to be able to move forward and accept the new adventures to come. We need that group of inspiration, of support , of encouragement and of friendship; we need some stability in our journey. However, what we need most is the trust in ourselves to be lost in something new.

Sometimes we need to accept that how things have always been done are not the way things ought to be.  Many challenges and obstacles exist when we try to include innovative methods in a traditional structure. We sometimes have to accept that the journey will be slower than expected or full of roadblocks because somethings aren’t in our control. What we can’t accept is to keep doing the same thing because change is too difficult. We can’t refuse to jump because we don’t know how we will react once the ground beneath us is gone.

So where does this leave us? A life in education is a calling that brings such fulfillment and joy but can also be surrounded by great challenges. The path isn’t always clear, there is no clear road map, but it is a journey that needs to be taken. Kids deserve the best! Kids deserve to feel safe, to learn, to be believed in, to have amazing adventures, to be loved. Every single day that a child walks into our schools should be a day filled with joy, excitement, belonging, awe and growth. We owe that much to our kids. So if the current way of doing things is not allowing all kids to have these feelings, we need to be brave enough to stand up, say it is enough and change how we are doing things. It will not be easy, it will ask a lot time, of effort, of heart, but it is needed. To all educators, the question then remains:

Are you willing to jump?

Fighting for the fish

“I will remember that every child has worth and deserves the best…I will lead with heart and kindness.”

Early last year, I was privileged enough to share a guest blog post with #KidsDeserveIt. It was the beginning of my blogging journey and I really started to reflect upon the art of teaching and my role in educational leadership and transformation. I called it Thinking About the Fish because for a long time, Albert Einstein’s quote really spoke to me.

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You can read the post at
http://www.kidsdeserveit.com/single-post/2017/02/15/Thinking-About-the-Fish-KidsDeserveIt

This morning, I was compelled to not only continue my reflection but to transform it. In that earlier post, I put the emphasis on thinking about the fish, the kids. Teachers often talk about those kids who present professional challenges and push boundaries; they allow us to learn to grow as educators and leaders. Today I realize that we cannot simply keep thinking about them, we must fight for them.

Our education system was built on creating a uniform system that offered the same service to everyone. It was based on a set amount of content needed to be mastered by all students in a set amount of time. When a student could not show mastery, they would often be labelled as “slow learners”, “kids not meant for school”, “kids who just don’t have it” and the list goes on. We have worked so hard at creating a public system that offers equal accessibility to education that in fact we are perpetuating false traditional stereotypes and setting kids up for disappointment.

Time and time again I see students that are asked to learn the same thing, at the same time, at the same pace. When kids don’t fit in that general mold, they tend to be educationally marginalized. I, myself, have been an educator that has perpetuated this traditional method and belief, and I am horrified that it is part of my past. Although some of my feelings may seem extreme, I can’t help but imagine how many lives I have negatively impacted with comments and beliefs that were so deeply rooted in a system that does not value the child as a learner. If we think as a society that every student before us will and should be able to master the same content and skill at the exact same moment, and that this should be the decisive factor in determining the success of these students, we are robbing not only kids of their future, we are robbing our communities of great leaders.

Schools buy and implement programs, worksheets and packages that promise the next great thing in education. They say they will be the saving grace for helping all kids succeed at appropriate levels. They promise an ease in planning as many lessons are already structured with guides, scripts and questions. These programs are essentially deemed the “holy grail” of learning.  What they fail to see is that every classroom is full of individuals. These individuals all have stories, pasts, needs and voices. Pre-planned programs do not offer an adaptation for each learner before us. They do not allow for us, as educators, to respond to the needs of every “fish”.

Kids go into school with natural curiosity and wonder and slowly go through the system and begin to not only dislike school, they begin to dislike learning. Our “disengaged” learners in schools who exhibit behavioral problems often act out because it is easier to be the trouble maker than the kid who doesn’t get it. We try to use rewards to get kids to complete tasks, to read more and to finish their homework. In the end, what do we accomplish? We make the kids who need a bit more time or need to learn things differently feel inadequate, feel unusual and feel stupid. In the hopes of educating every child, we are in fact telling them that they are not good enough, that they do not matter.

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So as we continue to ask all fish to climb trees and judge them for it, I stand up today and fight for those “fish”. I will not and cannot allow for this to continue without raising my voice and calling for action.

Today:

I will remember that every child has worth and deserves the best.

I will see every child for who they are.

I will work to better know each and every child that walks through my door.

I will celebrate the uniqueness and diversity of every student.

I will advocate for the needs of every child.

I will teach and guide learning based on the needs of every student.

I will support every student and help them achieve their full potential, their dreams and help them follow their path.

I will challenge the status quo when it caters to policies that benefit only a certain group of students.

I will back up my decisions, my thoughts and my beliefs with heart, passion and research.

I will ensure that everything I believe and say will be lived, celebrated and seen in my own classroom.

I will lead with heart and kindness.

I will never forget the fish. I will always do what I can.

I will see them shine. I will see them do incredible things. I will see them change the world.

I will see them be their true selves.

 

In the end, only kindness matters...

 

Yet again, another horrific story fills the feeds of social media and news reports. Another mass shooting at a high school leaves many asking, why? As the story unfolded, I found myself truly shaken like never before.

I will remember that haunting Wednesday evening for as long as I will live. I am standing in my kitchen washing dishes, my daughter eating her supper, with the news playing on the television, I find myself trying to explain to my seven year old what is happening in Florida. And as I start my explanation, my voice starts to quiver, goose bumps form on my arms and tears roll down my cheeks. How do I explain such acts of violence and hate to such an innocent child? How do I make sense of something, when I myself have a hard time wrapping my mind around it?

As the days go by, as more details come through; emotions of hurt, hatred and anger start taking over communities all across the world. This tragedy becomes another opportunity for division, for political debates and for heated exchanges. But we must rise beyond that. In this time of grief, we need to come together. We cannot let hate and anger take over our emotions. We need to turn our emotions to kindness, to hope…to action.

Everyone has a story; everyone has a path that influences the way they feel. Let’s never forget to know these stories, to empower these voices, to listen to the truths that need to be spoken. More than ever, we need to focus on the kids before us. We need to make sure they are loved. We need to make sure they know that they matter.

A good friend, @TaraMartinEDU, shared a post this week call Unconditional. (http://www.tarammartin.com/unconditional/)  She pushes readers and educators to reflect on their own perceptions and reminds us that we need to love without condition. We cannot have students walking our halls knowing that one mistake or one bad choice will leave them lonely and isolated. We cannot let them feel abandoned. We need to uplift them, to know them, to be there for them. Are we all ready to accept her challenge and simply love our students? Can we all make sure that they know they matter?

As I still try to make sense of what happened, as my heart aches for what others are going through, I know I must always try to be a beacon of light. I must lead with kindness if I want my students to believe in good. I need to encourage us to stand together, to be united, not in our silence, but in love and in hope.

We need to talk about it. We cannot forget it. We need to act on it. Policies must change, laws must change. But more than anything, our hearts must change. You see, we can change our policies as a first step. We can safeguard buildings with metal detectors, security screenings and other preventative measures. But if we want lasting change, if we want to safeguard this world for our children, let us change our hearts. Let’s be open to kindness, to compassion, to empathy, to forgiveness. Let’s be open to love, to friendship, to gratitude, to peace.

So tonight I will hold my daughters a little bit tighter. I will be thankful for every extra minute I have with them. I will strive to share a little bit more love, because I know that they need it and that is what they deserve.

And as I remember this tragedy, I want to be left with stories of hope. So I share with you a powerful reminder of kindness, of heroism, of leadership. A story shared by Journalist John Gray:

scottbeigelThis is Scott Beigel, a Geography teacher at the high school in Florida where a gunman opened fire on a peaceful Wednesday afternoon. When the shots rang out he did exactly as he was trained to do, get his kids secure in the classroom and lock the door.

But Scott did something else. When he saw other children running in horror from the gunfire down the hallway he put his own life at risk by opening his classroom door and ushering them in. He saved them. Before he could secure his own life however he was hit with a bullet and killed. Make no mistake he traded his life for theirs.

 
In his last moments on this earth Scott Beigel taught his students the most incredible lesson any of us can ever learn. He taught them that he loved them. Let us live Scott’s lesson, let us show others that we do indeed love them, unconditionally.

Be kind. Always.

 

My #oneword

Education is about learning, about change, about love but most of all, about kids. My last few years as a teacher, I have been privileged to find my voice, define my purpose and connect with so many innovative, creative and passionate educators from around the world. Last year’s #oneword challenge was difficult for me; trying to simplify one’s goal, one’s essence to a single word seemed like a daunting task. As I have been reading the many #oneword posts from educators across North America, I cannot help but be inspired. This year’s #oneword came with no hesitation: BE KIND.
(Okay, for the perfectionists like me, it is technically two words, but I do like to challenge the status quo, so I am permitting myself to think outside the box.)

Kindness has been a life-altering choice for me. I have had the honour of working with several classrooms across the world on kindness collaborations: from stories about kindness, to songs, discussions, to even choosing how we can make a difference by spreading kindness in our communities. There is so much negativity present in our everyday lives, so much judgement, hatred and jealousy. It just seems so natural to try to counter all those feelings with more positivity and kindness.

So as every day passes in 2018, I want to remember to:

Be kind…and listen to others. To know their stories, know their passions, understand who they are.

Be kind…and celebrate others. People need to feel important, noticed, cared for, that they matter.

Be kind…and share time. Time is the most precious gift you can share with others.

Be kind…and inspire. Inspire others to see, talk and live kindness and love.

Be kind…and smile. Be happy for yourself, share happiness with others. The world needs more happy.

Be kind…and dare. Dare to challenge, to transform to be different. Dare to be you.

Be kind…and dream. Dream of better possibilities, dream of change and dream of a better world.

Be kind…and take care of myself. As much as I need to be there for others, I need to take care of myself as well.

Be kind…and share love. Build relationships, care for, empathize and be present for kids.

So as I reflect on 2018 and think about what many adventures it holds for me, I feel empowered to know that it will be filled with positivity and kindness. For the longest time, Ellen DeGeneres has been a role model to me. As she strives not only to help others, but to promote kindness, I feel it is our duty to do the same. So every day that I get to spend with my students, with colleagues, with family, I feel it is fitting to always end it with “Be KIND to one another”. In the end, that is what matters. That is what will change the world and transform education.

“You can’t blend in when you were born to stand out.” – R.J. Palacio (Wonder)

Always choose kind.

Here are links to other amazing #oneword posts:
Keith Peters https://t.co/rw2x9PDyPa
Russ Shwartz https://t.co/mKSYfD3vHG
Lindsey Bohler https://t.co/UCgMxq6qcI
Todd Schmidt https://t.co/SWf4J97bGW
Bethany Hill https://t.co/GTF7roQAlA
Mandy Ellis https://t.co/z2UgJ6e5kG
Jeff Kubiak https://t.co/tfoKZwtE1r

 

“We must be willing to assume the role of learner as we work side by side with children and our peers in a never-ending growth process of excellence.”

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Post by Dr. Mary Howard and Roman Nowak

As we write these words, we are mindful that schools everywhere are contemplating what intervention practices they will implement for their most fragile learners. We (Roman and Mary) spend much of our time pondering this very issue so we applaud these efforts as we are committed to the collective responsibility of educators to ensure success for all learners.

Given the recent study showing less than promising results for our intervention efforts in RTI (Response to Intervention), however, we wonder if we are posing the right question. What if we redefined our focal point so that “What intervention practices should we implement?” is transformed into “How can we humanize our approach to intervention?”

We believe that this question could shift our efforts from a grab-and-go intervention mindset to professionally responsive decision-making grounded in honest conversations that lead to positive practices. If we re-envisioned our roadblocks or challenges as opportunities, we could make thoughtful choices with a broader purpose designed to ensure success for our most fragile learners while awakening personal passions residing deep within those learners.

As educators, we are aware of our profound mission of helping students find success. There is an immense pressure placed on teachers to help students attain standards or achieve various state tests and benchmarks. This pressure often translates into a desire to find quick fixes that could apply to all students in a professional trade-off where little attention is given to the student before us. Each student has unique needs but these are often ignored as we try to find grandiose and convenient “one-size-fits-all” solutions.

Pernille Ripp’s tweet below illustrates how this intervention shift could refocus our efforts within a renewed spirit that would deepen and amplify learning rather than replace our most powerful pedagogical practices.

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As we begin our reflection on possible solutions or pathways to success, let us keep in mind a common belief or practice that often hinders transformation in learning and support. As an education system, in the search for efficacy, we often look to convenience for solutions. In The Danger of Convenience, David Cain argues the downside of relying on some “new technologically-endowed superpower” to solve problems that may not need a technological fix. Albeit convenient, technological solutions cannot replace the heart and empathy of a passionate educator. With busy schedules and high pressures, we may be satisfied with quick and suitable solutions. But these solutions rarely take into account the specific needs of students; therefore not allowing them to reach their full potential. As a system and as leaders, we need to strive to push past this traditional belief and implement solutions that are more complex, have more depth, but that always keep kids at the center. And this kind of responsible decision-making by its very nature means that we must take the time to engage in committed professional dialogue so that we can make the most informed choices.

With this lofty but achievable goal in mind, we take a closer look at some shifts that can help us initiate our journey to re-envision professional roadblocks as opportunities for success:

Keeping the child at the center of our efforts
Programs, packages, and scripts have become increasingly commonplace in schools. These one-size-fits-all approaches have exacerbated our efforts to support children who do not fit neatly into such a narrow perspective of learning. As a result, we are seeing the aftermath of what Tom Rademacher aptly describes: “With fidelity” are some of the most damaging words in education.”  When fidelity to the program requires our full attention, fidelity to the child, who brings unique needs to the learning table, will inevitably be minimized.  We can only keep the child at the center when we loosen the reins of obligation to the program. We do this by making room in every day for the essential practices that accommodate responsive differentiation and allow children to take ownership of their own learning so that they can become active participants in that learning. Practices such as read aloud, shared reading, guided reading and independent reading allow us to address learning needs through approaches that bathe children in high quality texts they can read and choose to read. Students need to be able to have a voice and choice in these texts so we fill our learning spaces to brimming with beautiful options. This helps develop their autonomy, responsibility and encourages deepened engagement in tasks. Stephanie Harvey and Annie Ward remind us that “Books are the best intervention.” Yet independent reading and engaging peer collaboration that revolve around those texts is often sacrificed for interventions that actually reduce the volume of reading and meaningful talk.

Using numbers to inform our practicescodered
There was a great article in ASCD’s Educational Leadership about being “Data driven vs data informed.” Although data often comes to us in numerical formats (percentages, ranks, grades), we must move beyond the numbers and see our students in the data. What story does our data tell us? What story does our knowledge of children tell us? What school story do we want to share with the world? Numbers can be a great starting point since the results of assessments can help inform how the student conveys his or her learning at any given point. However, in order to get to the root of any challenges or roadblocks, educators need to go beyond the numbers and learn about students as they actively engage in learning in order to professionally assess how to support learning. This deeper knowledge is inseparably connected to the daily learning process. It is important to challenge current beliefs and practices with data and to be aware that the numerical data may conflict with our deepest understandings about children. We must be responsible for our school story and the unique faces that bring that story to life. When people pose questions about success and begin to cite numbers from rankings, turn that story to the names of your students and everything they are accomplishing. As educators, we need to advocate for our students and put the focus back on their personal learning journey. It isn’t all about the numbers…it is about people and our responsibility to support each individual journey.  

Acknowledging our first line of defense
We have inadvertently created a revolving door leading to the “fix it” room as we relinquish professional responsibility from the heart and soul of our intervention efforts – the classroom teacher. With the best intentions, these thirty-minute instead of supports ignore the other six hours of the day that offer our best support opportunities. Even when tiered supports are deemed appropriate they reflect in addition to instruction that maintains the classroom teacher as the first line of defense. Our most effective interventions occur in the heat of learning moments based on expert kid-watching, flexible small groups, side by side support and intentional differentiation. These on-the-spot interventions reflect the carefully designed supports that occur in the natural course of any learning day as students actively engage in a wide range of meaningful independent or collaborative learning experiences. We must remember to encourage, build and celebrate professional practice. In order for our educators to be fully engaged in every child’s success and well-being, we must offer the right tools and opportunities that fit the child, the experience, and our purpose as we acknowledge that financial incentives will not solve current roadblocks. As Daniel Pink expressed so well in his TED talk based on the book Drive, we must give our people autonomy, mastery and purpose in the work they do; this is how we will encourage transformation in our schools. When knowledgeable educators are afforded the freedom to make the professional choices for the students in front of them, they are far more likely to expend their precious available minutes in the learning day in the best possible ways.  

Making professional knowledge our first priority
The very foundation of our instructional efforts rise from the decision making of expert teachers based on sound professional knowledge. Intervention programs are prevalent but none of these will ever replace teachers who have a deep understanding of literacy practices informed by research. This requires schools to hold ongoing professional learning in high esteem, using day to day instructional experiences as growth opportunities. It is this deepening knowledge over time that can help us to identify or refute practices as we sharpen our instructional lens to focus on intensifying our efforts so that we can achieve the accelerated progress that can only occur within a spirit of professional urgency. Professional wisdom helps us to make these moment-to-moment choices that draw from our best understandings about children at any given time. As we try to include voice and choice for students, we must offer a parallel system for our teachers. We need to allow them to have more autonomy and choice in the professional development we offer as we broaden learning opportunities that are designed to support their personal growth and where they are in their learning journey. We must continue to break the traditional mold of professional development and offer creative solutions for a constantly evolving world. Just as we make room for children to follow their passions, we must build a culture of support where we can celebrate professional curiosity so that we can encourage teachers to follow their passions on their own and through collaboration.

It is clear that educators have a great heart and want to support the needs of the learners in front of them. But it is imperative that our hearts and intellect unite as we cautiously examine our own practices so that we can alleviate those that are ineffective and embrace those that truly merge our beliefs and our actions. As leaders, we must acknowledge the commitment of our educators by offering the professional support that translates to informed commitment. This requires us to continue reflecting and challenging the current status quo to ensure that any programs, solutions and pedagogical practices that make their way into our classrooms are dynamic, research-based and evolve based on the needs of students. We must resist the temptation to simply purchase a product or implement an instructional approach without the benefit of the best interests of children guiding the way.

In a system overloaded with data, we must keep our sights on the individual faces and stories of the kids before us. Given a vast sea of professional options, we are ethically responsible to make thoughtfully responsive choices. Let’s not assume that what we are doing works. Let us question, let us learn, let us grow so that we can constantly do better for students based on our heart and our head. We must model success to help learners find their own success. And we must be willing to assume the role of learner as we work side by side with children and our peers in a never-ending growth process of excellence. Only then can we truly say that we have made the shifts that will humanize our approach to interventions.

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References:

Study: RTI Practice Falls Short of Promise https://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2015/11/11/study-rti-practice-falls-short-of-promise.html

Code Red; The Danger of Data-Driven Instruction
http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational_leadership/nov16/vol74/num03/Code_Red@_The_Danger_of_Data-Driven_Instruction.aspx

From Striving to Thriving by Stephanie Harvey and Annie Ward
https://shop.scholastic.com/teachers-ecommerce/books/from-striving-to-thriving-9781338051964.html

The Danger of Convenience:
http://www.raptitude.com/2017/11/the-danger-of-convenience/?utm_source=Jocelyn+K.+Glei%27s+newsletter&utm_campaign=f44dad74e9-Newsletter_11_30_17&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_0d0c9bd4c2-f44dad74e9-156827377

Why the phrase ‘with fidelity’ is an affront to good teaching by Tom Rademacher
https://www.chalkbeat.org/posts/us/2017/11/21/why-the-phrase-with-fidelity-is-an-affront-to-good-teaching/

#nationaldayofwriting - You are You-er than You!

In honour of #nationaldayofwriting, I reflected on what I wanted to contribute as a learner to mark this important day. I have recently struggled to keep up with a regular schedule of writing. With my busy work schedule, balancing family life, kids’ activities and homework, I find myself caught in a whirlwind of events that often leave me too tired to devote the time needed to share a written expression of my thoughts.

So as I ponder the recent reflections of educators and students on #whyiwrite and #nationaldayofwriting, I am left thinking of my students who often share their difficulties in keeping up with the demands of writing prompts, writing certain types of texts and the overall rigid demands they often face at school. I often find myself sharing my own struggles with writing and how I try to overcome them.

Passion for me is of the utmost importance when writing. When faced with the task of writing a prescribed piece, where structure is rigid, I also lack motivation. So as I think of students and their struggles with writing, I see myself being the champion of voice and choice.  As much as we want to share the characteristics of certain texts, as much as we want them to have that perfect essay or newspaper article, my true goal is to have students who want to express themselves, who know how to formulate their ideas and who can communicate clearly.

Therefore, in honor of #nationaldayofwriting, I have decided to write with my passion in mind: education. In a recent post, I celebrated my own learning and shared a piece of my story. As an educator, I do not only shine, I don’t always have the most exemplary strategies and have the most engaged students and my class isn’t always a picture from a magazine. So as I write about my passion, I strive to continue sharing not only my successes, but to also share my struggles. Therefore, I feel compelled to write about my first teaching experience.

As teachers, we often think that our first life changing experience will be either during our practice-teaching placement or even the first day of school following our teacher’s certification. In Ontario, where I grew up, there was such a shortage of certified teachers that I began my first contract during my second year of university, while completing my honors in History and French literature.

At 20 years old, I was going to be in charge of arts and physical education for grade 4-8 students. I was excited because I wanted to get my career started as soon as possible. I was warned about one of my groups because I was going to be their fifth teacher in several months and they were known as an “active” group. Thinking back so many years, I didn’t know what I did today. I didn’t walk into my job thinking about building relationships and getting to know my students. I went into my classroom with the same mentality that I grew up with: I am the teacher, you owe me respect.

Picture this: I walk into the classroom on my first day, slam the door shut and begin by giving these 25 students a lecture on respect and how they would listen to me and because I was the teacher and authority figure. Thinking back to this moment, I am not proud. I cannot even believe that it was me. I mean, it is definitely no Ron Clark moment (yes he is my first EDUhero). To add insult to injury, when one student actually did act out (why am I not surprised), I made her copy a page from the dictionary.

So why do I share a story that most people would keep hidden? I could have, and honestly, until this post, I have never talked about this experience. I share it so others can realize that no matter where we currently are in our career, we have all had those not so good moments. Life isn’t perfect. If Twitter existed back then (yes I am old enough to say this), I don’t think I would have tweeted the moment, but I would have reached out to PLN for support. That is the difference.

So my challenge to all of you today: Don’t be afraid to share your story, your moments of weakness, your learning. That story will resonate for someone. Your lesson will help uplift someone going through a difficult time. Most of all, by sharing your story, you help support the idea that not being perfect is okay. Today may be #nationaldayofwriting, but I encourage every educator, every student and every learner to keep writing when passion strikes, keep writing every day. Find your voice, share your words, and no matter how imperfect things are, remember the words of Dr. Seuss:

“Today you are you, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is you-er than you. Shout aloud, I am glad to be what I am. Thank goodness I’m not a ham, or a clam, or a dusty old jar of gooseberry jam. I am what I am, what a great thing to be. If I say so myself, happy everyday to me!”