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Thursday, November 24, 2011

What I have learned part 10: Mentorship leads to innovation

In my 10 years of teaching, I have had some amazing mentors. One in particular stands out: Norm Stelfox. Now, I don't know if I agreed with everything Norm told me... but one thing stuck with me more than anything else: "Never sit on your laurels".

When I started, I was an old-school teacher. I marked every assignment as a summative assessment (I had over 70 marks in my grade book for each kid and I was told "thats OK but try to do better"), I sat at the front of the class and wrote notes on the overhead, I assigned loads of homework (sometimes as a punishment), etc...

What changed for me was seeing Norm run Science Olympics in his class. Each kid was engaged, they were learning more than the kids in mine and there was no classroom management issues. I was blown away. I wanted to do this for the kids on my class so bad! Norm graciously mentored me and it was my Age of Enlightenment

After that, I started to embrace other bit at a time. assessment for learning, proper use of summative and formative assessment, technology in the classroom, project based learning, personalized learning, etc...

My classes became joyful and at the same time, I became a better teacher. I still have the commitment to never be happy with past successes... to always propel myself forward.

Everywhere I looked around, I saw the same thing happening. The only difference was the pace of the innovation. And that was ok... think of it as a parade...some are at the front, some are in the middle and some are pulling up there rear. If we keep the parade moving, we will all get to the end together!

This has happened at my school as we introduced technology. When anyone starts teaching with technology, the first thing they use is PowerPoint. Its a great starting tool. Eventually they all end up using blogs. wiki's, podcasting, google stories and the 1000s of other tools out there. Its the natural progression of the parade.

My message is simple: Don't be afraid to innovate. Do it at your own pace. Be bold with your projects and share them with your colleagues (especially the new ones =D).