PART 1: The Beginning
My educational journey (read: Life Story) actually begins before school. My Mother and Father were adamant that I learn to read as soon as I could, and since I was already able to talk most adult’s ears off at a disconcertingly young age it was probably a technique to get me to leave them alone. All kidding aside, the earlier you introduce your children to reading and writing the better, and I was quite fortunate in this regard. My Mother also ran a daycare for most of my childhood, which meant I spent a lot of time with people younger than me. By the time I had entered Kindergarten, I also had a younger sister. My Mother was also very honest. She did her best to present a multifaceted view of the world and I learned very quickly not to ask a question I didn’t want to know the answer to – she would answer it, and she wouldn’t sugar coat it. Crucially, when I asked a question she couldn’t answer, we went to the library and found it out. In retrospect, this normalized the loud and raucous learning environment of a young classroom and the inquiry process.
I remember Primary school being awesome. The teachers were largely very supportive. We had a large hill next to the soccer field (which became a toboggan run in the winter) and a large unkempt patch of forest next to the school. I remember playing for hours in that forest with my friends. Often, we would simply make up tales of adventure and use the forest to build our sets. Sticks were stacked and woven with grass to construct forts which of course had to be defended from enemy orcs, pokemon, or whatever else was holding our interest at the time. We built jumps for our bikes, organized “raids” on other student’s forts to get the cool sticks, and even started a “snapdragon hospital” to aid trampled semi-arid fauna – with little to no supervision. It’s interesting that out of all the years I was in primary school the only things I remember are the friends, teachers, the hill, and that forest. I’ve found that this assertion isn’t unique, and it is a big part of why I will always defend unstructured play as one of life’s greatest learning tools. I think it’s great that research is now starting to support this view as well, with overscheduled and overorganized students feeling less efficacious later in life. Play is a powerful learning tool because it lets you fail without consequence, immediately receive feedback on your “work”, and allows you to act on the ideas you create.
I don’t have as many fond memories of Elementary School (imagine my surprise when I found out that brutal honesty and being an insufferable know-it-all is generally frowned upon in polite conversation), but I was quite good at it. I would be obssessed with a new topic almost every day, and tried to tell my friends about it. In doing so I found that I had to explain them in a way my friends would understand, and the easiest way was to relate what I was doing into what they were interested in (inadvertently using the same Constructivist principles we use in our practice today) One moment sticks out as being a defining moment for me. I was in a Grade 5 class, drawing my usual violent and mounstrous doodles. I was in the middle of drawing this huge multi-armed Shiva-The-Destroyer lookin’ thing tearing apart a city and heard a sharp, “Hey!” from behind me. I was used to not being allowed to depict violence in the classroom and was prepared for a stern talking to. I turned to see the Grade 6 teacher, Mr. Gray. He looked me right in the eyes and said “Wow, that’s amazing!” He may not know it, but that moment is the reason I’m still drawing today. It also informs one of my great philosophies as a teacher – that it’s ok to be weird.
I carried this philosophy into High School, and despite the increased challenge I pushed myself through. Many teachers made a positive impact on me during this tumultous period, many of whom I’m sure I’ll write about later. They know who they are, especially the ones who subtley and unsubtley tried to say I should be a teacher. I had a knack for physical science and I loved the idea of chemistry. I say I “loved the idea” because my experience at university as to the reality of the situation was not what I thought it was, another factor which steered me in this direction. It was upon graduation and receiving a scholarship that I met my next great teacher mentor – Dr. Gordon Gore.
PART 2 – The Big Little Science Center
After a few kind words about the coolest lab demos and several bad puns later, Dr. Gore suggested I apply to work at his educational facility, the Big Little Science Center. He had taught for over 40 years and found retirement too boring, so he started an educational facility out of the back of his van that brought hands-on science activities to schools around the district for free. I ended up getting the job and worked there for the next 3 summers to finance my Chemistry degree, eventually designing activities and coordinating Summer camps. Gordon Gore was unyielding in his resolve that children learn best with hands-on, inquiry-based, and engaging activities (read: the philosophy of the newest science curriculum). Every display in the center could be touched and handled, every display had an element of investigation, and every curriculum based lab activity followed suit. He bemoaned the way schools had taught science for years, and asserted that “Science is so much more than words in a textbook and numbers on a worksheet.” I never would have thought I’d see so many kids cry because they had to stop doing science.
I feel like working with such a wonderful instructor in such a wonderful environment prepared me for the program I would later take at university. Almost all of the ideas Gordon Gore had been espousing for years have now been supported by research and added to the BC curriculum.
As for me, I chose to pursue my academic career further. Even though I had published papers, I just did not feel fulfilled or satisfied doing what my degree prepared me for. After a year of managing a gas station and trying to make it as a musician, I took everyone’s advice and entered the TRU BEd program.
PART 3 – BEd
It’s only been 6 months into this program, and I’m very glad I did. While the first practicum may have been nerve-wracking, I’ve never felt more comfortable with a career choice. I do believe that teaching is a calling. Not everyone is cut out for it and not everyone wants to be cut out for it. While the next year and half will prove to be challenging, I’m sure, I can’t wait to begin my practice and make a difference in student’s lives as so many teachers had done for me.