I don't know if it is possible to really say I learned 11 things that were the "most" important. What I can say is there are 11 things that stick out in my mind as being very significant. They vary from facts to life lessons. While I was compiling this list I started wondering, what would this look like if I had to write down 11 things every DAY. I'm sure I learn at least 11 new things per day. Via Facebook I learned that the song what was number one on the billboard charts the week I was born was "Jack and Diane" by John Cougar. In conversation at school I learned the topic of a colleagues upcoming paper and that two of my students have mutual crushes on one another. I learned that there is more than one type or moraine and where you would find each, and read a great article teaching me how to best photograph fireworks. Also, online research led me to discover there are amazing waterfalls in Croatia (I would like to go here). And it's only noon. But of course in the grand scheme of a year, these may not seem like the most important pieces of learning I have acquired. But these 11 items slightly edged out the rest on my learning journey this year.
[One] Who you are with is more important than what you are doing: I spent two years working in an amazing school, when in Fall 2010, with no control over the situation, I was posted to a new school. I originally was very optimistic about it. I thought maybe the grass was greener on the other side. I started my school year bright eyed and full of enthusiasm for the new adventure. I quickly realized, that, though the courses I given were awesome, and I had my own classroom, and admin was providing my with lots of resources, it wasn't home. The staff of Sullivan Heights Secondary were my home. They were more than just people I worked with - they were family. It didn't matter what I was teaching, but who I was teaching with. I was fortunate enough to get a permanent posting back here starting in September 2011 and it has enriched my life more than I could imagine. I love going to work and am grateful for the time I get with my colleagues and friends - in and outside of the building. It's people that make all the difference.
[Two] Intentional Effort is the key: ISO vs. Exposure vs. Aperture vs. Shutter Speed vs. Focal Length, aka, my photo archenemies. After years of struggling to understand the relationships between all of these fun photographic ideas, I was finally able to work through it until I could say I GET IT! It wasn't a magical "click". I embarked on a 365/2011 project (mentioned in my last post). Working hard every single day was the key to actually developing the skills I sought. It was a joy to work towards and accomplish a goal driven completely by intrinsic motivation. I found that being intentional (the heart of which was discipline driven by desire) really is the heart of learning. Intentionality and its friends motivation and discipline rule the show.
[Three] Learning is most efficient when sought, not forced: The last year has been full of a lot of perpetual professional development, most of it via twitter and educational blogs, as well as developing photography skills. It seems the more say I have over the method and type of learning I do, the more I invest. My learning is enriched when I am choosing. This isn't just limited choice (like welcome to the convention, pick a seminar) - this is big 'C' Choice - the media, the message, the time, the place, the who, the how - all of it.
[Four] We are all creative: in my masters program (on Critical, Creative and Collaborative Inquiry) I spent me semester learning, researching, dialoguing and writing about creativity. I have learned that we are ALL creativity. Creativity, building something novel and of value, is domain specific. It is possible for one to be creative in any discipline and subject. My best friend has a great deal of creativity when it comes to working with numbers and budgeting. My cousin is creative when it comes to finding away the best way to organize a small space. And of course I am capable of creativity - whether in designing a science lab or taking a photo. (However, if I start talking about freedom and safety to create, we will be here another 22 pages...so I'm going to move on)
[Five] We are our own worst enemies: We can all fall prey to our own insecurities. Being confident in who you are will lead to joy and freedom. I've realized that many of the people that inspire me (in a multitude of fields) are those who demonstrate confidence and self-belief. Though, I'm sure they struggle with this one like the rest of us. Believe in yourself, let go of the fear. We are all powerful beyond our wildest expectations.
[Six] Don't let technology be a crutch: Yes, the world is changing. Yes, students can navigate technology effectively. Yes, we want to develop 21st century learners. I've started to realize that so many have fallen into the trap of incorporating technology into the classroom because it is technology. Using a laptop to research a project instead of books is efficient. It doesn't by definition make it better learning. Just like doing an online lab doesn't necessarily enrich education over the hands on opportunity and creating a cartoon strip using an iPad app isn't innately more meaningful than drawing one by hand. How we use technology and when needs to be smarter than all that. My goal is to get students to think critically and creatively and to see them communicate effectively. Sometimes this means using technology, sometimes it means avoiding technology.
[Seven] Aim for Congruency: As many teachers begin blogging and using twitter, there is a difficult line between our personal lives and our professional worlds. This is a challenging conversation. When I started as a student teacher, those seasoned teachers around me would give advice on how to create a separation between who were are personally and who are are professionally. The rise of social media and other technologies have led this advice to be moot. It seems there may have to be a great deal of congruency between our personal and professional selves. As for me, I'm striving to be but one person.
[Eight] I am a photographer: I have hesitated to use the word. Seems every man, woman and child out there with a $500 SLR and picnik thinks of themselves as a photographer. What once required an eye for composition, and understanding of optics and light and the ability to worked expensive and complicated equipment, to be able to create beauty without the ability to check and adjust, has been reduced to point and click or instagram. The definition of photographer has changed. So I've had to define it for myself. And then feel confident enough to say "I am a photographer." I'm still hesitant to use the word, but I'm working on it.
[Nine] Engage your imagination: I'm always happier when I engage my imagination. And I try to do it regularly. You should to.
[Ten] The world is magnificent: Want proof? Hit the open road. I spent 3 weeks this summer driving from ocean to ocean. I cannot begin to recount how many beautiful things I saw. From the Grand Prismatic Spring in Yellowstone, The gorgeous landscape in the Badlands, the Dunes in North Carolina, the Buffalo herds of South Dakota, the rolling hills of Kentucky and sunsets of Cloudland Canyon. The more I see, the more I want to see. The world is magnificent.
[Eleven] Power of Balance: Learning to let go has become one of the most important lessons I have had to learn this year. Creating time for family and friends, or even time to curl up with a good book has been a struggle. Being intentional about saying yes, and saying no, is so incredibly important. Family, friends, health, solitude, reflection, work, learn and play all need to be given their time. Being aware of the decisions I am making has allowed me to achieve a greater degree of balance, and for that, I am grateful.