What to do with all this time?

September 21st, 2010 | Filed under: professional development

Since completing my teaching assignment with Green Run High School in Virginia Beach in June, I’ve made another big change. I now live in The Netherlands. As romantic as it all sounds, leaving your home country for a new one is complicated in ways that defy explanation. Paperwork and regulations, many of them in a language not your own, compound the complexity. Needless to say, I haven’t been able to just step foot onto Dutch soil and walk into a teaching job.

So what is there to do with all of this time and mental freedom? My biggest fear is that I will squander the time and look back with regret. Fear of regret may be my biggest fear right now. In response I am cultivating a plan for my own year-long professional development program. I say a year because, while I may have a chance to substitute teach, I most likely won’t get a real stab at teaching again until next year when school starts again.

Rather than look longingly at tweets from some of the teachers I follow about their new lessons and successes in the classroom, I’m going to draw inspiration from them, and the many other blogs and books I read, to fuel my teaching career. I plan to comment on blogs and join the discussions, to not just read but reflect and analyze and reflect again. Bookmark the great stuff. I’m going to try my hand at podcasting and video blogging. I’ve started a blog about my expat experience and am looking into freelance writing opportunities I might otherwise pass on if I was teaching. A year off doesn’t have to be a dip in your CV – it can be an opportunity.

While I spend a lot of time scouring my general education and English education Twitter lists for thought-provoking links and ideas, I’m trying to branch out. Because, let’s face it – I have the time. I started by checking out this TED Talk from Sir Ken Robinson recorded in 2006.

If you’re not familiar with TED Talks, you’re missing out on high-quality inspiration and mind expansion. TED is a network of conferences running under the slogan “ideas worth spreading.” They’re short, sweet, and powerful. Speaking of teachers I follow on Twitter, Meredith Stewart discussed the many ways TED Talks can be used in the English classroom and offers some specific talks and ideas for lessons on her blog.

Robinson is inspirational and funny despite the jarring message that schools are killing the inherent creativity of children – that by the very nature and structure of schools we are snuffing out much of the creativity upon which our future depends. I was very fortunate as a child to experience the Montessori school method for preschool and kindergarten. While getting more distant by the day, my memories of those years are quite fond. Learning to hold a baby by playing with a doll. Practicing pouring from a pitcher. Learning multiplication with big blocks covered in gold pearls. Feeding the hamsters. Painting on the sun porch and hanging the tempera image on the window for drying and display. And the best part – having my own choice in what I wanted to learn or practice that day.

Who says we can’t do those things with our high school students? Why are choice and freedom talked about as important to students, but never actually implemented? Is it because we can’t seem to reconcile our need to “control” students with our knowledge, deep-down, that they need freedom and ownership more than anything else? And what is the source of that need to control students?

You can follow me on Twitter @pickledtreats.

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