I’ve been lucky to have had some amazing teachers in my life. That’s definitely been an influence on me becoming a teacher as my love of learning came from my teachers and my family. Over the years I backed into teaching, not having earned a degree in teaching through a university, but gradually starting to teach through workshops and by figuring things out.
The first and more formal teaching that I did was at the New Brunswick Filmmakers’ Co-operative in their workshop program, passing on some of the filmmaking skills that I learned from others. Then I was hired by the New Brunswick Community College to help develop the curriculum for a video production program. It was a lot of challenging and rewarding work. It was a very valuable experience to spend a few months designing ways to teach video production. It provided a rare opportunity to think about how people learn and what the most effective ways of helping people to develop skills.
I was so lucky to be able to draw on the experience and resources of my life partner Carolyn, who actually was studying education. This provided me with a comprehensive teaching structure structure as she patiently taught me what teachers were supposed to do. Thanks to Carolyn, I understood Bloom’s Taxonomy and how there are different levels of learning. It was better for everyone as I reaped the benefits of her education degree and practical teaching experience.
There is nothing better than seeing someone understand something. The biggest challenge in teaching is to convince someone that they can learn. Having the confidence to take the risk of asking questions in the process of learning is daunting, but the rewards are great. Every person is different and they learn in unique ways, so teaching requires patience. At first you want to skip to the end, but by allowing someone to work their way through learning something will make it stick and make them able to teach it as well. Learning is preparing to teach and teaching is preparing to learn. It’s a cycle that repeats and grows. The more I teach the more I learn and vice versa.
Working at the Business and Technology Training Institute in Fredericton over a decade ago was a remarkable experience. I had a class of motivated and talented people who wanted to create things using new digital media tools. When I started there the curriculum needed to be developed and I was the sole instructor for a program that ran for just under a year. I loved it as the structure gave me a chance to spend a lot of time helping people figure things out. The assignments were practical and it gave me a chance to try things out in a supportive environment.
When I moved to Nova Scotia in June of 2000 to work at Production School House it was another amazing experience. With a team of talented producers and teachers we worked with learners who made some great projects. Working within the dot-com boom was great as we were all learning and trying out new things on the web with cutting-edge tools and techniques. Using a very practical workshop and production model kept every day different and interesting as we’d adjust things to help people make things. But the dot-com bubble inflated and burst, which left me searching for new employment, which I luckily found at the Nova Scotia Community College.
After almost a decade of workshop teaching and six years of classroom teaching I finally received some teacher training when I started at NSCC. Instructors at the College need to complete a two-year comprehensive program of learning about teaching called CCEDP (the Community College Education Diploma Program). The timing of my hiring was perfect as I was able to work with an existing curriculum for the first time instead of developing it from scratch. I also had the benefit of working my colleague Janet who had built up the Screen Arts program before I arrived, so I was able to focus more on teaching and what worked.
CCEDP began with New Faculty Orientation and it gave me a solid foundation before I started teaching in the Screen Arts program in the Fall of 2002. I met some amazing colleagues and teachers who I still admire and became a much better teacher because of that experience. Over the following two years through the other CCEDP courses I shared and learned with fellow colleagues and received my CCEDP diploma in 2004. Then I continued to teach, but as time went by the teaching becomes the primary focus and it can be difficult to get perspective on what you’re doing and the energy level can start to drop.
A welcome burst of energy came last month with the Great Teachers Seminar that I attended in Cornwallis. Organized by the Organizational Learning at the College and with a model developed and facilitated by David Gotshall, it’s a week-long chance to work with teachers in a positive and supportive environment. The focus is on teaching and while I was tired at the end of a long term, my enthusiasm grew as we worked within the “rigid minimal structure” to figure out what worked and shared ways to teach and learn in a relaxed environment. It’s the best week that I’ve spent and it felt like the culmination of my teaching career up to this point.
Great Teachers was exactly what I needed and it rekindled the fire and love that I have for learning and teaching. So now the cycle is restarted and as another school year wraps up I’m excited and chomping at the bit to focus on facilitating and creating places where learning can happen. It’s a privilege to be a teacher and I’m so grateful that I work in a place that supports learning and teaching.