This year started off quite rocky for me with many personal and professional challenges. I found myself not being at my best and not feeling inspired in the way I normally am and found things that never before bogged me down doing just that.
I was doing what I had to do each day and doing my best to make the students my focus. Feeling a little lost, I was trudging on hoping to find the internal spark that had dimmed a bit.
On a whim, I decided I needed to get away from Singapore and the life it encompasses and travels on mid-break somewhere different than I was experiencing. I booked a ticket to Vietnam to visit some past colleagues and dear friends and wasn't really sure what I was in for. I had no plans, barely had a Visa in time and had thrown a few things in a backpack on the morning of my flight. Little did I know, what an eye-opening and inspiring trip it would be for me personally, and professionally.
Ho Chi Minh City itself was such an adventure and reminded me so much of my experience in China where culture swirled around you and everything became a challenge. I began to realise how much I crave and thrive in situations where I am challenged. It became very apparent to myself that if I am not being challenged, I am not learning to my fullest potential. An interesting thought as a teacher, where my job is to challenge and support students in these challenges every day. It made me reflect in thinking - who is doing this for me? Am I doing this for myself? Am I waiting for others to challenge me? Do I need others to be the one challenging me? I'd say I'm often pretty self-motivated but at times I need someone there as well. As I'm still new to teaching, often I'm just doing what I 'think' is right and not necessarily the best way of doing it. I need others to challenge my thinking.
I visited the International School of Ho Chi Minh City where some of my friends worked and was truly inspired by the teachers and the work environment. In addition, they also had a visiting math consultant which I was able to learn from for the day and a half I was there. It was such an eye-opener to see how other educators do things in other schools. I spent most of my time just watching, trying to take it all in and learn from others. I furiously would scribble down notes as I went and just tried to soak up the experience for what it was. I came away with so many ideas that I instantly wanted to implement in my own classrooms such as the bubblecatchers and the way they view home learning. I know that when I take my learning into my own hands, I get a much richer learning experience. Interesting enough - isn't that what we want our kids to do too?
One of the biggest things I took away was the power of observation. So much of our time we spend worrying about getting paperwork done, marking or a variety of other things that have to get done that we don't make time for the things we should be doing. This year alone, I know I have not been into enough other classrooms to see what they are doing. Yet, I went to another school and that's all I wanted to do. We all have so many amazing things that we are doing but unfortunately, they don't always get shared. I went to Vietnam and was so inspired by the way others looked and acted towards education in a way that was similar to how I feel about my job.
I also recently found out I was accepted into the Google Teacher Academy (GTA)- another professional development opportunity I have taken into my own hands. Last year I was introduced to Google Apps for Education and the GTA and instantly thought it was something I would like to work towards. My first year was all about developing the skills to use them and then I felt this year should really be able using them more effectively before I apply for the GTA the following year. However, something in the summer kickstarted my want to learn more and try for this year. So this past summer, I did all of the online courses that I could with Google and became a Google Educator by doing 5 Google Apps courses and exams and also did the Youtube Digital Citizenship course. From there, I decided I needed to develop my professional learning network through Twitter and began connecting with other educators and sharing what I do in my class. And then tried for Google Teacher Academy. I didn't get in the first time.... or the second time... but with perseverance, the third time did the trick. This is something I wanted to do, learn about and be able to apply to my teaching - not something someone is telling me I have to do.
There is something about having agency over your own professional development that truly adds to the learning itself. When you are choosing to learn, the learning seems to be richer and the excitement and inspiration seems to flow. The question then becomes, how do we best transfer this knowledge into the classes we teach?