why i love my job

 

Despite the many roles I play in life, I spend most of my days at a school.   With that comes moments of “are you sure you’re cut out for this line of work” only to be balanced  with “I am one of the fortunate ones to love the work I do“.  This often surprises me because I didn’t much like adolescence the first time so never would have guessed that I’d be working with this sub-species of humans.

Adolescence is a time of remarkable growth and change. As you may know, neuro-scientists, with the help of the MRI, have discovered that the teenage brain is still actively growing in complexity and efficiency. The most profound changes occur in the area that monitors judgement, decision-making, organization, impulse-control and, wait for it, emotion.  As if I needed to tell you that!

This is a terribly confusing but also incredible time for students, parents and teachers. The potential for unparalleled learning and deep connection is right there in that amazing mess called the adolescent mind.

But how do you reach students who, by their very wiring, struggle with self-regulation, question the value of learning how to learn, can’t quite seem to connect well with others or easily loses their way in the fog of anxious uncertainty?

The answer is with resilient support.

Resilience is the art of the elegant rebound. It means getting up at least one more time than you have fallen down. And this is precisely what the administration, faculty and staff do here at my school every day here. We reach out, share, coach, advise, explain, instruct, listen, inform, engage, encourage and, occasionally, we badger. But what we do not do, is give up.  Even against the odds.

No child is unreachable. No student is unteachable.

New neural connections in the teenage brain are being made all the time so we stay the course.  We witness the acts of bravado and fragility but trust that we will prevail if we compassionately continue to communicate the power:

• of developing the practical skills of ‘learning how to learn’ and organization

• of thinking deeply and reflectively about issues facing our community and world

• of cultivating self-awareness & self-care as a crucial springboard for compassionate relating

• of growing in radical self-responsibility

 

Resilience begins with these mighty basics. This level of resilient support is modeled and offered by our  whole community through:

 

the daily greeting of students at the front door by our principal each morning
teachers who know their students by name and most know siblings’ names, out-of-school extra-curricular activities and potentially even who the student is dating!
teachers who set high academic expectations but who also negotiate assignment extensions from a place of grace and understanding
• staff who tirelessly keep the wheels of this place moving day after day, creating a space conducive to community, learning and engaging with each other
guidance counsellors who sit with, walk alongside and dig deeper with students on key personal, academic and post-secondary issues
• a Resource Centre with a vision for grounding students in the life-long strategies of learning, helping students grow in academic self-confidence and provide academic accommodations to help all learners start the race of learning at the starting line

 

We don’t give up and we don’t go away.

Resilient support for students with brains and emotions in flux.  That is what we do here. All of us together.  And because we do this even when we face personal or corporate setbacks, this is why I love my job.

 

 

 

 

repeat after me

Real learning happens most often and effectively in light of:

1)  Danger

2)  Personal relevance

3)  Repetition

I heard this years ago at a professional development day for teachers and it has helped me tremendously in supporting students with working memory challenges for whom repetition becomes a most dependable academic ally.

I guess it makes sense, doesn’t it?

A toddler who burns himself on something hot will most likely learn quickly not to touch. But what is learned in school is rarely dangerous enough to tattoo less-then-fascinating course content on even the most impressionable of minds.  Second only to that is how infrequently the course work is personally relevant to students from their viewpoint, at least.  Even as adults, we  learn more quickly when we are even vaguely interested in a subject.

That leaves repetition.  The broken record of life.

.broken.

How else did you first learn your phone number when you were old enough to travel further than your front yard?  Or memorize the multiplication tables?   Or cajole your parents into buying you something you wanted at the grocery store with an endless ‘please, please, pleeeeease!’?  Or be able to sing the theme song lyrics to every 70’s-80’s sitcom?  “You take the good, you take the bad, you take them both and there you have…” repetition.

But is that all there is?  Just repetition?  Where’s the passion?  Where’s the drama of learning in the theater of life?  Where’s the curiosity to explore unknown cognitive landscapes?  The getting high on vibrating cerebral connectors that are firing on all cylinders and that glorious ‘aha’ moment?  And how on earth do I inspire my students with the richness of being open to seeing things in a new way with the dull mantra of “shampoo, rinse, repeat“.

A few years back I tackled a physically, emotionally and mentally draining certification process to become a yoga instructor and I was amazed at how often repetition played a key role.  Besides making flash cards to memorize the Sanskrit names for all the poses, it was actually doing the yoga poses again and again and again that was beneficial on so many levels.  Most significantly, it was how the physical repetition ingrained the poses into our bodies’ memories.  It was as if our cells would know precisely what to do in Trikonasana even if the light of our brain was extinguished due to a middle-aged brain-freeze moment or an actual coma. Well, maybe not a coma!  It was a simple yet potent reminder of the power of repetition.

Flash-cards

As it is with work, relationships or our work-out routines so it is with even our greatest passions.  Sometimes it comes down to basic repetition.  Mastery of the moment. The practice of presence that happens in this moment, then this one, then the next and so on.

So even when repetition is the task, I can still inspire passionate learning in the young minds who have no choice but to listen to me go on and on repetitively about things that move me and that I think are monumentally important to them. Colour me relieved.

I have seen the power of intentional repetition and recognize its ability to build a more resilient memory and eventual mastery.  And, I have just discovered that this is precisely what I’ll share with my next batch of unsuspecting students.  Lucky them!

Cue the eye-rolling.

 

Eye Roll