Sunday, 6 October 2013

Smart is not what you are but what you can become...

I've been apprehensive about blogging and I've also struggled with identifying why that is. Is it because I don't think I have anything new or inspirational to contribute compared to other more experienced educators? Do I have the resilience to handle disapproval or disagreements from colleagues or educators? Why would people find my postings interesting or effective contributions? 

I watched people tweeting about their subjects taken in senior. Here's the thing....I finished in Year 10 because I was offered an apprenticeship and in my family that was a wonderful opportunity. Students who went onto Year 12 were the smart students who were university bound. That wasn't me...or so I and everyone else thought. 

I finished my apprenticeship, managed a salon and later became an owner/operator. I completed a TAFE course to be qualified to teach hairdressing but never did anything with this. Fitness became a large part of my life and so I became a fitness leader. It was at this time I realised I liked to learn. My husband, Andrew challenged me to get a certain mark for the exams and each time I exceeded it which increased my self-efficacy. He became the first person who truly thought I could do more or be more, if it was what I wanted. Not everyone needs a cheersquad but sometimes genuine support is pivotal.

While parenting my two children, I shared that I really want to teach but thought I wasn't intelligent enough to go to university. Andrew, a university graduate, disagreed and we began looking into it. I was accepted that year after completing all required tests. If I had applied the following year I would not have been accepted based on entrance scores. So I went to Australian Catholic University in Brisbane and completed ten subjects in the first year of my Bachelor of Education. I loved it! I mean I really loved learning!

We were transferred us to USA and I was happy to move as long as I could continue studying. The University New England offered the only external education degree so began my external study. And guess what... I loved that too! I enjoyed connecting with other students on the bulletin board (online chat group) who lived throughout the world. Remember in my schooling era, collaboration was known as cheating. My lecturers commented on how involved I was online supporting others and generating discussions....Go figure! Of course I started a teacher chat group called Teach'n'Talk once university was finished as staying connected was important to meI got on the Dean's list every year and after completing my Bachelor of General Studies/Bachelor of Teaching I was awarded the Dean's Merit Award. So now I should feel smart.....right? 

I continued studying whilst teaching and completed a Graduate Certificate, Masters in Education and recently a Graduate certificate in Gifted Education. After fourteen years of university, I realise I have an insatiable appetite for learning. So now do I qualify as 'smart'? I struggle with the word 'smart'. I believe being told you are smart or not smart can have a detrimental, long lasting affect. Especially when used to describe someone. Dweck's work has influenced my teaching. According to Carol Dweck, one of the worst things we can say to our children is how smart they are and the consequences may extend far beyond the field of child raising. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/08/02/carol-dweck-mindset_n_3696599.html

So why am I blogging now? Maybe a new teacher can relate or learn something from my story? Maybe I will become a more reflective teacher? Maybe my story will demonstrate to politicians and universities that while high grades are important, passion, enthusiasm and the love to learn is just as vital? Other attributes that aren't subjects taught or graded in school or university are empathy, compassion and concern for students outside of academics. If research indicates that effective teachers have the highest influence on student learning, we need to allow all those future educators with their immense potential. Identifying or finding one's passion may not happen until later in life and these people may become our most effective teachers because they possess qualities that cannot be measured. 

Getting smarter everyday...


18 comments:

  1. Andrea, you should shout to the world and share your story! What a great example and I can imagine many people living with doubts about their abilities would gain great confidence from reading your message. I honestly believe that through these personal stories we connect and understand humanity so much better. Our experiences have been different, but look where we both end up! I grew in an environment where I was told from day 0 that I could achieve anything. This meant that when I graduated school with good marks, I thought I was "too" smart for teaching and spent 7 years in a path that wasn't my own. Our social constructs place expectations and restrictions upon us and we need to forge our own way. I couldn't ask for anything more than the honour of participating in the learning of others and having some contribution to building in that experience. I applaud you for taking this next step, but I also implore you to share your story.
    Alongside in the learning journey, Rhoni

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    1. Thank you Rhoni for your kind comments...your posts and tweets inspire me.

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  2. Hi Andrea,
    I love this post - so inspiring. Thank you for sharing your journey - so glad you found your love of learning, followed your passion and went into teaching. There is so much to think about here both in terms of how we teach and how we bring people into the profession. Very thought provoking.

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    1. Just proves you're never to old to learn. Thanks Corinne.

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  3. Andrea
    A great start to your blogging life. You're had a great journey. I am already looking forward to your next post.
    Sometimes I think educators should have another career first, it enables them to bring so much to the job.
    Phillip @sailpip

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    1. Thank you Phillip-much appreciated. It's definitely a journey.My next post will be about why I went into teaching....psychology 101.

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  4. YAY, Andrea for starting your blog!
    What a great post to start with as well. I really empathise with this story as it is similar to mine. These stories need to be told. There would be others who believe they can't go to university because of their perception of their ability. I hope it inspires others to reach past their current situation. I look forward to future post of your learning journey.

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    1. Owen-Did you know that when you asked to hear about my experiences, it motivated me to start my blog? I'm feeling very fortunate to have so many supportive friends. Thank you!

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  5. Dear Andrea,

    Congratulations on a great start to your blogging life! You capture one of the first and foremost issues in being a wonderful educator, and that is (in my opinion) that it is all about hearing people's life story, no matter whether you're 5 or 50 or 500! And then hopefully you're fortunate enough to walk alongside people as their stories unfold.... well done. May your story continue to defy expectations, charter new territory, and become more enriching and inspiring with every passing year. B

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    1. Thanks so much for your kind comments Briony. I decided to take a personal approach to blogging.....and while it was difficult hitting that 'publish' button, I'm pleased I have. Thanks for all your support.

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  6. How did it take me over a week to find this fabulous and inspiring blog post? Thank you Andrea for sharing your story - I had no idea! As another teacher (I think I can officially call myself that now) who had a very indirect path to teaching I appreciate your honesty and directness. I was never seen as the 'smart' one in my family, so I hear you loud and clear. I am told now by all my 'degree seeking' family members that my grades exceed any they ever received in their higher education. Who'd have thought? I too have had much support which always makes learning so much more enjoyable. So thank you Andrea and I sincerely hope you continue blogging as I know I still have much to learn and sharing our thoughts and ideas and collaborating is the best way I know how to do that. Jane :)

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    1. I wonder if mature aged students are more focused on what they want because they have more experience in the 'working world'. What you want at 18 is not always what you want at 35. Thank you for your kind response. I so appreciate it. I would never of thought of blogging but twitter has that affect on you! Supportive PLN.

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  7. As someone who also came to teaching later in life, I agree absolutely that passion, empathy and a habitude of learning are more important than university degrees. Your story is one that should be told to anyone who feels constrained by choices and the voices of those with narrow definitions of "smart." Thanks for sharing. Welcome to the blogosphere.

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    1. Honestly, I'm surprised by the amount of positive feedback Paul. Thanks so much! So great we reconnected through Twitter.

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  8. Loved your first post Andrea and your husband! So wonderful to hear he was the wind beneath your wings and my how you've soared! A great story!

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  9. Yes, I think we compliment each other. Appreciate your kind words.

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  10. The first post is the hardest - good on you for starting a blog! Already posting about so many things that matter...I was re-introduced to Dweck just a few weeks ago, so a very timely post for me. Welcome to the bloggosphere :)

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  11. Loved your first post Andrea and your husband! So wonderful to hear he was the wind beneath your wings and my how you've soared! A great story!

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