Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Teaching is a Journey

Over the last couple of weeks, various colleagues have all asked about one specific thing - which has led me to discussing it in this blog. In separate conversations, they all asked about a sign that hangs on our classroom door. They didn't specify why they asked about it, but my guess is that because it seems pretty out of place in the Reggio inspired space I've moved towards in recent years. The sign, which says "Kindergarten" is made with a random mish-mash of colourful letters, all upper case, and is held onto my classroom door haphazardly with uneven and crinkly clear tape. I agree - it is out of place given my current approach to teaching - so why is it still there? For good reason, actually.

This sign you see here was one of the very first things I ever did as a teacher. After an LTO in this very classroom, I was hired for a half time Kindergarten contract, and needless to say, I was over the moon. My year spent supply teaching and in the LTO taught me a lot of valuable lessons about teaching and learning, but I was eager for the consistency that came with a contract position. Plus, this was the job I always wanted...and here I was!

For some reason, the Joel from 5 years ago thought this was just the thing to slap on the door - and boy was I proud of it. Needless to say, the Joel I am now sees things a little differently. In fact, I actually dislike how it looks and the thinking (or lack thereof!) behind it.

If I were to create a sign for the door now, I'd think a lot more about the aesthetic - specifically taking more care to display it in a neater fashion, and also giving a little more thought into the colour choices. I'd also make more of a point to represent lower case letters, which is something I've learned about in my career since then. And most of all, I wouldn't be the one making the sign myself - but rather, I'd include the students in the process of making a sign for our shared space so that they were reflected in the final product.

So, given that this sign no longer represents my beliefs as an educator, you're likely wondering "Why is it still there?".

All these years later, I keep this sign on my door as a reminder that our job, teaching, is a journey

At any given time, we as teachers are simply doing what we think is best. This sign is a constant reminder to me about never becoming complacent when we think we've got it all figured out, but rather continuing to seek more knowledge, to grow and to learn, and to challenge our once held beliefs along the way. This "Kindergarten" sign the first thing I see every morning when I arrive in the space, and the last thing I see when I leave. It forces me to reflect on where I am on my journey, where I've been, and where I'm going. 

I'm not at all ashamed to have visitors in the space see this sign. I am proud of the educator I once was, the educator I am now, and the educator I will be in the future. I had good intentions in making that sign at the time, but simply didn't look at classroom space the way I do now. And who knows? Perhaps in another 5 years my views will have further evolved and I'll have a whole new approach! For me, that's part of the excitement of being a teacher on a learning journey. Like this sign, there may be entries in this very blog that one day I'll look back on and wonder "what was I thinking?". But for now, I embrace them and honour where I am on my personal journey. I'm eager to learn more about this wonderful job I'm lucky to have, and to continue to gain inspiration from educational approaches far and wide. Something I've always said is that our classroom doors say a lot, literally and figuratively, about what lies within. Throughout the multiple quotes, photos, and documentation I've placed on our classroom door, this sign has always been part of it - and for a very purposeful reason: do what you think it best as an educator, but never stop - always seek more information. Teaching is a journey!


  1. Joel - how well you describe what teaching is meant to be. As you identify, it is exciting because there is so much to learn! New research, new colleagues to collaborate and share with, and new little people who are all so different and special.

    1. Thank you Nadine for the kind words. I agree with the excitement found in teaching - I hope to never stop learning!