This September, after several years as a program resource consultant and a term as an acting vice-principal, I’m returning to the classroom. By the time you read this, dear colleagues, I’ll have been teaching my 3/4 split in southwest Mississauga for nearly two months. I’ll be in the throes of report cards, mucking about with ELL stages of proficiency, mandatory Spec. Ed. comments, parent calls, pizza money, and chasing kids down to stack their chairs at the end of each day. These are all things I haven’t done for the past five years, nearly half my teaching career! And as I pack boxes in my little VP’s office, and make arrangements for a friend with a van to help me dust off and clear out the bins in my garage in August, I can’t help but reflect how things have changed over the last decade.
Apart from the fact that I now have about 37 bins of “stuff ” more than I did when I graduated from OISE 10 years ago and took the first Intermediate job I was offered at a little country school in my board’s north end, I also have more knowledge in my head and more tricks up my sleeve! My appetite for learning has not subsided over the past 10 years, and I read as many books and attend as many workshops as I did when I first became a teacher (though many of the latter I attend as a facilitator rather than as a participant). The past decade has seen me move from unconscious incompetence (as a first-year teacher, I didn’t know how muchI didn’t know!) to conscious incompetence (I soon discovered how much more there was to learn!). I’m now moving steadily further into the consciously competent phase of my career: I know I’m a good educator, but I often still have to think about the moves I make when I interact with students, colleagues, a new concept in Math, a complex instructional strategy I want to try out on my class, and so on. How I admire my senior mentors, who appear so effortless in their unconscious competence, as only time and experience can provide! Ironically, I spent part of this summer training teacher candidates as they prepare to enter the profession, so I had plenty of opportunity to become conscious about my teaching practice!
A changed job market
I remember deciding after my first few years of teaching to test the waters and see what else was out there. Teaching positions were plentiful, and for someone lucky enough to have started her career with a strong mentor administrator as I had, the job offers came fast and furious. I had my pick of schools, teaching positions, principals to work for. This