Preparation and the Procrastinator

I am a master procrastinator.  If you want to know what this means watch this TED Talk by Tim Urban.

I know I need to spend part of my summer getting ready for the following school year. More often than not, that knowledge casts a pall over my free time in the summer. Rather than biting the bullet and doing a little school work every day I am home or even setting aside a few set days to work, I put it off continually all the while feeling a low grade hum of anxiety niggling at the back of my mind.

This year, I am going to combat my procrastination.  I bought the Get To Work Book.IMG_8110_copy

It is a project based day planner. I’m hoping by focusing on the big picture of what I want to accomplish and then breaking that down into daily tasks, I will have a more successful year. So far this summer, I have accomplished some of my goals for the summer: purging my wardrobe, getting back on track with housework, reading and blogging for professional development. Unfortunately, I haven’t worked on the new curriculum for my 30 level sciences. I’ve decided that I’m on the right track. I have accomplished things, and I’m worrying less. I just need to prioritize certain goals heading into fall.

I also just downloaded the iPad app Unstuck. It helps you figure out what kind of procrastinator you are and what the root of your procrastination is. I am an Idle Achiever. This means I take on a lot (too much?), feel overwhelmed and stuck, and do nothing. Basically, I realized that the reason I procrastinate with my marking is that the marking never seems to end, but I haven’t taken time to redesign my courses to be more teacher friendly because I spend all my time on the marking in order to give my students the feedback they need. This year I am going to take some time to figure out ways to incorporate more student self evaluation and maybe even peer evaluation.

I’m going to give myself a break regarding my lack of preparation so far. At least I’m thinking about school. Plus, I’ve still got lots of time. Right? People? Help me out?

Support: Then and Now

The way I think of support in my professional life has changed a lot since I was a new teacher. When I started, I was teaching a grade 2/3 split on a one-year contract to cover a maternity leave. My concept of support was limited to my school colleagues, a few friends from university teaching nearby, and my parents. I had recently gotten my first email address and did not have a computer at home. Yes, I am middle-aged, but I’m also a late adopter. Looking back, I don’t know how I managed. We were in the midst of resource-based learning when all I desperately wished for was textbooks. The school and division librarians were very valuable to me at the time. I’m sure the other primary teachers gave me suggestions and advice, but honestly it’s been eighteen years and that whole time is pretty much a blur of stress.

The next stage of my career was teaching adult upgrading at a college. We were a department of five, and although nobody was teaching my exact classes any given year, someone else usually had experience with them in past. There were resources in place for all my classes. Our department was smaller than the staff of my previous schools, but my colleagues and I were teaching the same students. We had more in common, and I felt more supported. I also began to make a few connections to the larger ABE community in Alberta.

Next I became the sole Adult Upgrading instructor on a First Nation in Saskatchewan. I felt totally unsupported when I first started this job. I missed my colleagues and didn’t realize I could build my own personal learning network. I needed to recognize that I still had a support network. My supervisors past and present may not have been able to help me with curriculum questions, but they did supply funding for needed resources, encourage me to attend professional development activities, and deal with any disciplinary and policy issues that cropped up.  The high school teachers on the reserve may not have been in the same building as I was or shared any students with me, but they did teach the same courses I did. They sometimes forgot this and I didn’t always take advantage of the support we could have offered each other.

Some of my biggest supporters currently don’t work anywhere near me, and some of them I’ve never even met in real life. Two adult education organizations in Saskatchewan have been life savers for me. I joined the Saskatchewan Adult Basic Education Association the first year I switched jobs. I attended their conferences and was even on the executive a couple of years. I met teachers who were dealing with situations just like mine. The shared resources and support were such a boon. Then I became involved in the Saskatchewan Action Research Network.sarn_header

Attending one of their workshops showed me that I could make changes that could improve things not only for my students, but also for me. In turn, my report could be shared and help others. I am currently on SARN’s training team. Education is truly cyclical. Others help you, and you help others. You support your students, and often they support you.

I have been lucky to tap into an amazing online community with #saskedchat. Again, no one is teaching exactly what I am, but that doesn’t matter. We discuss pedagogy, evaluation, curriculum, and more. Thanks to #saskedchat I’ve become reflective about my practice once again. Support comes in so many forms, and I’m thankful that I am able to recognize that.

#saskedchat Blogging Challenge

This is only my second entry on this blog.  I have a history of starting a blog on a certain platform, writing one entry, and then abandoning it. I’m not even sure how many blogs I have out there. Three? I decided to focus my blog on Medium on my scrapbooking. I actually have half a dozen entries on it now. I’m focusing this blog on my professional reflection as a teacher of adult education.

This summer, I am committing to the #saskedchat Blogging Challenge. I know I tweeted last summer this exact same thing, but I mean it this year. Kelly described the challenge here. Our first challenge is to write about why we are joining this challenge. I originally thought that I wanted to blog as a way to reflect on my practice. The problem with this is that I tend to be very critical of myself in my reflections and I don’t really want that negativity to be discoverable by present and future employers. I think that reflection is going to take place in a private journal instead.

So that was one WHY that was off the table.  Why am I going to blog this summer? First of all, I think I am going to blog to crystalize my thoughts on my professional reading. My blog will be a record of my professional development. I have started reading the #2k16reads book In This Together: Fifteen Stories of Truth & Reconciliation. I also plan to read The Innovator’s Mindset by George Couros and 168 Hours by Laura Vanderkam.

Another reason I am going to blog is that I want to blog with my students. My students are adults that are working toward their high school diplomas. This year I’ve started having 15 minutes of DEAR (drop everything and read) because I believe that any reading helps build reading fluency and vocabulary. I believe more writing with an authentic audience would be a benefit as well. I also believe that I need to have some practice with blogging before I launch into it with my students.

Really, I’m going to blog because any time I spend thinking about teaching; whether it’s blogging, taking part in #saskedchat, or reading; benefits my practice and my students. I spend a lot of time during the school year focusing on my marking, my courses, grades, deadlines. I think blogging will help me remember the big picture instead of being consumed by the minutiae.

Hello world!

I am thinking of trying the blog challenge from #saskedchat so I decided I better set up a blog at least.  I’m Jacqueline Bruce and I teach Adult Upgrading at Onion Lake Cree Nation.  This year I’ve been focusing on professional development through an online personal learning network (PLN). I tried a MOOC (massive open online course) and began using my Twitter to connect with other teachers. I’m hoping this blog will be a space where I can reflect on my teaching practice.

I named my blog “Hardwired for Hope” after a study about effective ABE/Literacy instructors in British Columbia. This article gave me hope that I am an effective educator since I share many of the beliefs mentioned.  My next blog post is going to be on positive learning environments and their importance in ABE.