Five years have now come and gone for me here at GCMS. This year, not unlike the other 4, seemed to fly by at certain times and slow to a crawl at other times. As I look back and reflect on what was the 2011-2012 school year for me, Travis Kinney, I find it extremely difficult to narrow down my learning and growth to one specific area. However, after some deep reflection there are three themes that are constantly popping up in my head as I recall experiences with students, colleagues, and parents over the last ten months. The three themes are; “Carpe Diem,” “Lead by Example,” and “Locus of Control.”
Carpe Diem’s most popular translation is to “seize the day” as the future is unforeseen and therefore, one should scale back one’s hopes to a brief future. This is not to say that the 2011-2012 school year taught me to not have long-term plans or goals. What this year taught me is that it is so critical to my practice to be present with my students in order to help them achieve their future goals. It is easy as an educator to get caught up in year plans, curriculum outcomes, assessment of outcomes, and the list can go on and on. Through my experiences this year with students I found that once I gave myself the chance to relax and truly listen and analyze what my students are saying and not rush through conversations so that more curriculum can be covered or more assessments can be done, I came to the realization that there are so many variables in the lives of our students that affect their learning both positively and negatively. As the year progressed I began to “seize the day” by making sure that the lessons and projects I would assign always had one key component, open communication. By sticking to this key component and fostering an environment that encourages openness and “dropping of the waterline,” I found that students were given the opportunity to not only face their individual challenges that can affect their learning, but they were also given the opportunity to not go through it alone. “Seizing the day” really changed the dynamic in my classrooms this year. The conversations I had with students in the 13 classes and 6 subjects that I taught were absolutely mind-blowing. The self discovery by students and the opportunities presented to me to help guide them through their learning experiences is all due to the fact that I was present with them. We paused, had conversations, and discovered things about ourselves and our lives that we perhaps may have not had the chance to do had we not seized the moment, or the day. Carpe Diem! I will never forget this!
Leading by example. For years I have been battling with this and I really don’t know why. Over the course of this past school year I came to realize that there’s only so much that will come from telling a student what to do rather than showing them. I, like most teachers in our wonderful school, have a dream. I want our school to be the happiest most comfortable place that’s conducive to learning and growth where citizenship and doing what’s best for the majority is at the heart of our thoughts and actions. There are many times throughout the year when this teacher’s dream seems to be far from reality. No matter how many times I stressed the importance of showing characteristics such as trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring, and citizenship through one’s actions and words, it really didn’t matter unless I showed it through my actions. If I wanted a student to be organized and prepared, I needed to be organized and prepared. If my work space is a mess, then why would a student keep a tidy work space? Caring for the school and community? Maybe perhaps by picking up a piece of garbage that isn’t yours? In my experience this year I’ve seen first-hand that I need to be doing these things on a consistent basis and eventually my students will follow. I was always preaching things such as “be the change you want to see in the world,” or “do what’s right not just for you, but for your community.” These are powerful messages that are meaningful, but only if I am modeling this to my students through all that I do on a daily basis. Am I going to have slipups? Absolutely! You better believe however, that I’ll be vocal and using myself as an example of where it’s ok to slipup, just so long as you try your best not to again. Lead by example, that’s all there is to it! Well, maybe there’s more that I just haven’t figured out yet?
A high internal locus of control is what I’ve learned that I need to obtain in order to be happy in my profession. In reality, I can only control what I do or don’t do. Everybody makes their own decisions in the end. Whether it’s on how to act, speak, or behave, every single person is accountable for their actions… including teachers with “challenging” classrooms. I’ve become very aware that I have the responsibility to show students that one can only control one’s self and not others. This isn’t to say that one can’t influence others; it just means that actions truly are more powerful than words. Many times throughout the year I found that things that were out of my control were what stressed me out the most. We are in the business of nurturing people and sometimes we get so enthralled with this business that we can’t help but get frustrated and consumed at times with things that are completely out of our own control. This is something that I have been battling for six years as an educator. This year however, I’ve somewhat learned to have the discipline and awareness to recognize when I’m wasting time and energy stressing about things that I can’t control. I have a long way to go in this area of my professional life but, I do truly feel I’ve made some headway this year and will continue to do so in the years to come.
~ Travis Kinney, French and Health Teacher