With the start of a new year, and after taking a "pause" on social media for the holidays, I feel inspired to begin 2014 with new insights, exciting challenges and magical memories professionally and personally! This post has been brewing for a while and I thought it would be the perfect one to start off 2014 since I'd like to highlight and dedicate this post to my wonderful Designated Early Childhood Educator, Heidi Theis.
The reason why it has been hard for me to put down all that I feel into a blog post, is because it's impossible to capture and sum up the incredible relationship I have with my truly incredible partner. Over the past almost two years, Heidi and I have had the wonderful opportunity to showcase our learning publicly on the blog and professionally through our own learning network within the York Region District School Board. We have been honoured and humbled to have other teaching teams, administration, consultants and friends visit our learning space to learn about our program and how we have established such a wonderful foundation for teaching and learning together as a team. Within these visits, we often get a series of questions related to how we make our partnership and program work. For example, "How do you divide up the roles and responsibilities in your classroom?" "What does it look like when you're teaching?" "How do you plan/assess the learning? Who does what? What does that look like?"
This is where I'd like to highlight where Heidi and I were at the beginning of our journey and where we are now in a series of four small points:
1. Purposeful Talk: As a team from the beginning, our foundation has been built on communication. Sharing each other's strengths and weaknesses and having conversations around what each other are comfortable with taking the lead on has been an integral part of understanding each other, building chemistry, and establishing an effective and structured program for US as a teaching team. Communication has been at the forefront of our planning, setting up our learning environment every summer, gathering assessment and sharing the roles within our classroom.
We ALWAYS teach as a TEAM and share responsibilities throughout the flow of our day (e.g. take turns doing the Read Aloud, leading our Morning Meeting, leading experiments, etc).
We ALWAYS plan together and reflect daily through passing conversations throughout the day and/or before or after school.
We ALWAYS take the time to talk about our personal lives which has helped us not only become strong partners but also wonderful friends.
2. Flexibility and Openness: Both Heidi and I come from various backgrounds with various experiences. As a team, we never hesitate to embrace each other's ideas, proposed learning experiences/opportunities for our students and for ourselves, questions and wonderings. Together, we work through the kinks through a LOT of trial and error and embrace change when our thinking shifts, when we gain new insights/understandings and when each other has new ways for teaching and learning. We are not afraid to confront challenges together nor are we closed-minded to reaching out to our professional learning network to gain new insights. Together, we seek new ways of teaching and learning as a team.
3. Trust: As a teacher, my experiences in the past of working alone to now as working as a team has taught me the importance of "letting go" of control. While difficult at first, Heidi's strong background in child development and passion for the early years not only assured me that our program would be successful, but that by trusting in each other as educators, we could truly be the best WE could be for our students.
4. Baby steps: Where Heidi and I started almost 2 and a half years ago was a completely different place and program then where we are now. As my Mom has always said, "Rome wasn't built in a day" and that rings true for the journey we've been on together as a teaching team. Each year, Heidi and I decide to focus on 1-2 small things that we'd like to change/accomplish for that year. With this mindset, we have been able to accomplish a lot in such a short amount of time and every year together we have built more on experiences and gained momentum for continued success. These goals have ranged from strengthening our documentation and assessment through the use of technology to revamping the way we "plan" for our learning each week. This all connects back to my first point around Purposeful Talk and taking the TIME as a team to sit down, recap, reflect, and rethink what's working and what's not to help set the bar for where the learning can go next!
Without making this post too long, I just have to conclude by saying how truly grateful I am to come to work everyday and teach alongside such an inspiring, passionate, caring, open, and honest colleague and friend. Heidi has been my rock throughout this journey so far and she has taught me so much about myself not only as a teacher but also as a friend. Heidi's passion for the Early Years is undeniable and her dedication to the profession goes without question. Her desire to seek her own professional development opportunities outside our classroom through course enrolment, attending conferences and workshops and beyond, speaks volumes about the type of educator she is and aspires to be. I'd like to thank you Heidi for believing in me as your partner, for inspiring me as your colleague and for helping make me the teacher I am today! Thank you for all that you have done and continue to do for the students in our classroom and for us as a team. I couldn't feel more lucky.