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Navel gazing! Now new and improved with blogs!

Actually, this isn’t a snarky post, but my previous title was so banal that I had to do something to kick it up a notch. So, without further ado, (optional insertion of Emeril-esque “BAM” here)

My first teaching job (well, the one that actually paid something–never mind the fact that the wage was roughly half the amount of what most students withdrew from the school’s ersatz bank each weekend for exciting shopping excursions to outlet malls in New Hampshire or to Copley Place in Boston where they bought bizarre, now hopelessly dated items like MiniDisc players…but I digress) was at Cushing Academy in Ashburnham, MA, a boarding school roughly 75 minutes west of Boston.

During that summer I worked as a “teaching intern,” an august title which indicated that I would have the chance to work with an experienced teacher in planning and leading a five-week American History course, get to lead my own elective (videography), and that I would also get to live in a student dorm room and share bathroom facilities with teenage boys (which my wife would argue she essentially has to do presently…sorry, Anna.) Moreover, for those of us who made up this intrepid group of “interns” we also found our titles amusing given that we had them in the relatively recent post-Lewinsky era. However, as far as I know, the titles were the only thing we really had in common with those who worked on Pennsylvania Avenue.

In spite of the really appealing way in which I cast the job in the preceding paragraph, I really did enjoy and learn an immense amount from the experience. Not only did I have a great mentor teacher who allowed me to jump in immediately and start leading the class–something that was hugely valuable in confirming for me that I wanted to pursue teaching as a profession–but I also had good teaching intern colleagues and a good intern coordinator who, at least from my perspective, (I had many colleagues from that summer who feel quite differently) really pushed me to engage in valuable reflection and critical self-assessment.

Though initially cumbersome, our required weekly reflections proved vital for me in thinking about effective versus ineffective clasroom management and presentation techniques. I tended to treat them seriously and (I’m sure this will be hard for any readers out there to believe) write a fair amount about the previous week. These reflections proved valuable as launching pads for the debriefing discussions that I had with both my mentor teacher and the intern coordinator. Moreover, they helped me establish the habit of critical reflection and feel comfortable seeking input and pedagogical advice from my colleagues–both those around my age and those who had many years of experience.

While my full-time teaching career has not been characterized by quite the same volume of codified (read: formally written) reflections (though, I’d venture to guess my amount of informal and discussion-based reflection has increased exponentially), it has just dawned on me that in many ways this blog is now serving as that medium for formal reflection. However, instead of that reflection taking place on a small scale (e.g. read by one mentor teacher or shared with a few colleagues) this medium, and my development and engagment with my personal learning network (is there a less nausea-inducing phrase we could come up with for PLNs? Suggestions? Anyone? Bueller?) via Twitter has become my new method of sparking critical self-reflection.

In these past few months my engagement with my PLN has helped foster my enthusiasm for and deepen my respect for the challenge, complexity, and enjoyment of the teaching profession–something for which I’m extremely grateful.

So, thanks to those of you whose ideas have been thought-provoking and pushed me to constantly rethink what I do and how I can make it more engaging and beneficial for both ny students and myself. I guess this post could also be seen as an endorsement of blogging as a way to constantly keep oneself engaged and also contributing to the ever-expanding corpus of ideas, suggestions, and resources that social media allows us to access and employ in our own classes.

Well, I’d better call this post quits before it devolves any further into what one might consider something resembling the omphalocentric musings of a teenager. Well, not a teenager in this case, just someone who teaches them. (Uh oh, are teenage characteristics contagious? We did have a Swine Flu — er, pardon me, my un-kosher friends, “H1N1” — scare this spring. Should I be worried?)

Here’s to being stuck in an airplane! Two posts in one day!

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