And the journey toward lifelong learning continued! (Part 4)

I have shared my Kindergarten, Elementary, Junior High and High School years with you in Parts 1-3 of this style series.  Now all that is left are the experiences in post-secondary, graduate school, and our current day-to-day reality.

In the last post, we left off with my early admission to York University.  My studies began in 2002, just a year prior to when I had expected to graduate from Langstaff Secondary School!  By that point in my learning journey I knew that I wanted to go into the field of education and had already begun volunteering all throughout my time as a teenager.  I had worked in several different settings including schools, daycares, church programs, private music/language lessons, and summer camps.  I became quite drawn toward children and was often told that my strong rapport with them would help me when having my own classroom.

For the first three years of my university studies, I was an English major and belonged to Stong College.  Reading about poetry or Shakespeare was not always easy to interpret, but definitely good for the soul!  Overall, I can say that I thoroughly enjoyed life as a student and even started getting used to the busy reading schedule or intense exam periods.

Applying to Teachers College was the next big step on my academic road.  Up until that point, I had found success in the acceptance to both the Extended French and my undergraduate degree programs, however, nothing could prepare me for the complexity of the process that lay ahead of me in becoming a full-time teacher.  I can remember applying to the Faculty of Education at York University, with the deadline of December 1st.  This date remains vivid in my memory, as I also coincidentally had a driving test the same day.  My nerves were high, and I was very hopeful that my entry essay, experience with children, and reference letters would grant me the opportunity for an interview.  Then began the waiting game...

I had been pre-warned by many educators and prospective students that getting into any preservice program in Ontario was quite challenging, and that York University was nearly impossible.  Knowing this information, I tried to remain positive yet also realistic that I might have had to make plans to reapply the following year.  

Then to my surprise and delight the letter for an interview arrived in our mailbox!  If I'm not mistaken, I had to prepare about a ten minute talk on my teaching and then answer several questions by two experienced faculty members or principals from nearby school boards.  I picked a very professional outfit that consisted of black pants and a black blazer.  To show a little of my colourful personality, I added a dress shirt with a soft turquoise, thinking that perhaps it might make me stand out a little.  With my cue cards in hand and butterflies in my stomach, I had my Dad drive me to York University.  I knew that Saturday morning I'd have been just one step closer to my dream of teaching.

The interview was one of the most intimidating experiences of my life! (Yes to date!)  The administrators introduced themselves, and listened to me speak about my passion for education without any facial expressions whatsoever.  I left wondering what the outcome might be, worried that they were not very engaged with anything that I had shared...  When the acceptance package arrived a few months later (and trust me I checked daily!!!), I was over the moon!  It was as though I had won the lottery!  There was literally a permanent smile on my face for months!  

Teacher's College was a year that I will surely never forget!  I belonged to the York University north (Bloomington) cohort with placements in either the York Catholic District School Board or York Region District School Board.  I found the lectures to be insightful, providing us with the theory and ideas to apply to real contexts within the classrooms.  

My first placement was in a Grade 3 classroom at Richmond Rose P.S.  The host teacher (Mrs. Bonita Turner) treated me like her partner, and allowed me to feel as though the children were ours.  I learned how to lesson plan and how to manage student behaviour while teaching.  My second placement was in a Grade 6 classroom at Bakersfield P.S.  There my focus shifted from lesson planning to unit planning.  One of the units that I enjoyed creating was an introduction to poetry.  

What I remember most about my placements was the incredible connection that I formed with the students.  Another highlight was being encouraged to invite the principal of Richmond Rose P.S. (at the time Michael Cohen - now a superintendent for our board) to participate in one of my lessons and provide me with feedback, as well as advice for my upcoming interview process to schools.  Funny enough, I still have the small note that he wrote within my placement binder. 

In Teacher's College I was inspired to become a lifelong learner and wanted to do the same for my students.  I also gained a strong foundation in teaching, as well as many lasting friendships.  Some of the friends that I made in that one year were even part of my wedding day celebration.  I will never forget how our common interests, drive, and even the pressures of the program bonded us so closely together!

During the month of June I graduated and got onto the occasional teacher list for YRDSB.  I supply taught for two schools and can still appreciate how thoughtful the children were, including the one who drew me a picture and wrote that I would make a good teacher someday.  This simple drawing/gesture, which I had kept on my wall, acted as motivation to continue pursuing a permanent position.  At that stage of my career, I was perfectly happy to continue supply teaching, since many LTO's had already been filled/placed for the following September.  I saw occasional teaching as my chance to explore different classrooms and school structures.  Definitely not a bad option for a curious teacher like myself!

Nevertheless, in late August the phone rang with an invitation to be interviewed at Sixteenth Avenue Public School in the York Region District School Board.  I was interview by Jeff Tishler and Shawna Gates who offered me a LTO position teaching Grade 3.  With only one day before the labour day long weekend, I took the position and to quite literally to dive right in !  I was feeling a range of emotions from excitement to complete and utter FEAR!

Nonetheless, my first year of teaching is one that I will always look back upon fondly.  My passion for the profession began early, and I will admit that I spent twelve hours on a daily basis in my classroom.  Sometimes I would even go in on Saturdays (it was open due to language classes) to prepare the environment for the upcoming week.  My husband (who I had just started dating at the time) came in to help me decorate for Halloween one weekend and also supported me with gifts of craft books filled with ideas to try with students.  Having my own classroom meant the world to me! I simply loved being there, and other educators often joked that I never left...

Sixteenth Avenue Public School was a special place that taught me lessons any course or book will never have been able to.  When I worked there it was considered a performance plus school, which is a school that is located in a neighbourhood where a greater number of the children come from families who are of lower socio-economically.  My students always valued our creative learning moments, and any special materials that I brought to the classroom.  It was fun to enter a contest with them after reading the book Charlotte's Web, and providing them with real literacy contexts that were more meaningful to engage in.  Our class' entry won us free tickets to see the newly released movie (Charlotte's Web) with some of the Toronto Raptors.  The students got their own popcorn and drink box and a small keepsake.  I am not sure if they still remember this day, but as a first year teacher (on a huge school bus downtown) I will never forget the responsibility, pride that I felt in my class for winning, and the buzz in the air for this great honour/opportunity!

I know that many of the names mentioned will probably never read this, and I have always tried my best to acknowledge those who encouraged me on my path in person or through email, but I did want to say a public thank you.  Thank you to everyone who believed in me.  Thank you to Jeff Tishler and Shawna Gates for giving me a permanent position during my first year of teaching the LTO.  Thank you to the students and families for trusting that I knew what I was doing!  Thank you also to the second principal at Sixteenth Avenue Erik Khilji for encouraging me to become a leader and to continue taking courses.  Words cannot describe how career changing many of the moments I highlighted have been for me.  As far as I have come, or even hope to go, I never forget where it all started...  A girl with a dream to make a difference in the lives of children and families!

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Here are a few photos of me inside York University where you could have counted on finding me reading/making study notes:

Here are a few photos at the first school that I ever worked at - Sixteenth Avenue P.S. (YRDSB):

Thank you for reading my blog post.  I had a lot of fun revisiting my Undergraduate/Teacher's College days and planning my outfits!

Outfit/photoshoot details:

Look 1: 

Dress - @maggylondon long sleeve wrap dress-sea wave (GSC16M - SWVE)

White shirt under the dress - @shoppinkblush

Shoes - @toryburch

Bag and pencil case - @lesportsac

Notebook and reading book - @chaptersindigo

Photographer - @loveoverlenses

Styling and details - @joannebabalis

Look 2:

Dress - @maggylondon Helen Midi (G2550M)

Shoes - @Zara

Watch - @follifollie

Earrings - @katespadeny

Ring - @lechateau

Book bag - @globoshoes 

Photographer - @loveoverlenses

Styling and details - @joannebabalis

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I thought that you might like to know that Maggy London is giving 9 lucky teachers the chance to win the ultimate teacher giveawayEnter for your chance at a new school wardrobe, classroom makeover, and special deals + steals!

If you like these dresses use the code TEACH30 to take 30% off your total purchase!

Otherwise here are some additional pages that might be of interest to you:

Special thank you goes out to @loveoverlenses for her attention to detail in carefully and creatively capturing each image.  I loved her collaborative nature and willingness to travel back in time with me!  She now photographs other blogger-shoots if you are ever looking to team up contact her here.

Stay tuned for more fun back to school posts throughout this coming week and leading up to October!!!


change the world

one child

at a time.

                                                                                            -unknown author

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