In teaching, as in life, there are defining moments which shape you by helping you understand your beliefs and the educator you want to be. My defining moment was nothing eventful at the time but I now look back and know for sure it was my turning point. It all started when I was accosted (no joke) by this individual one morning long before school started. I was en route to my home away from home, the photocopier (those were different times), to print out some epic packages of notes and if my memory serves me right she jumped out of her classroom in a way that would make Kramer proud. I believe she was excited this given day about how magnets could transform education, or perhaps it was creating felt boards, whatever the case may be that day turned into another day with another new idea and before I knew it I was swept off my math teacher feet by someone who would turn out to be the smartest, most hard-working, and courageous educator I have ever met to this day. That person is Carolyn Durley.
To honour Carolyn and everything she means to me on her last day before retirement I could think of no better way than to write a blog post, after all she did introduce me to blogging, and try to articulate what I have learned from her.
Collaboration thrives with diversity
- She was science, I was math. She was all over the place (in a good way!), I was linear. She had experience, I had…youth!?!?! You get the picture, but up until meeting Carolyn I was a math teacher and could not imagine getting away from that silo and talking pedagogy beyond that frame. We challenged one another’s thinking, we tried mathy things in science and sciency things in math, and above all we viewed our differences as strengths.
Always we, never I
- When we were in the classroom together and when we left to work for our district as consultants (instructional coaches) it was clear that we were not individuals, we were a team. When praise came we accepted it together and when adversity came we tackled it together. Emails were signed with both of our names even when someone may have carried the lion’s share this time. I have had the privilege of being on many high functioning teams and Carolyn’s ability to think of team over self is something I will always cherish.
Metaphors and props
- Their ain’t no metaphor like a Carolyn metaphor because a Carolyn metaphor don’t stop! It is an art to watch her take something complicated and breath life and understanding to it with her words. I think this is because Carolyn values the mind’s eye and knows how powerful visualization and visuals can be. Which bring me to props…Carolyn and I have a bit of a love/hate with props. Our first time presenting together at our initial CanFlip conference Carolyn surprised me 30 minutes before our keynote with props she was going to use, I even remember them, shoes and rocks! As a linear thinking over planned presenter this struck fear in my heart yet later on I saw how powerful they could be. My vow moving forward is to step up my non-existent metaphor game and to give props a chance.
Making learning visible benefits us all
- I owe Carolyn for continuing to prod me to jump into the Twittersphere. Like many, I was resistant as I thought Twitter was all about telling people what you had for lunch. Little did I know some nine years later I would call it the best professional development I have ever done. I think what is special about it is that it allows you to see what some of the greatest minds in education have to say but also that teacher down the hall, in my case that teacher was often Carolyn. To be honest I strongly believe that I have gained as much, if not more, from my PLN than I have from big names or the leading publishers. I also love how it has pushed my thinking. I’ve put ideas out there that others have questioned or challenged. Blogging is another way of making my thinking visible that I owe to Carolyn. Like Twitter it can be an ebb and flow process but articulating my thinking outwards has really helped me get clear on my beliefs and where I stand.
Buddy system for the win
- We made some significant changes in our teaching practices together. If we had not had one another to bounce ideas off of, to shed tears with, or to ponder taking over the world with (true story!) we would not have had the same success. We had each others backs in thick and thin, this was true collaboration. We were better together!
This list is incomplete. Carolyn has meant so much more to me than any list could ever convey. Yet it is my hope that selfishly I can periodically reread this to remember everything she has taught me so I can continue to spread her amazingness across our district and beyond.
Seeing Carolyn retire is bittersweet. I am so unbelievably happy for her that she is taking this opportunity to gain more time with her family and embark on future adventures (one even starting tomorrow!). I am honoured that I got to spend her final year working with her closely and that her final day found us together one last time. Yet I am sad because I know how much she has meant to the countless students and educators across our system. And above all, I am sad because I am simply going to miss seeing her and being around her on a daily basis.
Thank you for everything buddy!