I am a lifelong learner, but I haven’t always seen myself this way. As a student in the ‘80s and ‘90s I was always a questioner, who (rather to the irritation of my parents and teachers), needed to understand the purpose behind what was asked of me, before I’d bother. Without any mentors who could show me the relevance and application of my school subjects, I got through by expending only the minimum effort needed to pass. I didn’t realize, however, that I was learning and problem solving in all that was around me, including excelling in team sports, navigating a tricky home life, and spending summers visiting my father in China.
Later, in college, it took me 2 years before I finally decided on Elementary Education. Although I had always had an appreciation for working with children, I resisted the path because I had just completed 13 years of what I felt was a lot of work, but not a whole lot of learning. Did I really want to play a part in that torture for other children? The inadequacy of the traditional school approach is where I found my purpose in education and where it remains today.
I want to help create a “new norm” where schools across the world provide meaningful and transferable learning experiences. Unlike the old approach, which teaches topics for students to memorize, the new norm will enable students to be effective learners who have the skills and dispositions to tackle any content, as needed. The new norm will foster a community of global citizens made up of individuals who know the discomfort of learning and the grit it takes to apply and extend it. The old approach values obedience and the ability to quickly understand and remember for short periods of time; holding those who learn easily in high regard. The new norm will value a range of learners who can think, solve, question, and analyze differently; who can all come to the table feeling valued and inspired to collaboratively and openly learn from each other.
As a lifelong learner and a mother, I know that inquiry, curiosity and a need for answers is the catalyst to learning. I also know that it’s just the beginning, and actually finding and applying the answers is the real trick. For my students to find the drive to learn within an inquiry approach, I must let them take center stage. My job is to provide the stage and teach them the strategies and knowledge they’ll need to find their solutions. As an empathetic educator, my research and learning is dedicated to finding ways to teach my students how to improve their thinking skills, how to be creative and collaborative when solving problems, and how to have difficult conversations. I want to equip them with a full toolbox of skills, knowledge, understandings, and dispositions that will serve them well, both within school and beyond graduation.
My past failures and successes as a student, an athlete, a teacher, a mother, and a leader have been instrumental in my determination to make formalized education relevant and engaging for students. Children can and should be inspired by school, much like young kindergarten students who cannot wait for summer to be over. My purpose as an educator is to ensure this by helping to create schools and classrooms where authentic, purposeful, and connected learning are the new norm.