Saturday, November 12, 2011

A Partner in Learning

I bought a camping trailer this summer. Not the most momentous event in my life in recent months but certainly significant on my journey into Blogging. The saleswoman sat in front of a wall plastered with her numerous awards as salesperson of the month. When I pointed them out she laughed and said, "They make me put them up." Three weeks earlier I had been named teacher of the year in my school district. My first formal accolade in twenty three years of teaching. Nominated by my teaching partners and verified by fellow colleagues throughout the district. A real honor, and where was my framed certificate? In a drawer in my bedroom.....hmm!

Not long after that I received an invitation to a ribbon cutting ceremony for a new methane operated electricity plant at a local Waste Management facility. The invitation was completely unrelated to my award, and came from Chris Klein the education officer there, who had visited my classroom on several occasions to talk to my students about alternative energy, human impact on the environment and stewardship .I found myself mingling with local dignitaries, General Motors executives, and business leaders. While marveling at my free lunch and goody bag people would ask who I was and my reply was, "Oh! I'm just a teacher." Chris, on the other hand, introduced me as an important member of her team. She considered me to be amongst my peers while I felt like a kid who'd been allowed to eat at the adult table.

Last week I found myself in Washington D.C. at the Microsoft Partners in Learning Global Forum. I was part of the USA innovative educators team and was treated to an intense week of professional development, global collaboration and serious discussion about the future of education. Anglea Maiers ,one of my educational gurus, was participating and I wanted desperately to meet her. I couldn't fathom, however, what to say .What could I say to her that would enhance her learning as she has done for me so many times through social networking? So I backed off and missed the opportunity. Tono Sablan didn't.

Tono was also a part of Team USA , presenting his Project Unite which he developed to celebrate diversity in his school and to reduce fighting amongst the students. He introduced himself to Angela, handed her his card and described his project. He walked away with a promise of future collaboration. He is fifteen years old!

Why couldn't I do that? Some may say I lack confidence but I can hear those that know and love my loud and obnoxious self choking back laughter at the very suggestion. Have I been brainwashed by the old adage "Those that can't- teach." Was it the high caliber of the fellow attendees that made me feel like I am "just a teacher" ?

I think again about the lady who sold me my camping trailer. Those awards on the wall should have given me a clue as to how good she was-she sold me a fifth wheel that was five times more expensive than I was willing to pay!!When I get back to school I'm going to put my teacher of the year award on the wall outside my classroom. I want it to give my students a clue that when they come into my classroom they will get five times more of an experience than they bargained for.

We all have that kid in our classroom who just sits there like a sponge soaking it all in but they rarely look up and engage in the conversation. And it drives you crazy because you see that they are learning but you constantly wonder how much all of us could learn from them if only they would share their thoughts and ideas with us. And as teachers we encourage and coax and cajole that kid into participating. Well it turns out that I am that kid.

I want to thank my teachers : the R.V. saleswoman, my amazing colleagues, Chris Klein at Waste Management , Tono Sablan and especially the Microsoft Partners in Learning Team. You have all taught me that even amongst business leaders, movie makers, politicians, policy makers , educators... I am amongst my peers, and I am a Partner in Learning .With that comes responsibility-the responsibility to share , engage , take risks, challenge, participate-everything that I demand of my students and now it is time that I demand it of myself. I am lifting my head. I am raising my hand. I have something to say , "I'm Pauline and I am a teacher!"


  1. Very well said. I tweeted earlier today that I finally understand that partners in learning is much more than a name.

  2. And an excellent, inspiring, loveable teacher at that! I am sooo glad I got to spend time and get to know you at the Global Forum. You have so much to share and I feel fortunate that you shared with me!

  3. Great post - I echo Cheryl. So glad that we got to reconnect for a few hours!!!!!

  4. This is an absolutely remarkable piece of writing which speaks to the heart of what we all face - a search for identity and place in an ever-changing world.

    Thank you Pauline for standing up and declaring your place in the educational landscape as a dynamic, charismatic, and dedicated educator.

    You inspire, lead and guide every day. I am quite blessed to work with you on a daily basis.

    Let's get those awards on the walls!