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Retrospect and Reinvention

Looking back, I can without a doubt acknowledge that what has emerged most significantly from my early experiences in teaching is the idea that the most important measure of my pedagogical practice is the degree to which it has persisted in evolving.

I used to believe that the only alternative to structure was chaos
I used to believe winning was material
I used to believe in quantitative acknowledgement of learning and data-driven assessment
I used to believe that ambiguity was the enemy
I used to believe that learning could be bottled and finite

And then I got older, and I saw that everything was more complicated than what I had perceived. I learned to treasure the wonder of bringing students into a challenging space and asking them to think. I learned to live the reality that David Jardine so beautifully articulated at the conclusion of a Vancouver keynote this summer “Life is just as beautiful and just as difficult as you think it is. And when it’s difficult it’s not always a bad thing.”

This year, having been presented with an opportunity to teach physical and outdoor education full time I still find myself regularly “justifying” the decision to “move away from teaching a core subject.” Somehow, cultivating an understanding of human physiology, movement, social cooperation and environmental awareness in youth isn’t similarly valued.

The thing is, teaching is teaching. The same opportunity for wonder exists whether the subject is mathematics or motor analysis. My goal more than ever is to persist in accessing and extending my understanding of inquiry-based practice and the instructional process in an effort to push education out of its industrial-aged box. The artificial idea that the cultivation of physical or ecological literacy is so distinctly different from “core curriculum” is at the heart of the fractured approach to pedagogy I genuinely hope to help piece back together.

I’ve taken the time on a few occasions over the last few years to ask myself “Why am I teaching this?” The answer remains, “because I care about it.”

That still resonates.

There are more ways to abandon a child
than to leave them at the mouth of the woods.
Sometimes by the time you find them, they’ve made up names
for all the birds and constellations, and they’ve broken
their reflections in the lake with sticks.

… Here in the stillness of forest,
the sun columning before me temple-ancient,
that wonder is what I regret losing most; that wonder
and the true names of birds.

Sue Goyette, The True Names of Birds

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About Deirdre Bailey

Reader, Runner, Skier, Educator

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