I love books. I love the smell of them - of new books in particular. Sometimes, if I can't decide two books I really want, I will give them each a good sniff and see which one gives off a nicer aroma.
While I was at Queen's University I worked at the Education Library where I got to sample hundreds of children's books, resource books, guide books, and books about teaching. It wasn't until summer of last year that I really fell in love with nonfiction. In the past, I had always been a fan of fiction (fantasy, historical fiction, action/adventure, sci-fi...etc.) because reading that I could travel to different worlds, meet new people, and have adventures of my own all in the comfort of my cozy little reading nook. I read a quote somewhere that went something like this, "if you don't like reading, then you haven't found the right book," and I think there is much truth to that. After finishing The End of Molasses Classes, I was hooked.
At first, my journey into the nonfiction world had began as pure information gathering. I wanted strategies and ideas on how I can improve my own teaching practice. Soon, this knowledge would be amalgamated into my own professional knowledge and teaching philosophy. I eventually experienced a hunger and a thirst for reading nonfiction that I was all too happy to satisfy. The more I read, the more questions I had, which led, of course, to more books. A tip: Always befriend the librarian, because she will have the most up-to-date information about the latest books and will be sure to give you a good recommendation.
Some books I read this past year:
You will notice that many of these titles are directly related to the teaching profession, and I highly recommend all of them. Two of them (i.e. Creativity Inc, and Outliers), I read out of pure interest, but found indirect ties to my teaching practice nonetheless. Creativity Inc, for instance, is about Ed Catmull's journey to building an animation empire (Pixar Animation) held up by pillars of creativity, joyous storytelling, and "emotional authenticity." His building an empire, and teachers leading a classroom are more or less analogous, if not the same thing. In teaching, I think it is also beneficial to draw from sources of inspiration outside the realm of education because it broadens your thinking and opens your mind up to more possibilities. Otherwise, you run the risk of stagnating and taking up the "my way or highway" mentality, which I actively try to avoid.
Officially an Ontario Certified Teacher (OCT), I now have access to the Margaret Wilson Library, which is a library dedicated to all the certified teachers of Ontario. So naturally, the first thing I did after I finally received my membership was order a book! More on this later.
[The last week of teacher's college] "What a waste of time. I can't wait for this to be over already."
[The last day of classes] "Wohoo! I'm free! Time to live my dream and start a blossoming career as an educator and shape the lives and minds of thousands of children for the better!"
POST-GRAD PHASE 1: Quarter-Life Crisis
"I need to find a job."
"Minimum wage? No way."
"Why won't they hire me?"
"AM I NOT GOOD ENOUGH?"
POST-GRAD PHASE 2: Reality Check
"It's only been two weeks since classes ended, why am I getting so worked up about this job hunting business? I need to relax a little."
POST-GRAD PHASE 3: Guilt
"Oh God. Is that... It is..."
"OH PLEASE GOD I WILL TAKE ANY JOB I CAN GET AS LONG AS I DO NOT HAVE TO SACRIFICE MY DIGNITY!"
POST-GRAD PHASE 4: The Return To The Job Hunt
[Applies to any and all jobs available]
"What if they want to hire me?"
I was reminded of this little gem I found on the internet in a conversation today with one of my good friends about the book Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell (see video link below). She had been feeling a little conflicted about the "10 000 hour rule" - the mantra that states you need to devote 10 000 hours in order to really be good at something. After all, the only thing most of my peers have devoted 10 000 hours to in our lifetime thus far is school. Imagine how that would go in an interview...
Interviewer: So tell me about your greatest strength.
Me: Ever since I was three I had been enrolled in school. I've invested so much time and energy into this endeavor that I feel I really mastered the skill of passivity in the classroom. I can now successfully memorize isolated facts and information and retain it in my short term memory long enough to regurgitate it on a final exam. So I would definitely say school is my greatest strength. I'm amazing at school.
I can see how this rule can be disheartening for those who feel it might be a little too late to begin a new skill. As much as I loved reading Outliers and learning about how cultural and environmental factors really influence success, I think that readers need to be cautious of extending these ideas too far. Despite the environmental hand you may be dealt, success is also dependent on how you decide to interact with these factors.
There are some interesting tidbits you can take away from the TED talk on "How to Learn Anything" by Josh Kaufman, which dispels the 10 000 myth (though there is some truth to it, admittedly). Watch on to learn about the learning curve; successful strategies and barriers to skill acquisition; and to see his cool ukulele performance at the end!
Teacher, Friend, Adventurer. (Not necessarily in that order)