future proof [for quest 2016]

This has to stop. These moments of time travel – I get headaches.

While standing in class, mid-lesson, mid thought- I blink it’s 1985, I blink again and it is 2016. Where am I? The lights, the corkboard, the rows of desks. A chalky sense of nostalgia chased by the grim reality of, well, nostalgia, all soaked with the sour smell of ‘been there, done that’.


It all is pretty much as it was in 1989 when I graduated from high school.

I’m getting jittery, edgy and what could have been fuzzy feelings from my high school days turn on me viciously. Looking at my current classroom, I realize that my younger self is screaming at me, dissing me for missing my own point; I had issues with school back in 1985 as a student, that now, in 2016, teacher-me continues to perpetuate.

Reality check…if I had walked out of a classroom in 1985, back-to-the-future, and walked into a classroom in 2016, what would I have registered as radical as the fact that I had just traveled 30 years into the future? Huge changes? Any changes? Computers, fashion, adornments notwithstanding…

I cue into the now.

The lesson I’m delivering is hinged on the question ‘Is your career future proof?’ Solid angle of inquiry for a careers course, right? I thought so. Each of the students, at this point, has started to investigate and plan their post-secondary pathway. Each of the students has started to pick the senior level courses that in theory will keep them racing towards a career.

Is it important for the students to see a bit of their future? Of course it is!

The future is where change manifests, dreams come true, and everything we learn in school becomes real. It is important to keep them tracking their future targets…right? Even though we know their targets are constantly moving and the competition for finite future prospects is stiff. And as I ask the students, I realize that I want to answer it as well. Am I future proof?

I start to future cast into the next 15 – 20 years that remain before my tentative retirement, what if I am still standing in a similar classroom? What if the children of these children remark to me ‘wow this class looks exactly the same as my mother described’?

Now I am really uncomfortable.

That chalky, tingly sensation is almost unbearable. The students needed some prodding, I shift gears. ‘Is teaching future proof?’ Still lots of blinking. ‘Will I be able to teach in the same way that I do now in 5 years, or 10 years, or even 15 years from now?’ I am catching a roll now, I should wait, waiting time is good, but I throw one more question to the crowd. ‘Can you folks imagine a school, without ever setting foot inside a school…building?’

This gets them chatting. Analyzing what a teaching job would look like in the next 15-20 years became the parallel sweet spot for our lesson. The students could not stop poking questions and making statements about my career. Some students took the opportunity to comment on the current system, as they know it; others tried to project themselves into a future system that they may never be a part of. A few tried to keep their future plans in plain sight, but the gravity of the topic pulled them in too. The best of the bunch riffed off of each other as the creative spark lit up their thinking. Either way, I felt my younger self-smiling satisfactorily.

Capturing the full transcript was impossible, the energy, the controversy, the opportunity to poke the system in the eye- all of this exploded out into the conversation. The next day the debates continued. Much of what happened in those two periods were lost, the feed was just too rich.

We never officially pegged an answer. We did not find a clear path to our future selves. We did leave the space with some pretty good critically constructive inquiries. Some of them are captured here.

[Them & Me ]

‘You should stop using paper handouts.‘ I have tried that, some students do not have digital technology.. ‘No, just stop using paper handouts…period‘ Like stop handing things out at all? No handouts..?

‘Can we film our class?‘…in general? ‘Ya, I film everything then I post it.‘ Post it? Where? ‘Everywhere.‘

‘The WiFi should be available outside in the school yard.‘ It kinda works if you really need it, you could stand near the door… ‘I want to work outside when the weather is nice…‘

‘The school has it wrong…‘ Good start, what are you thinking? ‘I don’t want to insult you, but school is designed wrong.‘ School is not just me, it’s you and me. ‘Ya right.‘

‘Why do we have classrooms?‘

‘Why can’t I Skype your class from the library?’

‘I agree, school is messed up.‘ Share your thinking. ‘We walk in the halls and sit in the classrooms. I want to hang out in the halls and move around in class.‘

‘Why can’t I stay home and do school with YouTube?‘ Explain your thinking. ‘I watched two YouTube videos today in P1, could’ve watched that at home.‘

‘Could I sit in my friend’s Psych class this week instead of coming to Careers?’ uhhh, hmmm. ‘…they’re talking about abnormal psych, I just studied Oedipus…’

‘School should be free.‘ It is, kind of, for you. ‘No, free, right up through university.‘ How would that work? ‘Well we can pretty much learn anything for class from the web…‘

‘I was just thinking about my art teacher, he uses a lot of history examples in viz art… I like how he mixes other courses into art class.‘

‘School sucks…I want to work…why can’t I just go to work and not do school?‘ Where do I start? There’s lots of reasons to get an education, then get a better job… ‘I don’t really care about that, I just want to work.‘

‘Are you worried about your job?’

‘If I am a modern learner, does that make you a modern teacher?’ I believe so. ‘Wait, what does that even mean..?’

‘I miss my elementary school.‘ Why? ‘I had more fun.‘ …like recess? ‘Not just that, I think that it was just more fun to learn.‘


I’ve been pretty fortunate in my career so far.

When I transitioned from cooking to teaching I left a very familiar world behind.

Arriving in a classroom and a new career meant my search for mentors would begin anew. That’s a thing with me… I learn best from people. I learn best from people in some sort of social setting. I need stimuli from seeing, doing, and especially hearing and feeling. While I was learning to cook, I hungrily sought out apprenticeship opportunities under anyone that would teach me.

The funny thing about the hospitality industry is that the competition for customer dollars created many closed doors for me. Often when I asked a chef colleague to share their knowledge I was met with the raised eyebrow skepticism of mistrust. And in some cases, flat out refusal.

I guess I was a bit naive to think that my questions could be perceived as anything other than stealing trade secrets…but that is how it can be in a pay to play industry. The knowledge holders become gatekeepers and gatekeepers exist to protect their stake.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I found many people to help me. Often when I asked, the best of the bunch were overjoyed and surprised to share. They also sometimes were a bit embarrassed by the recognition- they knew their work was good, but rarely felt that positivity from the outside.

The reality check that face punched me in my first week of teaching was that teacher’s college only got me part way to preparedness. In some ways, all it did was inject me with confidence…competence, not so much. And the knockout happened when I asked for help.

I guess I was a bit naive to think that my questions could be perceived as anything other than stealing trade secrets…but how could that be in a public school system? The knowledge holders were gatekeepers and gatekeepers exist to protect their stake. Their stake, not the students, not their community’s, not the schools. Now maybe asking to borrow a binder or two or three [if I am being honest] can seem like stealing and I only did it a few times. I stopped doing it altogether because of the overwhelming guilt that came as a side dish in the transaction. I was new, I had nothing to trade, and I dared to ask the most qualified gatekeepers of the bunch.

I am now in my 12th year of teaching and still chasing competence. But that newbie experience has left a permanent impression on me. I did not have the edubabble to frame my mindset at the time but I have come to embrace, fully and completely, open source and growth mindset. The only thing better than asking me for my help, my thoughts, or my resources would be offering me your iteration of my learning that you found posted, placed, or printed somewhere. That would be cool.

At this point in my game, I fully recognize the power of lifelong learning. And that there is a distinction in its pursuit. Since coming into education I have had many mentors that either through intent or accident have kept me informed, inspired, and fascinated. I will throughout my blog posts make intentional account of the ways that my current mentor list has helped me.

All that I ask of you is that you pay it forward – maybe even before you are asked.

turn off teacher

Although teaching is my current stop along my career path, it will not be my last. And as amazing as this job is, it triggers behaviours that I am not entirely comfortable with. In truth, it has exacerbated some of the same characteristics that I had left behind in the kitchens of past.

10 years ago, teaching found me. Faced with a ‘whats my next move?’ moment I opted to shift out of restaurant life at a moment in time when the opportunity presented itself, and my motivation to change was accessible, and the resources to support the change were available. All of this couched in a singular notion- that if I truly wanted to grow my family, my current lifestyle would need to end.

In the professional kitchen, there is little time for ‘self’. The business pulls so many resources from its staff that I often felt the blackhole-pull teasing at my personal life. The down time from the kitchen often was dotted with frantic calls from either the owner or other staff members. The gravity was unavoidable. For a roadside view of my past autobahn self- check out http://goo.gl/T1eZHK or http://goo.gl/jGwEFI both articles present parts of my former career, in all its guts and glory.

So now, I discriminate.

In the past, this meant choosing work stuff over life stuff. Now, I find that at 3:00 pm I crave my family. I want to hustle out of the building, into my vehicle, and pick up my kids. This is new territory for me. But I gotta admit, it feels pretty good. There is a palpable upswing in my mood as I walk into my kids’ school- no matter the type of day they may have had and all of the possibilities that may have occurred, I feel one step closer to my center.

Coming home for downtime has taken on new meaning for me. I find that at the end of the work day I crave, well, ‘home’. In the past I would have/could have remained at work, puttered around organizing, copying, recopying, and possibly reorganizing stuff for the next day. Much of this busy work was/is fuelled by an internal autopilot mechanism that often misleads- more often than not, created anxious dissonance with my family’s needs, and did nothing to build connectivity to my work.

Going forward into 2016 I remain focused on getting and being ‘home’. A huge challenge in this will be developing a finer and clearer integration of work with life. Additionally, I aim to remain at home while there.