A healthy start

October 11, 2016

Teachers from throughout northern Alberta gathered for Beginning Teachers’ Conference in Edmonton from Sept. 29 to Oct. 1. About 530 teachers took part in workshops on a variety of topics, including classroom management, student engagement and cultural ­diversity. The event shifts to Calgary from Oct. 13 to 15.

Since the inception of the Beginning Teachers’ Conference in 1996, the ATA News has regularly sought comments from teachers who are embarking on their new careers. This year, the News caught up with two previous contributors and asked for an update. Here are their “then” comments, first published on Oct. 19, 2010, along with their “now” comments from 2016.

Braidy Borris

Then... 2010
What are your first impressions of teaching?

My first impression of teaching is positive. It is a high-energy, fun situation where I have the privilege of interacting with a variety of people (students, staff and parents) on a daily basis. I am a teacher, guidance counsellor and coach for students from the age of 5 to 18. My students share stories and dreams about their lives. I have the privilege of observing my students’ academic, social and skill development. After my first month of teaching, I am still excited and cannot wait for further wonderful experiences!
Boyle School, Boyle

...and now, 2016
Now that you’ve been teaching for a number of years, what is your impression of the profession?

I still love teaching, and overall it’s still a positive experience for me. As with any job, there are challenges, and days when you feel completely overwhelmed, but there always seems to be that student or that moment of success that can just turn the day around. I also find that teaching keeps me engaged simply because there is so much variety in the job — whether it’s classroom accomplishments or celebrations, activities planned through the school or extracurricular events, I find my job is different every day and I still look forward to coming in to work every day.

Why have you stuck it out when many leave within the first five years?
I honestly can’t imagine myself doing anything else. I see friends and family members following their varied career paths and I admit that sometimes what they are doing sounds interesting, but never interesting enough to make me consider even for a moment doing anything else but teaching. I don’t think there could be any substitute for the satisfaction that comes with watching students succeed and achieve new goals, sometimes even surprising themselves.

What advice would you have for beginning teachers who are starting out now?
If you truly have a passion for teaching then stay teaching. Work through the low and hard times and remember you are there to benefit the students and their future. Also, support from others inside and outside the school is very important. I was fortunate to be paired with two amazing mentor teachers that I still lean on when I need it.

Also, find a work-life balance that you can sustain and at the end of the day take pleasure in the small victories. 
Edwin Parr Composite High School, Athabasca

Nazia Hiscock

Then... 2010
Teachers may teach from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., but I’m finding out that we actually work from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. From all the administrative work, to coaching volleyball, to planning interactive, engaging and exciting lessons, working 12-hour shifts has become the norm. University never prepared me for this, but the students are completely worth it!

The long hours are worth it when you have such complete job satisfaction.
Westview Public School, Fort McMurray

...and now, 2016
Now that you’ve been teaching for a number of years, what is your impression of the profession?

Every day is a challenge that I am so excited to face. I never thought that, after six years, I would still love teaching junior high and perhaps even more than ever! It was definitely a steep learning curve at the beginning and, looking at my resources, I am glad that I can continuously work to improve and get better.

A huge part of my career has been coaching sports and connecting with students in extracurricular activities. Having gone through the huge natural disaster that affected all of Fort McMurray, evacuating an entire city and then coming back to our schools and seeing the impact of teacher support on our students’ lives, I know that this will be my career for the rest of my life.

Why have you stuck it out when many leave within the first five years?
I’m not going to lie, I have considered career changes before. I have continued teaching because of the continuous support of my professional learning community (PLC). Our PLC time in Fort McMurray is among the most plentiful in the province, and the support has been a game changer. At my school, it’s the norm for teachers to collaborate in order to plan, discuss pedagogical perspectives, improve teaching practices, assess formal evaluations and share resources.

What advice would you have for beginning teachers who are starting out now?
Find your passion. Whether it’s music, social studies, sports, arts, environmental education or even math, find what makes you passionate about coming to work every day. There is no better model for learning for our students than teachers who love what they do. I firmly believe that passion is infectious.
Ecole McTavish Public Junior High School, Fort McMurray

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