Friday, April 15, 2005

A Collection of Individuals

This was, by far, the most social week I've had at D'Youville. Two of five professors that we have were at a conference in Montreal leaving us more free time than we probably needed. But it did give me pause to think about the people around me, as fellow future teachers.

Although, in a way, I will be competing with those around me for jobs, the market is large enough that the competition is likely never to be head to head. Thus, I feel free to look at my classmates as if they were future colleagues. But what is the nature of teacher's collegiality? I can't know the answer to this until I join the profession, but I'd like to make some speculations.

There is a strange tension in teaching where the union, belief in co-operation, and the social aspects of learning are all central to the profession; yet, most teachers spend their careers completely isolated from their colleagues. I enjoy the idea of team teaching and professional collaboration—I've experienced some really nice collaborative work in the corporate world—but, I really get the feeling that the only time teachers get together is when they are not working, which is a really odd situation. I think that professional relationships which are focused on break time, lunch, P.D. days, and contract negotiations are, by their very nature, difficult to manage.

There is an intimacy that emerges from having to actually work together. I feel this with the other students in my cohort. I feel we've come to know each other in very deep ways. There have been soul bearing moments, behaviours that could only emerge in an environment built on trust, and some dangerously honest talk and action. There is a lot of impassioned speech on what kind of teachers people do and don't want to be—but I'm worried that this kind of professional engagement with colleagues is only possible at teacher's college.

That being said, I've seen a lot of other students, in other cohorts at D'Youville, who are doing time with other people doing time. Getting things done and just watching the clock. I would find that kind of experience disappointing to say the least. So, even as students it seems rare that there is real co-operation happening.

I think creating strong professional relationships is going to be vital for me, and I think that this can only happen in the context of team teaching, coaching, or extra-curricular team leadership. I have a lot of respect for and pleasure from those around me and I'm going to endeavour to continue working with them, not just around them, when this all wraps up in a few weeks.

In academic news, on Tuesday morning we presented our Autism/Asperger's lesson to our Exceptional Needs class—who were uncharacteristically subdued. The amount of planning that had gone into it, and the diligence of one particular group member really made it a great success. I learned a lot about teaching social interactions to students with serious social deficits. The amount of rational processing that has to happen in order for highly functioning autistic kids to understand facial expressions makes me marvel that it is even possible for the rest of the world.

The coming weeks will prove to be heavy, which is really no surprise. I'm approaching this time with mixed feelings—a struggle between the excitement of finishing a task and the sadness that accompanies the end of anything.