A week ago at this time, I had just returned from my first ever white water rafting trip and was feeling proud, accomplished, and exhausted. Throughout my rafting excursion down the 45 degree Nantahala River, the words of the previous day’s very charismatic presenter stuck with me.
NO FAKE. NO FEAR.
Leading up to our group chanting these words in unison, the presenter mentioned that students can tell when their teachers are fake, and they can smell fear. In my experience, his statement is definitely true. While I must admit that I wasn’t thrilled to scream “NO FAKE NO FEAR” in the middle of a presentation, the words and the meaning behind them stuck with me throughout the week. In my classroom, I want to always be real with my students – real about my expectations for them, the work it takes to succeed, and who I am as a person. Often, being real with people (especially judgmental middle school boys) can be scary, but during the presentation I was reminded being hindered by fear prevents me from building trusting and possibly life-changing relationships with my students.
Spending the North Carolina Center for the Advancement of Teaching (NCCAT) in the the mountains was very possibly the best professional development I’ve had as a teacher. During my time there, I was treated as a professional in my field. My opinions on what happens in classrooms and schools was valued by those around me, and it was so awesome to teach and learn with other educators. Often at professional development I feel like an empty water glass being poured into by the presenter, but last week I felt like everyone was a partially full glass of water, each pouring into other people’s glasses, and each leaving full of fresh insight and ideas.
At the end of the week, we had an opportunity to participate in an edcamp or “unconference”, which was new to me. During an edcamp, educators are able to choose their own sessions based on what they believe would be most helpful. It was amazing. Having the freedom to discuss topics that I was passionate about with other people who were passionate about them felt magical, and I left feeling more knowledgeable about aspects of education that I care about. Similarly, I spent every evening at NCCAT on the porch between our residence halls chatting with other fellows about teaching, learning, and life. These moments of free discussion were the most valuable to me during the week of professional development.
Overall, the week was fantastic. I learned more about my own personality and the personality of others (I’m an ESFJ, by the way), effective teaching practices, and future opportunities for professional advancement. The only session that was not particularly useful to me was one about the differences between cultures. I believe that culture is a beautiful and vibrant part of who a person is, but the session discussing it felt dry and dull, like a lecture from an intro level college course on cultural differences. I would have loved to have had more of a discussion about how to incorporate lessons pertaining to culture in my classroom, as it can be hard when working with a science curriculum.
When I left the mountains on Friday, I was a more excited, connected, and empowered educator than I had been when I arrived on Monday. Since then, I have started my externship at the Museum of Natural Sciences in downtown Raleigh working in the Ant Lab. I’ve already tried a whole lot of new things, from using an aspirator (literally a tube you use to suck up ants) to collect four species of ants, being filmed in a state of the art video lab documentary style, and plating fungal pathogens collected from ants. As I spend time in the lab with such intelligent scientists, I occasionally feel nervous that I’m going to mess something up, look like a dork, or ask a dumb question, but then I remember my favorite NCCAT words. NO FAKE. NO FEAR.