The teachable moment that took me out of the classroom: how 12 brilliant young women taught me about myself

In education, we often talk about teachable moments – those impromptu invaluable lessons that change our perspective. Often, we the teachers recognize, facilitate, and maximize those special and unexpected opportunities. I want to tell you about one particular teachable moment – this time, it was a huge epiphany for me, the teacher.

This past year, I worked at a very special place called the Linden School. I taught a Communications Technology elective for Grades 10-12. I facilitated this small class of 12 students like a typical university seminar, complete with Friday morning breakfasts and an emphasis on critical discussion.

I focused the year’s learning around personal branding. Grounded in the easy-to-read text by Dorie Clark, Reinventing You, the girls and I conducted focus groups. In our safe space, we talked openly about each other. We shared what we observed to be the strengths and weaknesses of our peers. I too was the subject for a focus group.

Listen here to my focus group

Direct link: Monica focus group

For most of you, some of the content requires insider knowledge to which you are not privy. Most people don’t know about the little quirks of my classroom. But if any of my former students actually listen to this, they’ll likely laugh at the jokes and may recall particular references. But I think anyone can gather that the girls allude to and directly talk about me working in spaces outside the classroom. While they said all this, I quietly took notes and listened as they independently managed the focus group.

After the focus group session, during our class debrief on the process, this was when the teachable moment happened for me.

The girls looked a little agitated and they began to ask many questions about my former work and education. After I turned off the audio recorder, my student Adriana probed some more, “So why are you here?” – here being at the school, teaching them.

It took me a moment to think of an answer that still validated my work, my investment in them, and my choice to be at the school. The girls knew about the various ‘big’ projects I was working on – much of it had to do with recommending improvements for communications, marketing and recruitment, fundraising, and technology. As much as I tried to manage the work, they noticed I was spread too thin across major – and competing – priorities, teaching being one of them.

I remember telling them how I consciously left the UK for this particular role and how I was excited to be back in the classroom. But in my heart, I knew they were recognizing something in me that I wasn’t quite yet ready to consider. What exactly, you ask? Well, that perhaps I am better suited outside the classroom.

Many of my students enjoyed the course. A few even had similar epiphanies about themselves and  noted the 2013-14 year as one of tremendous personal growth. That makes me feel fantastic.

But truly, I will forever remember the TGJ course, those students, and that particular day of my silly and serious focus group session – it sparked a shift in me and my work.

I write this now as I embark on a new journey. I’m beginning a second Master’s – this time in Professional Communication. And I owe it all to those girls. Thank you.

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Main photo by Tobi Firestone via Flickr

3 thoughts on “The teachable moment that took me out of the classroom: how 12 brilliant young women taught me about myself

  1. Awww this is such a sweet article! I might cry???? I’m going to miss you so much next year! Thank you again for not only being the best tech teacher ever, but for being my mentor (if even for a year). I always felt like I could relate, and no matter where you go or what you do I’ll always look up to you! Thanks again for a wonderful year (best of luck at Ryerson) and know that I am truly grateful that you pushed me to step outside of my comfort zone and to take risks in an environment I knew I was safe and supportive. I honestly could not have gotten through this year without you!

  2. I’m so happy for you. You will be missed in the classroom – I know the girls will miss you – but kudos to you for coming to the realisation of where to best focus your energies. Wishing you all the best and very much looking forward to seeing what amazing things you are going to do.

  3. Unfortunate that you’ll be done by next year or we would have been going to be at the same university in like a year! Ps: that focus group was so funny to listen to again. Thank you again for the many life lessons and laughs last year.

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