On the 100th Anniversary of International Women’s Day — March 8th, 2011, I posted a call to bring more women’s voices into the “edublogging” community. The “Inspiring and Inspiring Women Series” will feature guest posts and interviews with women who are not yet blogging, or who are just stepping into the world of edublogging.
For our first guest post, please welcome intermediate math and language arts teacher Meggan Phelan. Meggan currently teaches at J H Putman Public School in Ottawa. Meggan also writes and performs slam poetry and has ignited a passion for poetry in her students. She also wrote and performed two slam poems for her teaching colleagues. The first — exploring what Professional Development means — is included below. Click below to listen and prepare to be inspired! Then read Meggan’s guest post and please consider leaving some comments for Meggan too!
I am often asked why I became an educator, or sometimes, why I continue to be once I’ve told them that I teach grade seven and eight. This statement usually elicits an audible groan, ‘Ugh!’, or ‘Eek!’. I love it, but attempting to explain why I love it is sometimes difficult to put into words. Granted, it’s not the easiest grade level to teach but let’s be honest, often, easy equals boring! I love the age group I teach because every day is different; and every day poses new challenges. There is a poem you should look up if you don’t already know it called “What Is a Middle Schooler?” that encapsulates them so well.
Explaining why I entered the teaching profession is perhaps the most difficult. The only thing I can say is, I always wanted to be a teacher. As a child, I didn’t play house, I played classroom. Of course, as most children do, I went through various phases of wanting to be a singer (no one told me I couldn’t sing), an actress (ditto), a psychologist, and I once was told by one of those job surveys you do in high school, that I should be a police officer! Luckily, all of the notions came and went, but teaching was still there. In honour of International Woman’s Day, I’d love to say that I was inspired by some wonderful female teacher who changed my life, but my motivation for teaching came from a darker place. The truth is, most of my favourite teachers over the years were men, which left me wondering where are all of the strong, inspirational, passionate female teachers? In addition to that, what motivated me to teach intermediate was my negative school experience during those years. Before I continue and one of my intermediate teachers recognizes my name, I do want to say that I did have a few great teachers during that time, but not many. To be more precise, not enough.
I graduated with my Bachelor of Education at the ripe old age of 23. No time for an honours degree, I wanted to teach! That was ten years ago, and I continue to develop and grow as an educator. I have taught almost every subject under the sun to a huge variety of students. I strive to be the strong, inspirational, passionate female teacher I always promised myself I would be. The question I often ask myself is how do I know if I am fulfilling this role in the eyes of my students? Recently this question was answered through the vehicle of Slam Poetry. Thirty students at my school were chosen to participate in a four-session workshop on Slam Poetry, and I was the lucky teacher chosen to facilitate these sessions. Two professional poets came in and wowed us with their talent while teaching the kids they could do it too. We all felt inspired and started writing and performing. It was an amazing experience that left me wanting more. How could I keep these kids feeling inspired to write, listen and perform? So, with the support of my Principal, I started the Putman Slam Poet’s Society; a club that meets weekly to create and share spoken word poetry.
Last month was the first Ottawa Youth Poetry Slam which is a monthly event created by local poets and community organizations to bring together youth from the ages of 12 to 19 to participate in a poetry workshop and a Slam (competitive spoken word). Since it takes place in the evening I couldn’t bring the kids myself, so I had to hope that all of the encouragement I had given them would be enough to motivate them to get themselves there to participate. Clearly I was thrilled when several of my students showed up that night and had enough confidence to get on stage and give it their all even though they were the youngest participants. I left that evening on a teacher high! My years of teaching have taught me that the most important part of any learning environment is safety, and the supportive environment of spoken word poetry is based on just that. Kids are putting themselves out there with their own creations that are often times very personal, and the community supports them and raises them up each and every time. It’s amazing! Watching these kids shine has reminded me why I always wanted to be a teacher.
So, have I become the strong, inspirational, passionate female teacher I always wanted to be? Each and every time a student walks off that stage and looks at me with an ear to ear grin, I have to answer….yes!