There is always a time within your professional career that you begin to wonder what you are doing and why you are doing it. Although I am passionate about teaching and learning, where I am actually doing it is always a constant dilemma for me. Spending a week within school working with both students and children on mathematical assessment activities I once again find myself consider where I should be. After a discussion with my dean of faculty about life and learning he directed me to an activity at the end of chapter one of a book by Peterson called “A Primer in Positive Psychology”. The activity requires you to write your own legacy and so…here is my retirement speech, which includes, hopefully, what I consider my legacy would be.
Working within education for so many years I have grown accustomed to cycles. I have lost count of the number of times I have heard students, children and colleagues commenting on the apparent quickness of time and how they can’t believe where the years have gone. It is only now, as I retire, that I myself find myself looking back and commenting, maybe to myself, about how time has passed so quickly. As anything comes to an end, it is customary to look back, reflect and give thanks. Although you might be expecting a similar speech to my never achieved Oscar collection, I present for you something slightly different.
Naming people individually would be common place in this situation, however I feel that in order to name everyone that might have had an influence on my career might take longer than the ten minutes I have been allocated before the desserts arrive. My career, although based on teaching, has been a journey of learning which has enabled me to grow as an individual through the years. I have met, interacted with and sometimes even argued with a range of people and each and everyone of these have had an impact on my learning journey. As I have rolled, and sometimes crashed, like a wave through my career I have left, in my wake, hopefully three legacies which I might be remembered for once I have retired to sipping soya lattes continuously within a local coffee shop.
Learning is fun – Throughout all my teaching, I have always tried to approach the subject/content with enthusiasm and eagerness. Although this might have been difficult at time due to invading flu viruses, session at the end of the day which are taking up valuable evening time or the need to involve myself with clay and paint, I have always strived to smile and engage with my learners. Barriers to learning can make it both difficult and challenging, but when these barriers are removed I believe completely that learning is fun. Throughout my career I have strived to remove these barriers and to demonstrate the ‘fun’ part of learning. One of the most satisfying events in life for me is that moment when someone, including myself, suddenly ‘gets’ something. As it is common practice to thank people in your retirement speech, I would like to thank all the people who have provided me with that smile while they have been learning or that moment of acknowledgment when they have gained another piece of knowledge or learning because it has been at those moments that I feel I have been a small part of your learning and the enjoyment which accompanies it. I hope that you look back on our learning journeys with fondness and continue to remember that together we all make learning an enjoyable activity.
Challenge yourself – You all know that I am no traveller. Any journey I make I feel is full of difficulties and dilemmas but often, after returning home, I have been pleased with myself that I have journeyed somewhere and returned safely and intact. Part of the returning home feeling is related to the fact that I have challenged myself. Life and learning is not easy, there has been and will be many difficult times when, in order to progress, we need to challenge ourselves and persevere. We often predict and imagine outcomes but remember we never actually know the outcome until we actually do it. Embarking on any challenge is difficult but it is made easier with support and belief from others. Being challenged yourself is an important part of developing both as a practitioner and person. I need to thank everyone who has challenged me throughout my career whether this be in teaching sessions or meetings or just when providing me with an activity to complete. But the second legacy which I hope I am leaving behind is not to challenge others but to have the courage to challenge yourself. I have been blessed by many people who have supported me in my challenges. These people have encouraged and supported me and for that I do thank them. But also I thank them for allowing me to successfully complete my own challenges so that I can encourage and support others in theirs. If you are ever in doubt, I hope you might just pause and think – “What would Ian say..?”
Always believe – My final legacy which I hope that throughout my career I have left in my wake is that ability to believe in yourself. I have mentioned already that learning is fun and yet presents a challenge. In order for us all to complete the journey which is learning, we need self belief. We can be told many times that we can achieve but until we actually accept that then we rarely progress with confidence. When I was teaching in primary school, three words were positioned next to my whiteboard – “Say, think, believe”. I’m not sure where these originally came from but I do remember the connection between these words. Self belief is connected to both the language we use and thoughts we have. Changing our language from “I can’t do that” to “I can’t do that yet – or at this moment” can have a positive impact on our thoughts and beliefs. Sometimes it is a challenge to accept that people have belief in us and even harder to accept that we have belief in ourselves, but I hope, through discussions, rhetorical questions and often smiling silences, that I have encouraged people to have this belief in themselves. It goes without saying that I need to thank everyone who has had belief in me and, although you know I find this difficult to accept, I do promise that I will continue to strive to achieve my own self belief in what ever I end up doing once I retire.
Well, I can see the chocolate cake lurking in the hands of the eager to deliver servers so I am going to come to a conclusion and let you eat. You all know of my passion for plenaries so I could not let this opportunity go by without completing maybe my last one. So to reflect on today’s learning – I hope my legacy will be that learning is fun, to always embrace challenge and to have belief in yourself. I might not have achieved this all the time with everyone who I have interacted with, but I hope I have come close to it throughout my career. So for one final time, can you please all self assess your work, put your book on the appropriate pile and enjoy your desserts.