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  • Writer's pictureKaren Caswell

2018: A Watershed Year

Updated: May 16, 2020

2018: A watershed year

Let me start by saying, I’ve never really written anything before – writing with my class, newsletters, report card comments, and other school related stuff, but never anything like this. Also, this is a long post. Hopefully not rambling, but long.

This story really began last year. The 2017 school year finished for me at the start of September – we were going on a family holiday to the USA, then I was taking long service leave for all of Term 4. I’d been teaching for 20 years, only ever having taken 6 months off after each of my boys were born before returning to work. I love being a teacher, but there had definitely been some ups and downs, and I didn’t always love my job. In addition, I’d been actively pursuing a promotional position for a few years, and whilst I’d managed to secure some short-term coach or curriculum leadership jobs, I’d never managed to ‘seal the deal’ and land a long-term role. I needed a break.

My goals while on long service leave, were simple - rest, relaxation and rejuvenation. I also engaged in some ‘where am I / where do I want to be’ reflection of my career, and my life too I suppose. I realised the constant pursuit of a promotion was actually making me unhappy, so I decided to stop. To me, I didn’t give up, I just consciously chose a different path. My attention returned to the kids, which is why I became a teacher in the first place, and I narrowed my focus to my classroom. I knew I was a good teacher, so I chose to put all of my energy back into that. My leadership aspirations hadn’t disappeared, but I decided to shelve them and maybe follow them in a different way. After that decision was made, I began to get excited about returning to school.

During my time off, I surfed social media (it is 2018, after all) and I saw a post about a book called “The Book Whisperer” by Donalyn Miller. It piqued my interest, as I’d always loved reading and I loved teaching kids to read, so I bought it. Being on leave gave me the perfect opportunity, and time, to do some professional reading of my own choosing. Needless to say, it had a huge impact. This book sparked my passion for fostering a LOVE of reading in my students and gave me a goal and direction for 2018. Reading became my first big rock.

The next book I decided to read, which also came from social medis posts, was “Kids Deserve It” by Adam Welcome and Todd Nesloney. Again, the impact was massive, and it left a lasting impression. There were so many parts of the book that resonated, motivated and inspired me. This book reignited my passion for being a teacher. I also now had my second big rock – relationships.

Around this same time, I decided to start a teacher Twitter account. I’d had a teacher Instagram account for a couple of years, and found it was great for sharing and finding teaching ideas and resources. I already dabbled with Twitter, but decided to shift my use of it to focus on professional learning. This is where I was introduced to ‘the pirates’.

In quick succession, I read four more Dave Burgess Consulting Inc. books, starting, of course with “Teach Like a PIRATE” by Dave Burgess, the Pirate Captain himself. The PIRATE concept outlined in this book just made sense, and the process of student engagement became so clear. Of course I jumped on board the ship, began to chart my course and set sail! This book lit the fire for my passion for teaching. I also added student engagement to my rocks.

My most recent read has been “Be REAL” by Tara Martin, and I think I love her. Tara is so genuine, open and kind – so real. Her REAL message and #Cannonballin philosophy have inspired and encouraged me to step out of my comfort zone, to just jump in and follow through on ideas I have. This book has stoked the embers and relit the flames of my passion to be a leader. What this leadership this will look like, I don’t know yet, but I’m excited about the journey.

So there it is, my voyage in 2018. At the start of the year I didn’t have my ‘one word’, but I think now, looking back, I would have to say it is passion – P is for Passion, after all!

I will write in more detail about each of the books I’ve read and the impact they’ve made in future posts. I’ll also share my Twitter journey, and effect it has had on my professional learning.


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