my-reflections-on-education

My Story

Maura O'Reilly

I graduated from Nipissing University Teachers College in North Bay in May 2001. In Ontario, I am qualified to teach Kindergarten to Grade 6. I was a supply teacher for one year then covered long-term leave positions for 3 years, all in Ottawa. Following that, I worked at a private Catholic school called Maryvale Academy for 5 years. By then, I had 9 years experience and wanted something different. I pursued international teaching from August 2010 to June 2017. I taught in Maracaibo, Venezuela; Escazu, Costa Rica; and Dakar, Senegal.

 

I have taught 6 different grades, in 4 different countries, in 16 years. I am not sure how many different programs and curriculums I have taught. I have worked under at least 11 principals. Are you calculating your own numbers in all these areas, as you read this? No matter our numbers, teachers are called on to be flexible, no question.

 

I love teaching. I love interacting with the students and making learning fun and interesting. I take pride in my genuine concern for, and efforts to improve, student performance in any and all areas. I like to run a tight ship, stay organized, have fun, and work hard. But - it’s tough.

 

What has lead me out of the classroom are the things that are required of me on top of all that. Trying to be a high-quality teacher while also attending meetings, participating in student after-school activities, being a committee member, writing long comments, reading up on and implementing latest practices, arranging and attending field trips, incorporating technology, reaching all learning styles, keeping my classroom neat and inviting, maintaining positive relationships with parents, being evaluated, developing and leading student performances and/or assemblies, attending others’ performances.

 

One of the most difficult things I found was the opposite - wanting to do something extra but not actually having the time, energy, resources, or motivation. Creative bulletin boards, exciting science experiments, more 1 on 1 time with students, fun math games, engaging reading lessons, extending time spent on a concept, improving my teaching. I could achieve one or some of these things on one or some day(s) of the week. But I don’t think I have had one day in my teaching career where I felt I was at top performance all day in every area.

 

I am an introspective and analytical person. Becoming frustrated with teaching as a whole (I like to phrase it that way because the act of teaching itself is not what I find difficult) caused me to take a step back and see things from an outsider’s point of view.

 

Teachers don’t usually have a job description that describes everything they do. Also, teachers are likely to say yes to things that are not actually their responsibilities. I started to say no to things - but that is not always easy. I sometimes felt bad to see other teachers doing things I did not want to do. However, I was at a point that I needed to draw a line for myself, my mental health, and my sense of professionalism.

 

While teachers often lean towards doing most things for and by themselves (at least that’s what I do) - this is ultimately not feasible. Looking into the near future, I can see the number of teachers leaving the profession continuing to rise. In the distant future, I believe major changes will come. In the meantime, teacher coaches can offer a lot of help to teachers feeling overwhelmed.

 

My mission is to help teachers stay positive and maintain excellent standards, by taking responsibility myself for some of the tasks that can get in the way of high-quality delivery of instruction.

 

That’s my story. If I can help you or a friend or a school, please let me know. I am very open to ideas and suggestions. My goal is simply to help educators.


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