Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Who I am as An Educator - Guest Post for the Who I Am, What I Do Edublog

It still is a strange feeling to be sought out by another educator for comments about myself and my thoughts on education. It is happening more frequently, but I am definitely still too humble to really appreciate how cool that all is.  In any case, this post will be a guest post on the Who I Am, What I Do edublog started by Rory Gallagher (@EddieKayshun - love the pun!!).

So, who am I? This is probably one of the most asked questions in the world. However, it probably isn't always spoken. As humans, it is simply natural to be curious about our place in the world. As I approach a real foothold in my career and a solid spot in life, this answer is becoming clearer to me.

Simply - I am Josh, and have been for 26 years.  The story goes my dad wanted a J.R. (80's Dallas influence - love ya dad!) but my mom, always the smartest one in the family, wouldn't have that. So I ended up as Joshua Reuben. Yup, my dad still go the J.R. in there that sneaky guy. Kind of crazy that after hearing him called "Mr. Gauthier" for so many years, I now carry the title proudly (albeit, it is often Mr. G, Mr. Person, Mr. Galuffy, and a hundred other assortments I can't even remember. The imaginations on these kids is incredible). Oh, and I've lived my entire life in Wisconsin. I don't mind that.

I am smart. I don't mean for that to sound pretentious, but I've always been a good learner. School was pretty easy for me.  I did my homework, studied if I needed to, and earned mostly A's, with a few B's scattered in. The worst class in high school? Ceramics. I loved art, but I earned a C+. Couldn't handle having to do all my work in class. I would rather take it home. Definitely, I learned a lot from that experience. My love of art is coming back as I begin to appreciate the role of it in education. Being graded on art was tough for me as a Freshman in High school. College was a piece of cake as well. Sure, there were times I was challenged, but I was never seriously concerned of failing or doing poorly. I graduated with a GPA over 3.90, and finished in the Top 25 of my college graduating class of over 1000 students. An incredible honor - and to anybody who says GPA doesn't matter, it really mattered to me and it really improved my confidence heading out of college to receive that award.
I'm now so confident, I think I can pull off wearing a bow tie with a sweater vest! Bold man!

I am more persistent than I know.  Searching for jobs was fun. In looking back, my experience was probably less stressful and more successful than many in the tough post recession economy.  10 interviews and 35 applications until I finally hit the big time. Each interview was a new learning experience as I figured out what exactly it would take it help a school see that taking a chance on a kid straight out of college would be a great idea. Somehow, I was able to convey that message to the School District of Denmark (not the country, not the country!). Interestingly, that vote of confidence and the promise and potential they saw in me still sticks in my head. The chance they took on me was a gamble on their part, and I strive every day to provide way more value to our educational community than they ever thought possible. Maybe I'm an overachiever, but I don't believe education is something you can overachieve with. Anything less than perfection isn't good enough for our kids. I fail A LOT. But, I'm persistent, because one time somebody took a chance on me. Our kids deserve that too.

I struggle with my philosophy.  Twitter has opened doors, and has really opened my mind to an entire world of educational ideas and thoughts. Probably the most influential thoughts I've dealt with lately have to do with democratic schooling, gamification, flipped classrooms, and no homework. As a teacher of Business Education and Information Technology, most of my classes are so called "computer classes". In such, homework was never something I stressed because I knew there wasn't equal access.  Probably my biggest struggle right now, however, is this idea of the democratic school - where students choose their own learning path every day.  Trying to justify all the things I do or have done gets more difficult and trying every day. I believe typing skills are important; I believe knowing how to do certain things on a computer are important; however, the question I really need to ask is how can I help students get there on their own?
Here's me, clearly struggling with my philosophy of HOW THE HECK CAN I EAT THIS???

I love teaching.  I'm very fortunate in my school to have a lot of freedom in what I do. Helping other teachers is a big passion of mine, because I know I can help that many more kids if I can help teachers be a little better. I'm not sure how I think I can do that having only taught for three years, but I suppose I'm pretty good with technology, and I work at staying at the cutting edge, so teachers seem to like that about me.  I honestly never thought I'd love working with kids as much as I do. They are silly, crazy, frustrating, fun, enlightening, intelligent, irritating, and most of all, they are KIDS. If I can help they see what unconditional love looks like, help them see that learning can be fun, and help them see that school can be a great place to be, I think that is success. Who cares if they never quite get that using Ctrl + C after highlighting text is a really fast way to copy. Is that as important as creating students who love creating and learning new things that THEY are interested in?

I don't know the answer to that above question. However, I do truly believe that somewhere between a student's passion and my passion is a place where amazing connections can happen. Getting there is another story, but I'm Josh, and I'm a teacher, and if anybody can do it, I believe I can.

Oh, and I wear snowman hats.

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