Last week I was away on a Personal Development Week with our Grade 5 students in the Swiss Alps. While I was there I came across this presentation by Chris Betcher entitled Lessons from the Yamanote Line. One slide particularly caught my eye: There is always another way. Detours can be interesting. Don't be afraid to take them.
This was the first time I'd been on a PDW since arriving at my current school over 2 years ago - and I have to say I loved it. I went rock climbing, mountain biking, on a ropes course (terrifying!) and hiking with the students. I remember thinking that it was amazing the things that an IT teacher could get up to on a school trip. For me, this was certainly a detour from my normal job and definitely a chance to see the students in a new light. I guess many of them saw me in a new light too - especially when I was high up in a platform attached to a zip line and very afraid to jump off! This little detour, this little break from my usual routine of teaching in a lab or a classroom, did me the world of good, even though at times I wasn't altogether comfortable.
A good friend of mine also took a detour last year. She left her school where she was teaching children and took a job where she was teaching adults. Now she's back with teenagers again, but I can see the year did her the world of good. It renewed her faith in herself as a teacher and in her love of the profession. It allowed her to re-discover all the reasons why she went into teaching in the first place. Now she's in a better place and a better school. The detour was an interesting one. She discovered that for her there were other options if teaching didn't work out.
While I was away I started to think about other detours in my life. I did many jobs before I became a teacher, and then after teaching for 6 years I also took a year out and worked for the biomedical division of a publishing company. When I returned to teaching it was to an international school and in a different country - the detour had done me so much good and rejuvenated me as a teacher. If I had stayed teaching in the UK I'm pretty certain I wouldn't still be teaching now. Taking a detour allowed me to put things into perspective and decide what I really wanted to do.
Taking a detour can be a bit scary. Just like on the ropes course last week, sometimes it's hard to be in a situation where you don't know where you are going or where things are leading. Now I'm trying to work out something: do I need to take a detour, or, compared to the straight line I appeared to be moving in for the first 9 years I was teaching IT where I felt I was constantly learning new things and moving forward in new ways, am I actually taking a detour now, and if so should I just be enjoying it? I haven't thought about it before in this way and in some ways it's a bit confusing. I have some ideas of where I want to go and professional development I want to take that may get me there. Is this PD going to be a detour or is it getting myself back on track again? In any case I hope that the journey will be interesting and that I will discover other options.
The photo was taken by my colleague Noel.