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The Formative Feedback Project is a collaborative curation of best practices in educational strategies, ideas, resources. Specializing in student ownership, engagement, feedback loops and collaborative, effective feedback.

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Telling your story: Story # 1

Taylor Meredith

*To understand a little bit more about what working in the NYC public school system can be like read this article via Vox.

As mentioned in this post, Telling Your Story, each month I'd like to feature someone who has an interesting story and tells it well. This month, in celebration of making another trip around the sun, I am going to tell some of my story.

I left New York City in 2009. With that decision I left behind a city I loved, my closest friends and confidants, and a job that I was deeply connected to. Although I didn't realize it at the time, I was heartbroken. I moved back to Chicago and for several reasons, took a long-term leave position in a school district in suburban Chicago. During my first year home, I explored my options and subbed in different schools while I made sure my certification was in compliance with Illinois State Law. Along the way, I contemplated going back to school, changing careers, or starting my own business.

Ultimately, I decided I wasn't done in the classroom and interviewed for a coveted position in the same district where I was a sub and where my mom (the most brilliant teacher) works.

One of the questions that I was asked in that interview gave me such pause and perspective; I believe that it changed the trajectory of my career.  I was asked about my biggest career setback. My answer to that question? Moving home. I took a few minutes to explain:

When I started working in suburban Chicago, I was overwhelmed with resources and therefore felt entirely inadequate. I learned about all of the resources that the district had to offer: SMARTboards! Computers! Copy machines that I could access myself! Functioning internet! Support staff! School supplies! Packaged curricular resources! Mentors! It caused me to question everything.

The resource-rich environment supposedly made teaching better/easier/more efficient, but as I was focused on  learning and using new resources - I lost sight of what was most important in success as a teacher.

In my time in NYC, I learned that our lack of resources wasn’t a problem. It isn’t about the resources; it’s about the relationships. The person who greets each student in the doorway each morning, the person who gets to know students as learners, problem-solvers, thinkers and human beings. It isn’t about the resources at all - none of those things matter. When I started teaching in the suburbs of Chicago, I had to stop doubting the value of my previous experience. My biggest career setback was myself. I was getting caught up in all of the “things” rather than what I knew to be most important;  the culture and community that we create together.

Coming to this realization (at an interview table with 10 strangers) has made a huge impact on the ways I spend my time and how I make decisions. I value quality, purpose and depth, choose simple over complex and focus on relationships first. 

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