The Value of Support

As promised, here’s a Saturday post (I also have a Sunday make-up post to do now, because I was so tired on Friday, or whichever day I missed)!

Today I went to Coquitlam to watch my cousin’s first climbing competition. I didn’t expect such an environment when I entered: instead of bleachers, a climbing wall and a few people standing around chatting, large crowds stood congregated around the base of several walls, some chatting excitedly to each other and others watching with bated breath as their star rose higher and higher. Most people became invested in climbers they didn’t know, groaning if the climber missed a hold and cheering when an especially difficult course was completed.

Photo by Andrea Lai, 2013. All rights reserved.

To say the least, everyone there, climber or non-climber, parent or child, supported climbing and embraced each other as participants of the sport. As I watched others watch climbers, I was strongly reminded of my recently completed practicum experience (obviously, which is why this is part of my field observation journal).

At the start of the two-week practicum one of the vice principals sat down with the teacher candidates at lunch and asked us all to reflect:

What are some truths you think you know about education?

We were asked to write down our thoughts. On the last day of the two-week practicum, however, the same vice principal sat down with us once more and asked again:

What are some truths you have confirmed or learned now about education?

Don’t you think it slightly strange, that a vice principal of the school with so many other duties, would take so much time to provoke teacher candidates to reflection and inquiry? I found it strange; the administrative staff at the school are constantly on the go and even my school advisors are often busy with staff meetings or committee work, not to mention their own job of teaching, mentoring, marking and planning. That a vice principal would sit down with us to chat and to follow-up on a previous talk made me realize that his attitude was incredibly supportive of both our presence at school and of ourselves as developing teachers.

As I reflected on this I realized that my school advisors, as well as other staff, were equally attentive and considerate of my position as a student teacher. My student advisor suggested that I attend the upcoming parent-teacher conference to see a different side of school; a teacher-librarian suggested that I incorporate a collaborative session with the library into my unit plans; and another teacher strongly hinted at ideas for an interdisciplinary project. The grace with which they passed on helpful information inspired me to pass on the same advice to my fellow student teachers in an effort to support my peers as I had been supported.

This realization led me to the first truth I have realized about education, and that is that supportive teachers often beget supportive teachers. I add in the “often” because I am aware that not everyone always feels inclined to share everything, but I am convinced that a supportive environment certainly enables those within the environment to be supportive. Similar to the climbing environment I experienced today, lack of support does not stop one from supporting others, but being supportive does encourage others to be supportive of others too.

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