My “Five-ish” Defining Moments

Earlier this week, I was mentioned in a tweet by Jonathan So, where he shared a blog post that he wrote. Jonathan decided to blog about the top five moments that changed him as a teacher, and he was curious to hear what others would list as their “top five defining moments.” 

Matthew Oldridge, another Peel educator, chimed in quickly with a post of his own, and this inspired even more discussion on Twitter. I loved the idea of also blogging on this topic, but I needed to really spend some time thinking about my five points. As the educational troublemaker that I am, I’m also going to add my own little twist to this post. With that said, here are my Top 5-ish Defining Moments.

1. Stuart Shanker and Self-RegFor anyone that regularly reads this blog, it will come as no surprise that this is my first moment. Stuart Shanker, Susan Hopkins, and The MEHRIT Centre totally changed me as an educator. I now look at everything in my personal and professional life through a Self-Reg lens, and definitely view student behaviour differently. Not only do I often ask Shanker‘s question of, “Why this child and why now?,” but I also look more closely at how my actions impact on the actions (and reactions) of others. I’m far more attuned to my own stressors, and consider what I need to self-regulate, so that I can ultimately give more to my students. 

2. Rethinking Relationships. I used to think that I spent time forming relationships with students, but now I wonder if many of these connections were superficial ones. After spending the year watching my teaching partner, Paula, in action, I’ve seen what “relationships” can really mean. I watch how she talks to children, makes time for children, connects with children and parents, has fun with children, and shows the children over and over again how much they matter. I keep thinking back to our morning time conversations. Just before we head outside to meet the class, Paula and I usually have a quick debrief about the day. The Before School Program is in the classroom next door to ours, and often as we’re talking, some of our students come over to say, “hello.” I love how Paula stops everything to take the few minutes to connect with kids. She listens to their stories, she answers their questions, and she always has time for a hug or a high-five. There’s something to be said for the feeling of safety and connection that comes from these kinds of relationships. Paula’s definitely helped me improve in this area!

One more lunchtime selfie with our fabulous Grade 3 milk helper. #fdk #earlyyears #iteachk

A post shared by Aviva (@avivaloca) on

It’s hard to all cram into a selfie! #teachersofinstagram #iteachk

A post shared by Aviva (@avivaloca) on

3. Play. Play used to scare me. Unstructured time caused me stress, and I questioned how anybody learned anything in this kind of environment. I actually left Kindergarten for six years because of the introduction of the new play-based program model, and my uncertainty on if I could deliver this kind of program. Then I moved to teaching some junior grades — Grades 5 and 6 — and I saw what was possible when we allowed children to play. That’s when I knew that I wanted to go back to Kindergarten, and I made the move a couple of years later. My “play” approach has changed even more since then. Now I truly understand the value in “free play”: in letting children make the decisions, in observing the learning, and in knowing when to step in and when to just watch. This is a delicate dance — and one that I continue to navigate with the help of my amazing teaching partner — but the results are incredible. As scary as it may sometimes be, I wonder if we all need to give a little more value to play

4. Get outside. Last year, I had the amazing opportunity to teach at a school with a fantastic outdoor space. Not only do we have an outdoor classroom, but our property is surrounded by a forest, which we get to visit every single day. I’m a planner, and while I love to plan, I also love how our outside time is not planned. We watch and listen to students, and then we make connections and extend learning based on what they share. (Yes, in many ways, this also happens inside, but it’s different outdoors.) We go outside in all weather — from cold and snow to rain and sunshine — and children do everything from examining bugs to climbing trees. We often spend over an hour outside every morning, and we all love it! Not only is there something incredibly calming about this outdoor space, but the questions, theories, and thinking that happen outside, amaze me every single day. This is where children persevere, problem solve, and connect with each other in a way that’s so different from what happens inside. Maybe it’s the space, freedom, and time that are all special gifts in this outdoor space. All I know is that if I were to teach another grade, I’d be looking at how to also make this forest time a part of our learning time. It’s just that wonderful!

5. This moment is yet to come … This is where I become the “troublemaker.” I was going to list five moments, but I decided to just do four, with the thought that I can keep my mind open for a new moment for this year. If I think about it, all four of these other moments encapsulate learning that really happened over the course of this past year, and I probably would have felt differently about all of these points in previous years. That’s what’s great about education: as we learn more things, read more things, and interact with more people, our thinking changes. So maybe my last defining moment is being open for more defining moments, and let’s see what those moments are when another school year comes to an end.

What are your top five moments? As we head back to school, I think there’s value in reflecting on the learning we’ve already done as well as being ready for the new learning that will happen in the coming months. Thanks Jonathan for the push to reflect on my “defining moments,” and I hope that others take your challenge to share theirs. Here’s to another great school year with many more special moments and new learning!


4 thoughts on “My “Five-ish” Defining Moments

  1. Aviva, thank you so much for the links to Jonathan and Matthew’s “5 Defining Moments” and your own reflection. I have to say that you are a wonderful crafter of words and thoughts. As I was reading your top 5, I said to myself “Wait, but aren’t all of these things that have happened just in the past year?” and then BAM! – your last point addresses that very question I had AND you challenge the very concept by being ready and open for more defining moments! What I found delightful, and charming is that none of your moments mention you receiving the Prime Minister’s Award for Teaching Excellence or technology (two things that I suspect many people who know you only superficially might bring up about you) – you are not one to sit on your laurels, and all of your defining moments center around what you’ve learned and how you’ve changed for the better. I searched your name on two search engines and the first things that come on top are your Twitter and your blog/website, so even the algorithms agree that it’s more about your thoughts than your accomplishments. I’m curious – what would the “old” Aviva have answered about defining moments in education?

    • Thanks for your kind words, Diana! I find it so interesting that you mentioned the Prime Minister’s Award and technology here, as these were two things that not only didn’t occur to me to include at the time, but didn’t even enter my radar until you mentioned them here. And now you’re making me wonder how many people would have expected me to include one or both of these items. I bet that many people would be surprised that technology is not a part of my “Top 5,” but I think in the past couple of years, I’ve really moved away from thinking about technology in the same way. It’s not that I don’t use tech or appreciate tech, but my learning has become about much more than that.

      So now you challenged me with possibly a harder question on what the “old” Aviva might have included. Here are some of my initial thoughts.

      1) Technology would have definitely been included. I likely would have spoken about iPads, apps, and maybe even the SMART Board. I think that my technology focus would have been around how students use the technology vs. how technology is used to capture thinking and learning.

      2) I likely would have also included “blogging.” This was almost something that I included in this post as well, but in the end, I decided that I needed to go deeper than that. The “old me,” likely would have commented on blogging as being about sharing ideas and writing for an audience, where the “new me,” would comment on blogging as a way to reflect.

      3) I likely would have mentioned Twitter and how my PLN has changed me. That’s still true, and I do appreciate all of the feedback and conversations I have online. Again though, I decided to go a little deeper, and highlight a few connections. It was through my blog that I actually connected with Stuart Shanker years ago, and it was even through my blog, that my teaching partner knew me before I even started working with her. But it’s interesting to think that these relationships have evolved beyond the online realm.

      4) I think that I would have included a point about teaching students with autism. My experiences working with these students made me reconsider my environment, routines, visuals, and tone. Stuart Shanker’s CALM, ALERT, AND LEARNING really impacted on how I worked with a couple of students with autism. He changed things for me and for them.

      I’m not sure what other ideas I would have included. I bet that technology would have taken multiple points, and I likely wouldn’t have thought of including the kind of #5 point that I did. It’s funny how once we change, we start to forget about some of the things that mattered so much to us in the past. Trying to think as I did even a few years ago is hard for me. I wonder if I’ll have the same struggle a couple of years from now. Thanks for making me think even more about this important topic. I’d love to know your “Five Defining Moments,” and also how you would also answer the question that you asked me here.


  2. Great blog post found via Diana Maliszewski’s recent post. I’m an itinerant, play-based teacher/mom who loves the relationships with kids I meet as well as the outdoors and experiential learning there.i It’s interesting to me that some see discovering these pieces as defining moments. Those are the “natural” (pardon the pun) ones from my perspective vs the long-term plans, the ordered classroom, and the discipline (proper definition vs what everyone thinks it means). Congratulations, too, on the awards: it’s brilliant that you only saw them as an afterthought. They are the *result* of defining moments for a teacher–at least from my corner of the galaxy. Again, a great piece; thank you!

    • Thanks for the comment, Angela! I love your point about the outdoors, and these being the “natural” moments. You’re right: they are natural, but it was the ability to see them that way that made them such a defining moment for me.

      As for the award, I guess that I never let it define me. I’m proud of this award, and it was an amazing experience for sure, but it’s something that I rarely discuss or share. Many educators that I work with, don’t even know that I won it, and many parents don’t either. I guess that I want to be more than this award, and not seen/defined by it. Hopefully people will get to know me first. I never did what I did with the hope of winning an award, and I still don’t. Maybe this is the reason that it didn’t make my list of “defining moments.”


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *