Angela Gardner, Ross High School, Hamilton, OH
A few days ago, I stumbled across a familiar and fondly remembered inspirational article, originally shared in 2013, on building relationships in the educational community. The article is called “Find Your Marigold,” by Jennifer Gonzalez. You can access it online at http://www.cultofpedagogy.com/marigolds/. The article details the importance of beginning teachers making meaningful connections with professionals that are passionate, dedicated, and joyful in their work. This article rings true even for experienced educators. Like the old Spanish saying “Dime con quién andas, y te diré quién eres” (Tell me who you walk with, and I’ll tell you who you are), educators are influenced (positively or negatively) by professionals with whom they come in contact.
Since starting my career in this field over a decade ago, I know that I have evolved significantly, and continue to evolve today. I cringe sometimes when I think back to some of the strategies, resources, and activities that I once relied on in my classroom. I used to rely heavily on non-authentic materials, and focused too much on rote memorization skills in assessments. Then again, the materials and assessments were the best that I had at the time, and I did the best I knew how. I believe that as educators, most of us work this way. We do the best we can with the best resources we have. We evolve and continually engage in reflective practices to shape our own philosophies of language teaching and learning. We support these reflections by connecting and engaging with colleagues and literature in our field.
Our evolution is due, in so many ways, to the many “marigolds” we encounter on our professional journeys. These dedicated, passionate, joyful educators share their best work. They are earnest, open, and vulnerable. Through these marigolds, I have found encouragement, resources, ideas, and examples to follow in terms of best practices and the behaviors of accomplished educators. This, in turn, has lead to my evolution as an educator. The fresh ideas, activities, resources, and strategies have a positive impact on my students’ learning and skills.
Where can one find these “marigolds”? Perhaps you work in isolation, a department of one in your building, or perhaps your building staff is saturated with cynics and “Debbie Downers.” Fortunately, in a connected modern world, we can connect to marigolds through online blogs, professional learning networks. We can find them in organizations like OFLA and their many wonderful professional development offerings. I would like to encourage all OFLA members to seek out opportunities to connect with other dedicated professionals, these connections foster enthusiasm and fortify programs.