“To achieve greatness, start where you are, use what you have, do what you can.”

I’ve mentioned already the workshops I participated in with Ross Laird; in one of them, he quoted the tennis player Arthur Ashe* in a phrase that I’ve made the title of this post.  Let’s rephrase one my own goals – to help my students learn as best I can – as me striving to achieve greatness as an instructor.  Sounds rather presumptuous maybe, but let’s put the emphasis on the ‘striving to’ part of that phrase, shall we?

Let’s begin at the beginning… where am I?  Three years in to full-time teaching as my official profession, I’ve at least discovered that I have no regrets about my decision three years ago to cease pursuing a research-based career in favour of focussing on teaching!  Three years in and I’m still not feeling exhausted or overly frustrated with it, so that’s a good sign 🙂  In making the switch in focus from research to education I had felt inadequately prepared for the task, so I began training in the Provincial Instructor Diploma Program I’ve mentioned here previously.  I’ve been pursuing both on-the-job training and classroom-style training simultaneously… rather like being a student again when I had a part-time research job.  I suppose education never really ends…

In any case, the PIDP courses I’ve been taking have helped provide me with both the courage and the inspiration to try new (to me!) and weird (to me!) ways of doing things in a classroom.  It’s encouraged me to try untested activities, without worrying that something disastrous will happen.   It’s helped make my job… well, if not exactly easy, at least very enjoyable!  More enjoyable than I’d expect daily lectures would have been, for sure 😉

It’s also given me a vision to work towards in the near future at least.  I’d like to continue teaching where I am, with all my congenial and collegial colleagues and coworkers!  Which brings me to all that I already have: a supportive and encouraging work environment, and if not unlimited resources at least people who are willing to help me find either what I need to carry out some crazy new idea, or a usable substitute!

What can I do?  Having over the last few years developed enough new materials and activities to be able to nearly entirely revamp how one course at my college is taught, I have another 3 specific courses set in my sights over the next few years…  I’ve also got several introductory/remedial type mini-courses (Blackboard modules) in preparation for students who might desire additional background in mathematics, chemistry, and biology to succeed as best they can in their biology courses.  I’ve been working with the freely-accessible “open” textbooks, particularly those developed by OpenStax authors, to be able to provide students with accessible resources specific to our courses so they can be better aware of exactly what is expected of them.  Plenty to keep up on, for sure!  And plenty to still learn as the technology I’m using now changes… if the past few years are any indication over the next five years I’ll be trying to convince myself to learn a whole host of new technological tools to better provide resources and learning opportunities to my students.  Wish me luck… greatness, here I come!


(*Even my “strong Google-fu” failed to lead me to any authoritative sources or specific references for the quote, although there exists a whole collection of inspirational quotes attributed to Ashe.)


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