Tales from the Trenches

Today, I presented my seminar at the BCTF New Teachers’ Conference. And I think it went…okay?

“Tales from the Trenches: What you Don’t Learn in Teacher Education” was an account of my foibles and floundering in my first years of teaching. Things that I hoped others could learn from and avoid, or where I’d found a solution, incorporate into their practice.

Of course, this was my first seminar, so it had problems all of its own. I haven’t come up with solutions to those yet, though. I’m still stuck on why there’s no left-hand turn signal from Garden City onto Alderbridge Way. What’s up with that, Richmond?

At any rate, I’m hoping that every participant picked up at least one tip that will one day make their lives easier. Some of them picked them up before the end of the seminar, too! That’s one of five possible reasons for the dwindling bums in seats phenomena that I noticed, at least. See?
1. Participants read my mind and picked up whatever information they needed right away. Creepy, but highly effective way of attending a workshop.

2. It wasn’t the right workshop for them, since most of my knowledge is Secondary based.

3. They actually had lives and more entertaining places to be on a Saturday afternoon.

4. I had really had breath and it somehow made its way through my microphone and out the speakers.

5. There were Invisibility Cloaks for sale out on the concourse, which were donned with flourish when I wasn’t looking.

I’m honestly hoping that it was anything but the Invisibility Cloaks, because I totally missed out on something ridiculously awesome if it was. I mean, imagine the possibilities!

But, to those of you who stuck around until the end, hi! Welcome. Here are the PowerPoints I promised:



Organization and Teaching



Questions, comments, concerns? Feel free to leave a comment or send me an email if something comes up and I’ll happily give it a ponder and a blog post.

2 thoughts on “Tales from the Trenches

  1. Nicole

    Hi, Ashley!

    I was one of those who ended up leaving a few minutes into your seminar. A few others in the hall said they left because they found the content too secondary-oriented, as you suspected. I do think that information can be provided in a way that applies to everyone, though, so maybe consult a friend in elementary to see how you could add relevant content?

    I found your blog because someone linked to your “simplifying this potential strike business” post (which I applaud you for, by the way… way to break up the typical jargon and cut to what matters!!).

    I, like you, am a young teacher. I just found that the information in your seminar was more appropriate for pre-service teachers rather than those of us who have been around for a year or more, that’s all.

    Perhaps a change of name might be an idea – ‘tales from the trenches’ made it seem like hard-truth stories from the classroom, challenging situations in teacher-teacher or teacher-student or teacher-parent relationships, rather than the bumps along the road while starting in this career.

    It just didn’t seem like the workshop would be the kind of professional development I want (methods, how to teach). It felt kind of strange to be at professional development for public teachers only to then be told that there are private tutoring companies who want us… it just didn’t feel right, and I think if some of us do want tutoring jobs we can seek them out on our own, or get it on a handout, rather than have that information provided out-loud and on a powerpoint during a workshop.

    I hope that’s not too harsh! I think it’s great that you’re getting involved in presenting workshops. I just want to encourage you to keep working on it so that hopefully more bums stay seated next time.

    Warm regards,

  2. Ashley D. MacKenzie Post author

    Not too harsh at all!

    I actually ended up canning a bunch of the stories I had planned since they were secondary focused, and I didn’t think they would have been relevant to the elementary teachers in the room. To be honest, I was thrown to see so many elementary teachers when I’d billed the seminar as applicable to grades 8-12. A few? Of course. The majority? Not expected.

    Plus, there’s no way I could have led a discussion in a room that size. The intention had been to tell my stories and throw it out to the crowd to brainstorm other possible solutions, but with a room that impersonal? No chance. It would be nice if they capped the numbers for seminars that are conceived and pitched as discussion based, but alas.

    You’re totally right though – it was targeted toward pre-service teachers and TOCs, which perhaps wasn’t clear in the description. That being said, it was specifically billed as something to fill in the blanks with regard to paperwork, organization, health, and work-life balance.

    Next time: request a cap on registrants and prepare for a totally different demographic than expected.

    At least I learned something out of the deal ;)