I kid with the question mark surrounding professional but I’ve gotta say, I had a lot of fun for an event dubbed as PD.
As I have mentioned, I was out of town the last few days reflecting on how to be a better post-secondary educator. This particular seminar was the second part of a series for all new faculty members in the Eastern Region of Ontario. Our destination; gorgeous Kingston, Ontario. However, the accommodations; not so gorgeous. We slept in beds which I’m pretty sure were from an era that pre-dates my birth. During the first session we were told that this experience was meant to help us remember what it was like to be a student but I’m pretty sure there is some other motivation behind this lesson in back pain. The first session, which was held last August was four nights, five days. I am tres grateful that this time around it was only two nights. I’m exhausted today but at least I’m not loony. Last time, by the fifth day, I could barely comprehend what was happening. I felt like I was in a bad dream that was really, really, really mundane. This really was too bad because the opportunities for learning were plentiful, however the learning environment was sorely diminished by everyone’s sleep deprived state and in some cases, outright anger.
Much like last time, my lovely friend Lara picked me up and we hit the road at 7am. I was up at 4:45am…no lie. This was not right. The sky was dark and I can recall a few nights that this was the time I went to bed, not the other way around. Mark is probably shaking his fist as he reads this since this is when he gets up EVERY DAY, but it was weird for me. I must say, I have just a little bit more respect for him after this experience.
We picked up our friend and colleague Clair and were on our way. Lara required a couple of coffee breaks on the way but the second stop had a Burger King and some free crowns. Lara alerted me to this and well, let’s just say the ride felt a little more regal the rest of the way.
We got there and quickly checked into our gorgeous accommodations:
Yup…it’s a dorm room. I wasn’t lying.
After unpacking we listened to a lecture from a former president of a couple of colleges. He had some great points and ideas, unfortunately it was ill-timed because everyone had just been sitting for 2+ hours and a lot of people were fighting sleep. It’s really unfortunate when you can’t take in what someone with so much wisdom and experience has to say.
The woke use up with food and I must say, lunch was a dream:
Other than the bean salad, everything was consumed. The salad and wrap were absolutely delicious. One thing that you can count on is gaining 5 pounds on these retreats if you are not careful. They feed you three times a day plus two snacks and the snacks, as I mentioned on Tuesday, are dangerous. After lunch we got back into our home groups from last year. These groups consisted of 5 or 6 people from different colleges who got together throughout the first week in August to discuss the various educational topics of the day. We also did some mini-teaching sessions in front of each other, which was very nerve-racking for the professors new to teaching, so it was a really good way to bond and support each other. I was happy to see my group again and it was like only a few days had passed since we saw each other. After doing some catching up, we chatted about anything and everything educational and it was dinner time. This dinner will be going un-photoged. It was dry, roast beef. I do not like roast beef to begin with so I opted for the vegetarian meal and it was not very appetizing. In fact, dinner left me feeling pretty queasy so I went back to my room and watched a few episodes of Arrested Development on Netflix (which I’m loving!) and tried to get to sleep.
The next day I skipped breakfast and the morning session but managed to meet up with my home group who filled me in on what I missed. After lunch, we went to another concurrent session on various topics and my colleague buds and I chose to go to a session on The Power of Body Language and Voice. Despite my profession, I am a very nervous public presenter when it comes to my peers, so I was hoping to get some tips and tricks to help me out with this. The first thing we had to do was a lesson in control during a presentation. We had to look around the room, make eye contact with everyone for one-two seconds and say our first name and then our last name while raising our hands in the air. I kind of looked like this:
It felt ridiculous but I do get the point of these practices. The leader put this quote on the board by George Bernard Shaw in regards to how he became a good public speaker, “I did it the same way I learned to skate—by persistently making a fool of myself until I got used to it.” This was clearly what we were doing. We continued on with this silliness for most of the session but we also learned some solid tips on how to turn our teaching into a performance. I felt a little more empowered and a little less embarrassed by the time I left the session. We got back into our home groups for about an hour and then it was time for the best part of the retreat; dinner at…
We arrived around 6:30 and the views were absolutely beautiful:
Including the view of Lara and I:
The most beautiful view though was this man:
So the whole ‘thing’ at Fort Henry is that you are to dine like you are a British Officer from 1837. The lovely gent in the red was one of our waiters, along with several young lads with ear spacers, which I quickly pointed out were not historically accurate but this was my only complaint. So, to be authentic, as an officer you would have treated your waitstaff like garbage and thus, the rules were you were not allowed to say please and thank you to your waiters. You also were not supposed to put your elbows on your table. All three of these were a challenge for me and pretty much everyone at our table.
Each room appointed a Colonel who was to dole out punishments to those who did not follow the rules. A couple of the women around me nominated me, which I must say would have been a much more wild ride then what ensued but in the end everyone decided that Jason, an ex-RCMP officer, would be an excellent choice. He did a pretty good job but his punishments were a little tame by my standards. An example was that I had to do the limbo when I was caught putting my elbows on the table.
There were also several individuals made to sing songs, walk around like various barnyard animals and then each room began to prank and perform for each other. At one point we had the entire other side of the restaurant in our room singing, “Na Na, Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye”. It kind of sounded like this:
…..but it looked like this:
Anyway, throughout these shenanigans, dinner was served and it was AMAZING. We started with a Currie cream soup, which was really, really good. We then moved on to the main meal which was filet Minot or salmon. Considering my unlove for beef, I went with the salmon and I’m really glad I did.
I really dislike cooked carrots and even a few of these made the cut. Look at the presentation! Come Dine With Me would even be impressed. Dessert was not a dream. It was a trifle but not the kind of unreal, mouth exploding trifle made by my sister-in-law Jenny. It was white cake with fruit…including grapes? Grapes, what the hell? Fortunately I was way too full from dinner to care about the lackluster dessert.
After dinner I decided to check out some of the sights. The whole fort was really beautiful at night:
But really, I only went outside to get a picture on the cannon:
A little blurry but I have to give props to my photographer because the mosquitoes were unreal. I definitely got one in the corner of my eye but at least I didn’t get bit on my eye like my friend Lindz.
After this it was pretty much time to head home. Everyone had had a pretty good time when we were there and you could tell that several people were still on a high from all of the laughing. As we were driving, much to our amusement, the carload of profs in front of us decided to treat us to an impromptu street dance at a red light:
Funny story, the guy in the white shirt saw us taking pictures but didn’t know who was doing it, so Lara told him that we had put his dancing up on You Tube. He was losing his mind over this and totally believed it. He even went as far to search it on Google before realizing we were clearly screwing with him. This whole episode was definitely a highlight of the week for me.
The next day we met one more time with our groups. I got a picture of me asking a question:
Do you like my new suit vest?
Then, the most rewarding part of the experience, we graduated from the program! Eight whole days of my life resulted in this beautiful piece of paper for my portfolio:
After this lovely little achievement, we were given some delicious wraps to go and packed up and headed home.
In all seriousness, while the sleeping conditions were subpar, the rest of the experience was totally beneficial. I am actually a huge fan of professional development. I even wrote a short article on my love for it a while back: http://www.dc-uoit.ca/pd/docs/Catalyst/Catalyst%20-%20Issue%2031.pdf
It was really great to meet a new group of professors with novel and different ideas than what I experience at my college; the networking is fantastic. It also really forced us all to reflect on what we are doing in our practice and what we could be doing better. However, I must say, I am 100% confident that my college is miles ahead of others in regards to preparing its new teachers for their transition from industry to teaching. While I am not in this boat, as I am an educator by trade, I was not completely equipped for the post-secondary classroom and my college has really helped me to handle the change from elementary to post-secondary pedagogy. I apologize to all non-teachers, I’m sure this blurb is less than enthralling but at least I’ve got some good pics above to keep you happy.
I will be back on Monday friends to recap my bestest’s THIRTIETH birthday. Have a beautiful weekend!!