Guest Blog Post by Katherine Mulski
The privilege to work alongside Katherine Mulski over the last several years in the Langley School District and connect with her on Social Media has been pretty amazing. Here is a guest blog post through Question and Answers that will get you to know this educator a little bit better. Katherine is a current Inservice Faculty Associate with the Graduate Programs – through Simon Fraser University Faculty of Education – has some insightful thoughts and insights to education and technology. So sit down, grab a coffee and listen to this encouraging and inspiring educator share her thoughts on technology and beyond.
Background and Guest Blog Post Questions
Current Position: Inservice Faculty Associate, Graduate Programs, Faculty of Education
University: Simon Fraser University
Just name a few of the cohorts you have taught and mentored:
- Collaborative Frameworks- Sea to Sky District
- Teaching and Learning in Today’s Classroom II- Coquitlam
- Blended Learning II- Vancouver, Island and Prince George
- Inquiry and Technology- Langley
- L’Enseignement et L’Apprentissage dans le classe d’aujourd’hui- North Vancouver
I appreciate all music, love the work that I do, passionate about learning more and very competitive with my FitBit steps. I love my husband and my dog!
How did you land yourself into the Langley School District?
I was still away teaching at the University of Cheongju, South Korea; through a wonderful internship provided by SFU when I began to realise that finding a job back home was going to have to start online! I began sending applications via email and was really impressed by Langley’s vision and warm welcoming staff. Upon my return, I was interviewed and hired on the same day and began TOC’ing two days later. It was a whirlwind but also fitting for my personality: no rest!
How did you come to learn and be passionate about Technology and Inquiry?
I think I’ve always been passionate about technology and the inquiry model even outside of my role as teacher, mentor and learner. I was that kid that would learn circuitry with my dad (who was big into hi-fi installation in cars/ homes at the time) and figure out how to install my first subwoofer in my truck, etc. I was always listening and playing music, learning how to scratch records on a pair of tech 12’s that I eventually sold to pay for teacher’s college (PDP). Exploring aspects and ways of knowing within Teacher Inquiry was new to me years ago, it took time to realise that (to quote Parker Palmer) we teach who we are, that the more we investigate our autobiography, the more connected we become to our confidence in knowing our students and their needs. Teacher inquiry has no longer been a model I adhere to or subscribe to, Teacher Inquiry has become very much a part of who I am, there’s always problems, tensions, wonders to explore in Teaching just as there are in life. 🙂
Kat speaking at the Ignite 35 event. Click on image to learn more.
I remember reading a blog post of yours years ago, that talked about “unplugging” from technology. Could you elaborate about why this is important to you?
We are such an occupied bunch, I avoid the use of the term “busy” because I feel that we’ve gone past this in the profession. We’ve all hit the ground running or we’ve got our metaphorical ski poles tucked and we’re constantly on the downhill picking up speed; Teachers, that is, as is society in general. What a transformative shift I’ve seen, our parents have seen through the years; cars that talk back to us via bluetooth, heads down in the “blue light” that we see lighting the faces of those that walk past us on the street. I think at one point, I was operating up to three laptops at once and two other hand-held devices. It was beyond a technological multi-task- it was overkill. I realised that answering emails as soon as they “ping’ed” from my computer wasn’t allowing my workflow to be efficient. I’ve been a big fan of the “working smarter not harder” camp for years. We’ve all hit the pinnacle of working as hard as we can in the profession, it’s about investigating on a person to person basis, where we can become more efficient in our work and practice without losing what is at the core- our values and ways of knowing that make us the wonderful and knowledgeable teachers and mentors we know we can be.
We’re all working our butts off, it’s about owning and recognizing our limits when it comes to being “on-call” all day. There is plenty of research to suggest that we are disassociated from nature more so in this generation we are teaching than ever before. Living connected to other parts of life and our lifeworlds is key to unplugging and reconnecting elsewhere. It can be as simple as setting limits on when you check and respond emails- we teach those that send these emails how and when we’re available. If you’re checking and responding emails at midnight- which I know colleagues have done in the past- there’s no down time and this spills into our ability to be great humans to ourselves, the self-care and family life aspect of what it means to be plugged-in and un-plugged. Let’s just say that I don’t take a laptop with me on vacation and I stop reading emails past 6pm. It’s a personal choice, a tough one at that; requires constant practice and it’s never a one-size-fits-all situation.
How does Inquiry and Technology at SFU inspire you as an educator?
This is a phenomenal group of educators seeking guidance during a two-year exploration of themselves and their role as a teacher. They have so much to offer and much of my job instructing them is to facilitate ways in which they come to know, recognize and believe just how knowledgeable they already are! I have huge admiration and respect for this group as they are embarking on the very same journey I took several years ago in the Graduate Diploma. Nothing short of transformative, if you do the “work”- meaning, you seek answers to your observations, tensions and pull back a few rocks where you’ve been hiding certain practices; this two-year time is key to reclaiming confidence and finding new ways to renew teaching. It is an absolute privilege to witness the learning of this group and I, in turn, learn every time I work with them. Such an organic and amazing experience by which I feel fortunate to work on capacity through ways of exploring my teaching practice.
Do you see any trends in education and technology? If so,what?
I can see the development and roll out of moving away even from Laptops in certain schools and districts. A BYOD (Bring your own Device) program or going handheld with Android and iOS is being currently reviewed by many districts and has many benefits to the personalised learning of the students involved. However, accessibility and lack thereof, is always on my mind.
Do you believe that devices should be in the classroom? Why or why not?
I took a big chance several years ago with having my students bring in what they wanted to use when other devices or computers were not made available during class time. I would recommend having a solid idea of how you as the teacher will roll out a BYOD plan, discuss this with your admin and fellow colleagues- collaborate. Know the drawbacks and speak to your parents to discuss turning off the little things such as iCloud sharing on iOS devices. Know your role within FIPPA and don’t be afraid to ask for help when undertaking this for the first time. Baby steps lead to great things! To borrow from the wonderful Brené Brown: Dare Greatly and know how to Rise Strong when things don’t go as smoothly as hoped. I am a big fan of planning like a pessimist and living optimistically- it has worked financially and in my teaching world, I will continue with this mantra until it no longer fits.
EdD focusing on:
Well, based on my long-winded answer around self-care and unplugging <laughing>, I believe I am leaning towards researching ways of knowing and helping Teachers with self-care, stress reduction, studying burnout and understanding how Teacher Inquiry may interplay with this within the profession over a period of time. There is a lot of current thoughts swirling around my current writing and reading. I’ve learned that this part of my educational journey involves a lot of reading and writing and so far, I’ve been thoroughly enjoying it. This has much to do with the amazing colleagues I am humbled to be collaborating with within my doctoral cohort as well as the wonderful mentoring and guidance provided by the EdD instructional team.
Why did you choose to focus on this topic for your EdD- Understanding how to counteract stasis and renew professional practice has helped me gain new confidence in my teaching practice and I feel that I have then been able to channel further energies into advocating for the needs of my students and classroom. It is a wonderful feeling to know how to situate yourself within your practice and focus on the relationships you build with your students. Systemic and outside influences impact the ways in which we can tend to the latter. Workplace stress and its longevity within our profession impacts us all on different levels.
Can you share with us a little bit about you research?
I’m not there yet! Still reading and writing!
Guest Blog Post Conclusion
Thank you Kat for doing a Guest Blog Post on my website. I look forward to learning more from her in the future!
To connect with Kat and learn more about what she is up to, connect with her through her Twitter profile here.