Taryn's story

Aug 29 2022

If you asked me two years ago while I was in Teacher’s College what
my dream job would be, I would have replied without hesitation…”Easy! A High School English teacher.” From a high
schooler with a passion for reading to an undergraduate student
taking English courses on everything from comics & cartoons to
Shakespeare and dystopian narratives, I thrived in teaching
placements where I was assigned to an English classroom. There
was no better feeling than doing a read-aloud as a class and seeing
a student engaged in a book for the first time all year or witnessing
students discuss how a novel sparked their interest in a social justice
issue and what they were going to do to get involved…or so I thought.
This was before I had experienced a MARIO classroom.
My first teaching position was as a High School Learning Support Associate. Correct, I did not accept a job as an
English teacher and instead moved across the world to take a job in an area that I had no prior experience in
(shocking, I know!). However, I would soon come to realize that this seemingly nonsensical decision would
significantly change my career trajectory. It was in this learning support role that I was fortunate to be
introduced to the MARIO Framework as my colleagues used the framework on a daily basis within the
department and my mentor was in fact a highly-certified MARIO Educator. As I started to orient myself around
campus and gain a better picture of what my new roles and responsibilities would be as an associate, I took
time to observe my mentor in action. It was during this time of observation that a few things stood out to me
about a MARIO classroom:

Students were willing to share about
themselves as learners and individuals.

Within the first few minutes of class, students were sharing about their days, speaking honestly about
what was going well and what was challenging, as well as openly sharing their authentic feelings,
everything from tired and bored to nervous and excited. Until then, I had never met students who
were so aware of their feelings and needs, let alone who were comfortable sharing these with a
teacher (and sometimes their classmates) without fear of judgment.

Students were excited to become
improved versions of themselves.

I witnessed students running into class practically bursting at the seems to share about their grade
on a recent test, yet at the same time, would acknowledge that they crammed their studying and
wanted to use the Pomodoro studying technique for their next assessment to improve their
academic performance. What high school student gets excited about studying!?

Students were reflective thinkers and
independent problem-solvers.

Students were describing situations and identifying actionable next steps that would bring them an
appropriate conclusion with only subtle prompting from the teacher. Students were not being
enabled, but rather empowered to find their own solutions.

Over the course of the semester, I became more confident in the use of the framework and began to co-lead
some of the learning conversations alongside my mentor. Here, I witnessed powerful student transformations
unlike anything else I had seen before and formed strong, trustful student-teacher relationships. As January
rolled around, my one-year contract was halfway done, and it was time to make a decision. Do I stay in this
role? Or do I leave and try to start my journey as an English teacher? If you are reading this letter, I guess it is
obvious that I chose to stay. While there are a whole host of reasons that contributed to this decision, put
simply, I could not imagine being in a job that did not allow me to put students first. In a MARIO classroom,
students are everything. The conversations I have with my learners, the lessons that I create, and the
celebrations and moments of growth they have, are all a result of what my students tell me is meaningful to
them and my willingness to listen and respond appropriately.

Now, two years later, I have made the decision to leave. However, I am not leaving to become an English
teacher (although I still love supporting students in their English classes) or because I do not enjoy what I do,
but rather to further my career in special education as a full-time Learning Support Teacher because I love it so
much. My colleagues can attest to the fact that I say “I love my job” at least once a day, and no, this is not an
exaggeration. I love that student voices can shine and that I can have a genuinely student-driven classroom. I
love that every day is different because students help inform what we discuss and what we learn. I love that
parents/guardians notice tangible growth in their children. I love that students are excited about their learning
and want to participate in the learning process after seeing and celebrating their own improvements. I love
that I am part of a group of educators who are dedicated to improving their practice to best serve students. I
love that I have a job that I enjoy so much that it makes it hard to leave the amazing students and colleagues
who I have come to know. While I am sad that this chapter is closing, I could not be more excited to start my
new position and continue to work at a job that I truly love for many more years to come. Thank you, MARIO, for
helping me fall in love with an avenue of teaching that was never even on my radar.

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