I am Brian Cleary, I am an Instructional Coach in the Evergreen School District. I live in Camas WA. where I write, read, run, parent, partner and play.
There are only two and a half things in my professional life that I have ever had a real passion about; teaching, learning, and stories.
Early in my life this seemed like a big money career plan, while my friends were out mowing lawns in the hot sun I was babysitting, reading stories to the kids and making twice the money. Later, in high school, I would spend June, July and August working at summer camps, telling stories by the campfire, while my classmates flipped burgers. Come September I still had more cash in hand. That proved to me, in the logic of a 16 year old male brain that working with kids was where the money was.
As a college student I flushed out my professional passions. Working as a teacher was wonderful, but I need more. Working through the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS), and the National Forest Service I learned to foster experiential learning and help students apply that to the real world. As a staff member of the Abertina Kerr Center in Portland, Oregon during those college years I experienced firsthand learning that was simple, meaningful, and profound, while working with physically and developmentally challenged children.
By the time I received my Bachelors degree I realized that my dreams of financial glory may not match well with my passions. Still, the choice was easy. I was fascinated by the different ways our brains gather and interrupt information, and thrilled at my ability to impact that process. I could feel the truth behind the platitude declaring that “I change lives”. I felt it daily.
Fom that early point in my career, passion and addiction may have occasionally been synonyms. I tapped my own learning from NOLS and taught inner city youth to rock climb and kayak. Those adventures created some of the most memorable stories and opportunities of my life. Within a few short years I found myself in Nashville, Tennessee where I was introduced to Multiple Intelligence and the ideas around cognitive development, and the storytelling crafts of the south; thus igniting another passion and a half.
I have studied the cognitive differences of boys and girls, researched the impact of technology on our learning and thinking, and how our social structures change our brains ability to learn. I have lead workshops on several of these topics school districts and at regional conferences. This better understanding of the how our brains learn and process information has made for huge changes in how we teach. Differentiated instruction, RTI, positive behavior support (PBIS), even the most effective uses of technology as an instructional tool are rooted in our growing understanding of neuropedagogy. In truth, if not for the duality of my passions I would have enjoyed doing neurocognitive research full time. As I was already on the path more traveled I found ways to expand and explore my own learning from the classroom I went into the library, which offered me the opportunity to work with a variety of student and teacher, as well as the chance to dig deeply into educational technology.
From there the plan was try an increase my ability to impact the student and teachers I saw and admired by going into educational leadership. That agenda was forestalled by family health issues and some inconvenient priorities. Without spinning into a saga worthy of at least a Hallmark movie in not a Shakespearian drama I will say both my parents passed away and my family has grown.
Then there is that half passion; stories. They have been an undercurrent throughout my life. I am a storyteller, a character, a critic and an analyst. I believe we are all impacted by the power of a well done story. They are the most common and universal form of teaching human have. The more we recognize and utilize that fact the more effective both our teacher and learning becomes.