As you may have noticed dear readers, I have not been blogging with the consistency that I used to have. I can easily blame it on my tablet habit. One particular game has a feature that after I win the first game, I get a boost for the following game. When I win again, I get two boosts. Soon after winning several games in a row, it becomes very easy to beat the next level. After a while, I forget about all of the helps I have and begin to expect that this level of support is normal. When I finally lose a game, I realize how wrong I was.
This often happens in our schools. If you were similar to me when you entered school for the first time you had many “boosts” to help you succeed in school. I was a white middle-class girl with educator parents. My world prepared me for how school works. My school was designed for students like me.
Luis Cruz described this situation in this way. We have some students who come to school already on third base while some students have not even made it to the baseball field or know that we are playing baseball. The reality is that all of our students need to end up at home base.
Some questions come to mind as I think about our schools. Who are schools designed for? Do we treat the student who is on third base as if they hit a triple or do we acknowledge their privilege that got them there?
Personally, I believe we should work together as a team of educators to help every student get to home base. This will require us to set aside our previous experiences as students. It is hard work, but it is right and just work of schools.
In my perfect world, teachers would not have to hustle to live a comfortable life. Of course, we do not live in that world. I know teachers who have a wide variety of jobs to help put food on the table. This article about teachers using Instagram and Teachers Pay Teachers as a side hustle made its way around the Twitterverse. I do need to make a confession, I do not have an Instagram account so I may have missed some nuances of the article. I was fascinated by the discussion going around, but I was left with some questions.
- Where is the diversity? These teachers highlighted are all very similar. Same time in their career and are all white women. The materials seem very similar in terms of color choices and font styles. They all seem to remind me of the same style that fills my Target.
- Where is the equity? (Is this opportunity really available to all teachers in all schools?) As I read this, I was also reading Troublemakers in which the author mentioned the conditions in Detroit Public Schools which involved mice, mold and other not Instagram-worthy issues. These teachers do not have access. I also wonder if any of these or other Instagram stars teach in an urban school district.
- Where is the research on the impact? Do these resources and styling make students learn more? Will students be more authentically engaged in learning with these resources or are these just beautiful worksheets?
- Why is there a need for teacher influencers?
I don’t have any answers just more questions. I am learning to be okay with not having the answers.
This past month I ran 30 miles. This did not happen accidentally. It happened because I set a goal.
It sounds simple. Set a goal and then achieve the goal. I don’t know about you Dear Readers, but for me, it isn’t usually that easy. So why this time as opposed to all of the other times I set a goal. Here’s why I think it worked this time.
- I had a reward planned if I accomplished my goal. This weekend I am getting a pedicure.
- I communicated my goal with my support system. They knew this goal meant was important to me and they asked how I was doing at accomplishing my goal.
- I tracked my progress toward my goal.
We often tell teachers, students and other educators to set goals, but rarely do we talk about why some people reach their goals and others quit. How can I take what I learned and apply it to my work with instructional coaches?
- I can ask the coaches to write smaller short-term goals. Sometimes a year-end goal is big to think about. Small changes, done consistently, equal significant results.
- I need to provide follow-up conversations and check-in around the goal they set. My friend Karen seemed to instinctively know when my willpower was fading and asked about how I was coming.
- I can help them create goals that are measurable. A coach will not feel like they are making progress if the goal is to improve climate unless they know how to measure it.
I have my action steps for the upcoming month as I help teacher leaders set goals.
Since sharing my goals worked so well last month. I thought I would share them with you, my dear readers. I am committing to 12 workouts and 4 blog posts in September. Don’t be afraid to ask me how I am doing.
When I returned from the gym today, I realized that no spoke to me or even acknowledged me. I do want to preface that this is a class-based gym not a large group of machines gym. I had an instructor in the front of the room and circulating throughout the class. She led the class with correct cueing and positive generic affirmations. On the surface, it looked like a great class, but she did not make eye contact with me once or make a comment about my work. I know enough about myself that I know I need an external motivation to keep going strong during the class. I left feeling off about my time in the gym. I really wanted to be seen for the work I was putting in today.
Thinking back to that class, here’s what I needed to push even harder. Look at me and give me feedback when you give us a challenging move. Make eye contact with me to let me know you see my hard work. Give me or my part of the room some specific praise about how we are doing. When you send us out for a sprint, high five us as we come back in the door. I can clearly articulate what I needed, but not all of our students can explicitly say what they need to learn. Unfortunately, most of us will not even share what we need with our instructor. What are we left to do?
Just last week, I finished reading Do You Know Enough About Me to Teach Me? Through a series of interviews, it brought home the idea all students want to their teachers to know them. He also discussed the power of eye contact, gestures and facial expressions. These are some of the small things that help inspire students to learn. I also would add greeting your students at the door, using everyone’s name daily and give specific praise.
Dear Readers, I challenge you to make sure that no student leaves your classroom without being acknowledged.
I just finished Thanks for the Feedback. I cannot say enough good things about it. Put on your to-be-read pile. I picked three ideas and my next steps.
- When feedback is given, the receiver sorts into three categories, appreciation, coaching, and evaluation. I realized that I receive most feedback as evaluation. It triggers an identity block which does not allow me to action on the feedback. I need to focus on the feedback as coaching and ask what is one thing I can concentrate on.
- Bosses think they show appreciation, but employees do not feel they are appreciated. I think it is because we mix appreciation in with coaching and evaluation. I guarantee that I have said, “Thanks for ___ and have you considered ___?” I need to completely separate my appreciation feedback from any other. It gets drowned out by the other two forms.
- No performance system is perfect. I think about all of the teacher evaluation systems. They have been charged with so much. They should weed out poor performing teachers, identify areas of growth for teachers, reward excellent teachers, and communicate what best practice is in teaching. I am sure you can add other tasks as well. Unfortunately, this is using a hammer to complete all of your home improvement needs. A change in the system requires each of us to advocate for a system that has fewer tasks assigned to it.
I am not going to lie. I really hate running, but I am working on being humble and realize that I may be wrong. To check this out, I signed up for a 5K. I added running to my workouts and told everyone I knew that I was attempting this run. I set a personal goal of under 40 minutes.
On St. Patrick’s Day, the weather was horrible. Snow was scheduled to start, and it felt 25 degrees out. I wanted to stay home, but I realized that I had told everyone about my goal. So with gloves on, I began this race. I did not start to walk until about I had about a little more than a half mile. I said, to myself, just walk one block and then start back up. After that first block, I started back up at run pace, and I quickly started walking again. Luckily for me, a woman came running upside to me and said, “Come on! You’ve got this! We only have a half mile left.” I started to pick up my pace and ran alongside her. During this time, the wind picked up as we entered the downtown area. She and I kept cheering on each other. When we finally crossed the finish line, we thanked each other for helping us finish strong.
I tell you this story because the first two miles were easy, and I didn’t need anyone to accomplish the work, but as running got harder and the sleet seemed to come from everywhere, I needed a partner. It’s just like when we start the school year. It is easy to keep the momentum of moving forward without much support from your colleagues, but as the year continues, we need our fellow teachers to help cheer us on and support us as things get tough.
I am not going to deny that last mile was hard, but it was enjoyable because I had a running partner to help me. We didn’t complain about the weather or the wind or anything else we didn’t have control of instead we focused on the task at hand of putting one foot in front of the other. When we find our tribe, it is essential to keep this in mind. Celebrate and focus on what we have control of.
After this experience, I am still not a fan of running, but I will add it to workout rotation.
Little Bit and I were getting ready to leave for the school. She asked to put on my sunglasses as we were heading out the door. She quickly put them on and smiled. Lit Bit asked me how did she look. I promptly took a picture so she could see. Her first response was, “I look like you!” I asked her, “Is that a good thing?” Without skipping a beat, she said, “No!” At this moment, I had a choice to be hurt about her response or lean in ask her why. I chose the latter. Little Bit explained clearly that she did not want people to be confused about who was who. In her mind, it was a logical explanation.
I tell you this story because we often hear the first response and react. We need to take the time and ask the more important question, “Why?” I believe that when we do this, the other person gets a chance to share their reasoning and the listener begins to understand more.
This week I challenge you to go ahead and take the time to lean in and ask why. The response may surprise you.