As I was driving to the gym on Sunday, I began to think how I see myself regarding fitness. I realized that treat myself as an athlete. I make decisions to ensure I get to the gym and eat somewhat healthy. I don’t make apologies for these choices, and I am confident in them. I think I would say that about most of the labels that are attached to me.
One label I want to own is writer or blogger. These words are not words I would use to introduce myself, and because of that, I do not always make plans to guarantee that I write frequently. When you sit down and talk to me, you would find that I have excuses why I did not write. The brilliant ideas are floating in my head, but I struggle to sit down and write. I honestly believe that if I shift my language and put on the label of writer, I will write more.
Dear readers, I bring this up to you because our students come to us with labels, either externally or internally imposed. Students who see themselves as artists are going to engage in the art classroom while the student who does not see themselves as an artist may not or even disrupt the class.
More importantly, how about that kid? You know the one that had that reputation since Kindergarten. She knows she is that kid. Our actions give it away. If our actions don’t, she will work hard to own this label.
As we get to know our students, our job is to create an opportunity where students can see beyond where they are now and add labels that will impact their future positively.
Reading and Listening that inspired this post:
This word has been swirling in my head for a while. I wasn’t confident that this would make sense and struggled how with how it would look like on social media. I had a couple of things that I saw that cemented that this is my word.
First, a Jon Gordon tweet suggested that your one word should inspire three actions every day. I started to think about my word and the steps it would take.
Second, I saw all my previous One Words. I realized that I became better because I used that word to focus my efforts. I committed to exercising and writing. I started to focus on what really matters.
So this year, I commit to being HUMBLE. I will be humble by:
- Listening to understand not to respond.
- Striving for partnerships with others.
- Seeking knowledge from all sources.
The year I was a SAM, I answered my radio the same way: “How can I help?” I’ve always felt that this stance was the best stance, but over time I have realized that I need to do more than just to ask this question.
Now in my role, I need to approach with humility when working with others. This quote from Father Boyle pushed me to think about how I interact with the teachers I work with:
But you’re faithful to putting one foot in front of the next. And things evolve. And you add things like tattoo removal and therapy, and you listen because, you know, the stance is humility.
If you’re humble, you’ll ask the poor, what would help you? But if you’re led by hubris, then you tell the poor, here’s what your problem is; here’s how you fix yourself. And so Homeboy has sort of stayed humble in as much as it’s listened to the formerly gang-involved and has responded at every turn, what can we do that is concretely helpful
My stance and the stance I will encourage other teacher leaders to take is one of humility. When approaching other teachers with a directive stance, more than likely they will not do the X, Y and Z we suggested. Instead, we need to listen and respond to the need.
Another shift is to ask better questions when offering to work together. Instead of asking how can I help you with small group implementation, ask during small group implementation what surprises/challenges you? It shows vulnerability to ask for help, but it easier when we respond with good questions. Or even better, offer help before being asked. My favorite is I have a mini-lesson planned so you can go visit the teacher down the hall, let me know when and if you need me to teach your class so you can do that.
The reading/listening that prompted this post:
Dear Readers, I know it’s been a while. I could give you a multitude of excuses, but in reality, I created new habits that were easy (reading and surfing the internet after the little ones go to bed). Tonight, I made an effort to get back into the habit of writing. The reason I bring this up is. We all have practices that fall back on.
For example, at the beginning of my teaching career, I called on volunteers. As time and learning occurred, I knew that I needed to call on non-volunteers as well, so I went ahead created systems for that. If I lost track of my system, I would fall back into my routine of calling on volunteers only. A couple of days of repeating my old habit, it felt like I had never stopped.
I share this example with you because I have learned in working with teachers want to change their practice, but they have their own habits and over 16 years watching teachers that they must contend with. In Learning by Doing, Rick Dufour suggests that how a teacher taught a topic last year and not individual reflection will determine how it will be taught this year.
How do we push back on our habits? We collectively reflect on our lesson with our peers. We create a culture of peer accountability. We celebrate our successes. I promise you with enough teamwork, we can shift our practice to help our students learn.
We sat down for our conference. I recently I had spent a day in her classroom observing her. Of course, I knew this was going to be a challenging conversation because she was not accepting of my feedback (we all know that I give good feedback). By the end of the discussion, I had ignored everything she said, and she completely dismissed my suggestions for improvements. I headed back to my office to discuss how she did not take my suggestions and what was wrong with her.
I wish I could say that this was a moment of fiction instead this event was real. Unfortunately, I did not have the knowledge I have now about feedback. I’ve done some reading and reflecting and came to this conclusion.
I came into that meeting with my armor on to protect me and she also came with protection. We put problem between us, and I did not recognize her strengths. If I could call a do-over, I would not put my armor on. I would be transparent about my feedback. I would spend the time thinking about her strengths
I have been reading a ton of Brené Brown (side note-I have been gripped by her Facebook posts during and after Hurricane Harvey. She is so real.) She spoke about being in the right head and heart space to receive feedback. Here is her list of the 10 things to be ready for feedback.
I know there is feedback I will have to give this year and I need to look at this list frequently. I also need to examine am I approaching this teacher with a growth mindset or I am assuming that they will never change. Real meaningful feedback is challenging but worth it.
Happy Labor Day, Dear Readers! On this day where we celebrate the work of labor unions to bring good living conditions, I wanted to talk about something that has been on my mind lately. I want to talk about teachers and second jobs.
I heard this on NPR yesterday:
GARCIA-NAVARRO: We heard from Christy Faymonville this week. She lives in Green Bay, Wis. – a single mom with two kids. One’s in the Navy, graduated and was valedictorian of her class. The others, still in high school. Christy is a teacher. She teaches math. But it doesn’t pay enough. And like almost everyone who called in, she told us a story of multiple jobs.
CHRISTY FAYMONVILLE: I work retail part-time. I waitress on the weekends. And I also tutor during the week. And during spring, I coach.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: The day she spoke with us, she was also a little hoarse from cheering at a high school football game, where she was also working security. Christy’s life is packed.
FAYMONVILLE: I wake up around 5:45. Then I’ll go to school. And I’ll get out of there at 3:45. And then from there, I usually have my retail job, which starts at 5 but really, really great boss. And sometimes if I have a meeting with kids as an advisor for different clubs, I’ll say, hey, I can’t get there till 5:15 or 5:30, and that’s OK. And then I’ll work till about 9, 9:30 and then come home and see if the kids need help with homework or what laundry needs to get done kind of thing.
Christy during this interview brought up that she is not the only teacher who does this and it is more common than you think. It also brings to mind the young teacher who volunteers to coach sports or take on additional duties to make ends meet. I bring all of this up because currently, we are in a culture that celebrates the hustle. We have podcasts and websites talking about the side hustle. In reality, I want something different for teachers because we all deserve better.
Here’s what I want for my children’s teachers:
- White Space-Time to reflect and think about teaching and learning
- Enough money to pay the bills including the student loan payments
- Time and money to explore their passions
Dear Reader, as I wrote that list, I realized that it was I wanted for my own children. We can’t ask the people who are in charge of educating our children to hustle to make ends meet. We wouldn’t want it for own children.
I was giddy with excitement that I had organized the day, so I could attend Common Formative Assessment. The teachers I support spent the previous day learning about it. A friend found me and made sure that I had a table of people to sit with it. I had opened my favorite note-taking tool. Everything was set for a successful day. Then I received some news. Throughout this training, I tried to stay in engaged in the learning.
Then I received some news. To me, in my world, it was huge. My plan for after school care fell through. I needed to problem solve and come through with a plan pretty quickly. Throughout this training, I tried to stay in engaged in the learning, and it was challenging. By the end of the day, I learned so much and extremely exhausted.
I tell you this story because this is the story of some of the students in our classroom. On a regular basis, students come to our classroom distracted and have the desire to learn. The battle I faced all day trying to remain present with my learning was exhausting. Here are some of the things helped me stay engaged.
- Chris Jakicic made sure that she knew her audience and adjusted the learning for the people in the room
- The content was meaningful, and I knew that I would be using it pretty quickly.
- I had a team around me who knew me.
Aren’t these the same thing we would want for our students, learning that is meaningful and meets us where we are in a safe environment?