Last Monday, I was on Spring Break. My kids and I did what we usually do on the first Monday of a break. We spent the day in our PJs. We laughed and played. Mainly we focused on enjoying our time with each other. My to-do list was long, but I mostly ignored it. The day was about just chilling. This has become a time honored tradition because it allows all of us to slow down and reconnect after a hectic time. It began last summer when my new job did not allow me to stay home all summer long. So on Mondays that I did not have to work, we began staying in our PJs all day and doing nothing.
This Monday all three of us returned to school and work. I wonder did my kid’s teachers stop to reconnect with him and the other students in his class. As I walked into a school in my district, I overheard several students talking about the challenges of spring break. One complained about driving across Texas (my sympathie-it is a big state) and another discussed seeing his mom for the first time in three years. I hope both students were able to share if they wanted to with an adult.
All of this makes me wonder, what traditions do we create in our classrooms to create a community? How often do we put aside the put aside pressure to “cover” the curriculum to listen to each and laugh? We spend so much time at school. The least we can do is enjoy our time together.
Thanks Sean Gaillard for the encouragement for this post.
A line from the homily at church has stuck with me. “We have a tendency to hold on to where people were at.” The priest then discussed how a recovered addict is always referred as an ex-addict. He also discussed how we allow a transgression to define a person. He discussed that we need to rise above this tendency.
As an educator, this really spoke to me. As a teacher, we need to not let last year define who the student will be in our class. I can remember sitting my teacher educator classes and all of us discussing how we would not gossip with the previous teachers about the current students. I really wonder how many of us still do this or if we have justified how current behavior. I know I am not perfect. I can justify reaching out to other teachers to see if they saw the same thing. I will freely admit that some of the information shaped my view of that student.
Also I held on when students returned to my class after a stint at the alternative school. I should have welcomed them back to my class with open arms. Instead, I held on to the idea that they were the “bad kids.” I know I have been part of the problem.
Also how do I look at the teacher who struggled the first year and now is shining as the innovative teacher? When someone talks positively about him, do I remind them about his first year and how he almost failed as a teacher or do I celebrate the success? I want to act like I am always the celebrator, but I am not.
As I go forward, I will make a concerted effort to treat as who they are now, not who they were yesterday. I will work on giving everyone the grace I want when I make mistakes. I know I will not be perfect, but now being aware of my own tendencies I hold on less.
I will be the first to admit that I thought that norms are glorified rules. We are all professionals. Let’s just behave that way. I also knew that it was good practice to have norms so I imposed them on others. I’ve had a change of heart.
In February, I have had several meetings where time has been taken to create norms together. I really questioned the purpose of this. Why spend a half hour talking about norms instead of getting straight to work? My time is precious. Let’s get it done. The time we took to create the norms actually proved to be useful.
At one particular meeting, Ann Craig took the time to build consensus around the phrase Be positive. The discussion was powerful to talk about positivity versus solution-focused. We ended up agreeing on Be solution-focused. This phrase of being solution-focused has become my mantra.
The other brilliant that has been happening at these meetings is for us to look at the norms and personally focus on one that is important. Lately, I have working on sharing the airtime. I have been quiet at meetings and it may appear to others that I am not engaged in the meeting. I am working on it. (That is a blog post for another time.)
Then, the universe sent me another sign about the importance of norms. I read an New York Times Magazine article about effective teams. It discussed the importance of two particular norms-Sharing the air and Being thoughtful of the whole person.
“The right norms, in other words, could raise a group’s collective intelligence, whereas the wrong norms could hobble a team, even if, individually, all the members were exceptionally bright.” New York Times
So what I am going to do?
- Take the time to get to know the people in the room. Look and observe emotional temperature in the room. I need spend time listening to the context as well as the content.
- Make sure that everyone in the room talks and create a safe a space for various opinions.
- Not to impose my norms on others. I need spend some time to create norms with the people I work with.