This past week has been hard for me and I am sure harder for others. Both events that happened in Orlando had me tears. I thought of every parent that lost a child last weekend. As a parent, my heart broke for every parent in both Orlando situations. Whether you lost your son or daughter in a violent shooting spree or an alligator attack, a part of you is gone. No this blog is not about the heartbreak about losing a child, instead it is about the blame people place on others.
After each horrific event, someone quickly placed the blame on others. I heard politicians blame the other side for the attack. Others blamed the gun industry and the NRA. I read comments where people said the dad did not fight hard enough to keep the alligator from taking his son and others said that they were bad parents.
I think we may want to place blame on someone else because it keeps the idea that we could lose our child that way far away from us. That would not happen to me because….
I want to challenge myself and you, dear readers, when tragedy happens that we stop with the blaming and be empathetic. It could have easily been us instead of someone else.
As I shed my tears this week, I also was uplifted by the acts of kindness done for those who have lost. The line of people giving blood; a city who embraced a family who lost their young son; getting family member the visas they need quickly to be at a loved ones funeral. We are loving, kind and amazing. Sometimes, we just need to look around.
A few weeks ago, I was blessed enough to present PD at one of the school about English Language Learners. This was our district response to guidance from the state based on a Federal Site visit to the Department of Education. Needless to say the information in the morning was very heavy in law and ELPs standards.
Towards the end of the morning, a teacher approached me and said, “No offense, I feel like an ELL this morning because I am not understanding what is going on and I am struggling to learn the content.” I took this as an opportunity. I asked for him to share his struggle in the morning. I asked how did it impact his learning and what did he feel as this was happening. He was honest about feeling fear and anxiety as everyone else seemed to understand. He talked about how at points he shut down and didn’t work. As a group, we talked how this same experience happens in our classrooms even if there are no identified ELLs.
I also took this moment to apologize. I did not take the time to get to know my learners or ask questions to understand the teachers I was working with. I also was not checking for understanding as we worked to ensure that all teachers had the knowledge required by the state. I also did not plan for differentiation.
What I learned:
- Know your learners. You should take the time to get know who you is learning with you.
- Plan informal checks for understanding. If you are not assessing and noticing during PD, how can we ensure that learning will transfer to the classroom?
- Create a safe space for learning. If we do not create a safe space for learning, then teachers cannot take risks and learn. I find my learning occurs when I challenge myself.
- Take a mistake and make it an opportunity. I could have ignored the comment and dismissed the situation. I took that as a moment to really get to heart of the matter-why every student matters.
I’ve been taking a break from professional reading. I have been picking a wide variety of books to read for fun. I just finished Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand In the Sun and Be Your Own Person by Shonda Rimes. I’ll admit I picked the book because of the NPR interview with her I heard, not because I am a fan of TV shows (haven’t seen any of them). This fun book became a professional book because of one particular chapter.
In the book, Shonda Rimes describes a particular event where powerful successful women were announced with all of their successes and all of the women did one of three things. They either looked down and made themselves smaller; shook their head; or laughed it off. As she was describing how women tend to receive compliments, it was like she has been watching me for years. I am guilty of denying praise; laughing uncomfortably and looking down; and shifting praise to others.
For example, I was talking with one of our literacy coaches and she said that I am the right person for my role. When she said that I didn’t even say thank you, instead I started denying it and saying this person would be better at this role. (As I wrote this, hundreds of other examples came to mind.) I even struggle with accepting compliments from myself. For example, I was reflecting on my year. Every time I listed a success, I found myself downplaying it or denying my role in it.
Rimes also discussed that as women we are socialized to respond this way. I also think teachers are also taught to respond similarly. As teachers, we are expected to be humble and not brag. My former principal and I joked that neither of us could accept a compliment. Right now I want you to think about the last compliment you received at school. How did you respond? One reason, I bring this up is we are models for our students.
Now, think about some of your students. How do they receive a compliment or praise? Are there students in your classroom that shut down after you pay them a compliment?
I bring this all up because if our compliments are dismissed frequently, after a while we may quit. People will start feel less appreciated and soon you have culture issue.
So I encourage you to join you in my plan to get better:
- I will just say, “Thank you” to others. My sister is an excellent model of this. She learned this from one of her voice teachers who said “If you say anything other than thank you, then you are calling them a liar.”
- I will teach my children and students to just say, “Thank you.” When you teach this skill, you giving them a great skill.
- I will create opportunities for others to just say, “Thank you.” I want to celebrate the my colleagues. They are bright, powerful, creative women and men. I want them to know that they are and I am blessed to learn from them.
- I will own my accomplishments without adding but to the end. I will continue to my journey to silence my worst critic and continue my journey of being a friend to myself.