My daughter over a year ago developed a fear of all slides and playground equipment. It was overnight when she went from climbing and doing feats of daring to having nothing to do with the playgrounds. I am sure that this was a logical developmental milestone, but it threw me for a loop because she was daring and seemed not to be afraid of anything.
I know both fear and fearlessness is what has allowed us as a species to survive and thrive. Unfortunately, fear has been the driving theme lately in our lives. I could discuss the whole politics of fear, but I am going to avoid that topic. Fear is what paralyzes us from making a change that our students so desperately need. Fear is what allows us to argue for the status quo.
I’ve come to a conclusion how to combat fear. It is knowledge, skills, and sense of competency. I saw this transformation right before my eyes. My daughter over time came to realize that had the skills and ability to climb the rock wall and slide down the biggest slide. She realized that taking the risk of getting hurt was minor compared to the fun of slide and monkey bars.
So, my dear readers, I challenge you to take that risk. Get the knowledge and skills. I promise you that it is worth it.
Dear Readers, I don’t think have shared that I am an avid gardener. My skills came from years of trial and error. I have come to the conclusion it is not about the plants that determine if I am successful, but where I plant them.
Living in Houston right behind a bayou, I had a horrible mix of clay and sand in most of my back yard. The first year, I just planted the plants in the ground and expected the raspberries to thrive. Of course, they did not. The following year, I got out the compost and some good soil from the local Big Box. The raspberries that I planted grew and survived the year. Over the course the few years, I continued to add organic material to the bed, and the raspberries produced a decent amount. By the time, I moved that area of soil looked so completely different that the soil around it. It was a beautiful black and had a sweet smell as opposed to the dirt around was pale, clumpy and stinky.
I tell you this because how often do we look around and put a great initiative into a school, and it fails. It probably happens more than we want to admit. This quote often appears in the Twitterverse, “Culture eats initiatives for lunch.”
In Rick Dufour’s In Praise of American Educators, he discusses how the first real step of creating a Professional Learning Community is not the technical setup but instead creating the mission, vision, values, and goals. He also discusses that when these drive how decisions, policies, and procedures are made, it will fundamentally change how the school works. If we only focus on the technical aspects, we will fail because we are not changing our thinking.
So my Dear Readers, please check the soil around your plant before you plant. Really, it is all about the soil that determines success.
At the end of work today, I headed to the gym (my now happy place). As I was walking in, I caught a glance of my legs, and I was amazed. I will tell that so often I don’t notice the results of the time at the gym. Honestly, if you ask me, I would talk about the strength and endurance I gained over the past year and a half when I left my couch potato ways. I am too close to the action and wouldn’t even think to talk how my body has changed. Amazingly, it has changed little by little on this fitness journey.
I bring this up not to brag, instead, I want to apply this idea to the classroom. As we are wrapping up the year. It is time to take a hard look at where our students are and where they were at the beginning of the year. So often we look at the small progress students make day to day that we fail to see it all adding up to a bigger change. Our students are profoundly changed because of us. Hopefully, we helped the student take the small steps to growing up to be an amazing adult.
So as you wrap up this year, take a moment to notice the incredible growth that occurred in your classroom. Don’t forget to share this view with your students. They may not even realize what they accomplished this year. We all need to take the long view.