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.
I have been heartbroken lately with another school shooting. The loss of life is something that I don’t take lightly. I saw the posts from teachers coming back into their classroom and pondering what would they do in that situation. Where would they move the students? What if it was one of their students who lost their life? The pain is real and raw for many.
As time has passed, I have started to see two different messages bubble up on my social media feed. The first group can be summarized as blame. I guarantee that there is enough blame for everyone and it won’t prevent this from happening again. If anything, it is another way that we are dividing our nation more. Dear Readers, you know we can do better.
While the other group gives me hope. These posts suggest action that needs to be taken. Unfortunately, many assume that this is the only approach that will work. This idea that either we do this or that creates a false choice. We can and should do everything that will save our students’ and teachers’ lives.
So dear reader, it is time to embrace the power of AND. So when a friend, colleague, teacher or neighbor says, ” I think we need better mental health care.” I want all of us to respond with acceptance and ask how they are going to help make that happen. We don’t need to spend our time arguing we just need to take actions that will move us forward.
Parkland, my thoughts and prayers are with you, AND more importantly, my actions are too.
Reading that influenced this post:
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.