Whereby I confess my most egregious professional sins and meditate, lighting candles to Grant, Wiggins, and Burke, in order to get my head back on right. And a favor: please do not make assumptions about where I’m going with this, and be honest with yourself–it is a rare human who’s never experienced a pang of professional jealousy, or ‘me-too-itis.’
This may be my new favorite teacher-writer: http://www.cultofpedagogy.com
And yes, she takes a great headshot.
Dang, I am jealous. Straight up. Confessing. Green monster. Yuck.
But…this is when I get things moving forward again.
Jennifer Gonzalez writes the blog, Cult of Pedagogy and I’m having one of those ‘where has this been all my life?’ moments. Writes posts that I wish I had written, says the difficult things I wish I was brave enough to discuss. But now I’m going to lay it out on the table – one of her posts resonated so deeply for me this year, it is a mental grout of my brain tiles. (Oof- that is a horrible metaphor. Sorry. Told you I was off my game.) In her article, Gut-Level Teacher Reflection, she asks five intense questions that dig deeply into our constructs of what and who we are.
1. Look around your classroom (or picture it in your mind). What parts of the room make you feel tense, anxious, or exhausted? What parts make you feel calm, happy, or proud?
2. Open up your plan book (or spreadsheet, or wherever you keep your lesson plans from the year) and just start browsing, paying attention to how you’re feeling as your eyes meet certain events. What days and weeks give you a lift when you see them, a feeling of pride or satisfaction? Which ones make you feel disappointed, irritated or embarrassed?
3. Take a look at your student roster. What do you feel when you see each name? Which names make you feel relaxed, satisfied and proud, which ones make your chest tighten with regret, and which ones make your stomach tense?
4. Mentally travel from classroom to classroom, picturing each teacher in the building. What are your feelings as you approach each one? Which coworkers give you a generally positive feeling, which ones are neutral, and which ones make you feel nervous, angry, or annoyed?
5. Look at the following professional practice “buzzwords.” As you read each one, do you have positive, negative, or mixed feelings? What other words have you heard a lot this year that give you a strong feeling one way or the other?
- research-based strategies
- Common Core
- higher-level thinking
Okay, let’s see: No. 1 – yes, my room needs some deep purging. I can do that. I may even go in this afternoon. Many best laid plans of conferencing areas, writing nooks, and comfortable reading and discussion areas fell by the wayside.
No. 2: With the directives I was given this year I learned some tough lessons. Be careful of other’s visions if the vision is embedded in negativity. Never again will I miss the subtext of someone who is inherently a doomsayer and offers little or no insight or collaborative, positive steps forward. I know and have proven I know time and again what engages students, how to embed purpose, relevance, and authentic self-esteem in constructing knowledge.
No. 3: What causes me anxiety is when I know, with clarity and dismay, that many of my students don’t receive the services they require, even though I pound loudly at the admin door. There is a lot of rhetoric, but not much action, and occasionally I feel I end up mocked for my efforts to try to get children real and true help. Recognizing this is one of my core values serves my efforts to continue to make as many connections with parents as possible. That’s the only way when leadership isn’t available.
No. 4: Ah, coworkers. Yes, there is one or two that cause me anxiety, but overall, my colleagues are amazing, supportive, intelligent and wise, and I know they feel the same about me. I only feel anxiety when I think I’m being compared unfairly to a new rock star on the block, and not being seen for who I am. This, to me, is one of the sins of administration –playing favorites. It was said to me, “Why don’t you teach like so and so? ” this year. That is the mark of a dysfunctional leader.
No. 5: Buzzwords? Not a problem.
There is another fuzzy-monster I need to squash. I have been honored to know John Spencer for approximately 6 or 7 years in a virtual collegial dialogue. He recently announced he’s leaving the classroom to become a professor, a trajectory I thought I might be able to do years ago.
Here’s the thing: he is amazing, creative, and has gotten out there and made it happen. He created lectures, presentations, blogs, websites, books: created and produced his dreams with the love of his family and friends. That is how it’s supposed to work. Now I am doing some hard thinking about my own trajectory, and what I want, need, and where I can provide the greatest service for students with my strengths.
What derails us, and how do we get back on track? Well, perhaps, for me, when I am not brave or honest, or forgive myself, with grace, when life events take precedence over the perfectly-planned lesson or the standing ovation observation. I give a lot of myself to my husband, sons, and students. I am greatly looking forward to this summer when I can nourish my own creativity and purge the unnecessary or cumbersome. Funny, ‘cumbersome’ does not come in the form of too much paper or outdated files, but in emotions: it’s time to clean up any residual mental mold, and be proud and happy I know such wonderful colleagues, and they know me.