Are people under the notion that we teachers come out of the box, ready to manage classrooms, filled with books, joy, and learning? If you’re a parent you know this isn’t possible. Parenthood is often amateurish and messy. Things go awry. Same for teachers, whether we’re parents or not. The unexpected is expected. And the profound question of how do we support one another, both veteran and rookie alike, in the best manner possible?
This upcoming year I have the very good fortune to be working with beloved colleagues and newer ones. I am very excited — this past year I was on a great PLC, and this year proves to be just as wonderful. I am happiest when I can go to my ‘studio,’ create, and share, and see what other ideas folks cook up. But more importantly, just having friends, real friends at work, is something that the summer weeks don’t necessarily provide. Don’t misunderstand me, I love and need this break.
Let me put it this way:
But unless we get together with friends for coffee, we don’t want to talk about work, but we kind of do, too. When the school year is here it feels too late. Just how do we balance and prepare, and seek those collegial friendships before the school year starts, and more importantly, when we’re in the thick of it?
Don’t believe for one second that even veteran teachers aren’t constantly looking at their craft and reading and re-reading articles and advice. We need reflection and enhancement every year, month, week, and sometimes the day, from class to class.
Okay, not really analog. Just trying to be funny. This is real flesh and blood help. All the digital articles and PLNs (professional learning networks) in the world can’t help you in real time. You need a human, a comrade and colleague, but most of all a friend, right there —and here’s the magic secret: that friend needs you, too. If they’re a colleague worth his or her salt, they know how to share ideas and vulnerabilities. There is no room for bully teachers, especially in this day and age of the expectations and demands of teaching. (If you have ever been labeled a bully, please take a long hard look at that –if you think it’s unjustified find out way. If you think it’s correct, seek help.)
I am forever and always grateful to Kim Washam-Herd for being my mentor my first year of teaching. She encouraged me, listened, advised, and even said I was a pretty crier. Because, yes, I cried a lot the first few years. And times afterwards, too. Working in a high poverty school takes a toll on everyone, and it is critical we bond together.
We’re fortunate in our district to have a mentor program, although from some shared anecdotes it’s been spotty. Including Kim, I’ve worked with some amazing people. Some are still at the ‘Creek, and some have moved on. But most of us are still friends. If you have a shared history with folks prepare for some fallout, too–not everyone wants to be reminded of a place or time.
And may I offer this blog, too. I’ve been writing it since 2007, and it’s been my safe place to ponder, curate and reflect. But far, far more importantly: Start your own blog. Even if no one else reads it but you. Have your own place to curate articles, ideas, student work, etc. Make sure you protect students’ privacy, however, but other than that, no one is on your journey but you, or sees things from your perspective, and we need all the voices we can get. But again, that’s digital. And has its limits. I’ve had over 900 views this month alone, but not much back and forth communication.
There is only one way to do that:
So — an invitation. And please reciprocate. Let me come in your room and take pictures of the anchor charts you created, watch you teach, get to know your students, too, and please come in my room anytime. Let me know what kind of coffee you like. I’ll try to have a stash of chocolate I know you need. We do come out of the box with brains, heart, and experiences. Friendship is not extra, costs nothing, and is the best time spent. I’m right down the hall.
PS And the only creed I adhere to is I am teaching someone’s baby. Never forget that.