Personal Reconstruction

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Slice on Tuesdays with Two WritingTeachers

Slice on Tuesdays with Two WritingTeachers

Earlier in the school year, I sat in the principal’s office and discussed with him how tough it was to deal with his “game face” look during observations and his criticism.  He looked at me and said,  “I bet you’ve never had a principal tell you what you’re doing wrong and offer constructive feedback.”  Yeah, he was right. In my first 17 years of teaching, a mention of timing here, a few suggestions there, but never had I experienced being evaluated and ranked 1-4–only S or NI with never an NI bubbled–with only a little tweaking needed here or there. This year has been different, 10 standards, the bar is higher, and my teaching is ranked in each area. Oh, the horror!  My principal told me at some point he would challenge me to help me become the best teacher and leader I can be, and well, he has.  Below are my insights from this year, my insights of personal reconstruction as a teacher and a leader:

  1. Facing constructive feedback sometimes requires personal deconstruction and reconstruction; my wall must crumble before I can find a way to build myself back up.
  2. What seems like the unreachable brass ring on the merry-go-round may be within my reach if I build on what’s working, face up to what’s not working, let go of my fears, seek help when I need it, and push forward with determination.
  3. Being a big picture conceptual person, I need to take time to find a way to connect the dots in order for others (young and old alike) to understand and appreciate my big picture vision.
  4. Collaboration needs to be shared because the sum is greater than the parts—everybody has something to offer if encouraged and nudged.
  5. Doing too much for the team, even with good intentions, hurts everybody and will eventually backfire.
  6. We’re (students, teachers, principals, and districts) measured by growth, and that’s a fact to face as we prepare kids for what lies ahead this year and in following years. Sometimes I need to look at that reality in relation to my pedagogy, and I need to let go of some things I want in order to adapt and do what I need to do. Other times, I need to tweak a bit here and there to hold on to what is sacred to me.
  7. I need to slow down; most people cannot follow me when I’m chasing a zillion ideas. With time and intentionality (and sometimes with help), I can rein in my ideas and find the nuts and bolts.
  8. Breathe. Listen. Respond. With this, I gain the perspective of others, I take in other ideas, my voice is clearer and more balanced, and my words are more balanced with greater credence.
  9. Self-awareness and facing my weaknesses (while not being too hard on myself) and celebrating small successes (while building on my strengths) will help me as I strive to better myself and grow.
  10. Finding and becoming my best self is a choice I make each moment of each day based on my perspective. Do I harness the positive, or do I succumb to the negative? My will to be the best is a double-edged sword of both asset and enemy, yet my enemy will only conquer and control me if I let it. I can choose to make this gift my asset instead, and I can find my best self and be a lot happier as well.

While I’ve questioned myself more this year than in any other year I’ve taught, I also think I’ve grown more. And, to think, the year’s not over yet. Whew…I better go to sleep right now!

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16 thoughts on “Personal Reconstruction

  1. Wow. This is beautiful and brave. It is me in so many ways. The chasing of a zillion ideas. The facing the reality vs. the pedagogy. The need for a team and on and on. I love your thinking.

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  2. Lisa

    Evaluations are hard! I have been through every kind: ratings from 1-4, ratings from “Needs improvement” to “Excellent”. I have feared every kind, but came through just fine. Now that ours are done with just two choices (needs improvement or good), I find myself wishing for more defined feedback. I thought it was because I am being a bit competitive, but it’s like you said: I want to be pushed to be better.

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  3. Part of the change for me has to do both with my evaluator as well as with the new system. Interesting that you miss the defined feedback; a lot of teachers here in GA would do anything for the old, less rigorous, less defined system. As the year has progressed, I have learned to look more at my growth/betterment and less at the numbers/competition. In the end and all along the way, the process should be about being the best teacher I can be.

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  4. As Julieanne said, beautiful and brave – what a year for you! I love the way you’ve taken this all in the most positive, constructive way, which is the way to growth and progress. Bravo!

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  5. I’ve blogged before about how difficult and frightening I find the evaluation process, even though I too have rarely received anything but positive feedback. I love how you’ve phrased the challenges: “personal deconstruction and reconstruction” and “Finding and becoming my best self is a choice I make each moment of each day” are so important and just so tough! From one big picture teacher/thinker to another….

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  6. Thanks, Jackie. Reality is that if we, the big picture thinkers, want others to get the big picture, we have to find ways to break things down, and oh my gosh, that’s tough. Nobody ever challenged me to do that when teaching, collaborating, and leading–no until this year, at least. A part of me feels like I should have had this epiphany before the age of 46, but I just couldn’t see it.

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  7. Thanks, Julieanne for calling my writing/thoughts beautiful and brave and for sharing your connection to my words. Sometimes I feel I am a lone wolf in the way I think/struggle–thanks for connecting with me.

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  8. There are many poignant ideas here. We were just talking today about how we can help develop the type of teacher you obviously are – reflective and open and willing to learn. I’d love to hear more about you got to this point in your teaching journey. We’d like to teach others to think like this.

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  9. Agreed wholeheartedly with your slice. Evaluations can bring out lots of self-doubt and hard work to show others our value. May you get lots of sleep and stay positive. Spinning minds are great assets in schools to help the planners see new opportunities and perspectives. 🙂

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  10. Dana, that is a complex question, as you know, with no easy answers. For me, the reflection has always been natural; however, the openness and willingness to learn have not. Why should I, a 17 year veteran, listen to someone with less experience who has not ever taught in my content/grade? For me to want to learn and to be open, I need to see what you have to offer as a coach of value to me and to my growth. Also, I need to see that you value and appreciate the good I am doing. I need to see you as a person just helping me tweak my craft. I need to see you as someone helping me take the good things I do and make them better. We cannot be adversaries; you have to meet me where I am. If you want me to compromise pedagogy to prepare my students for a test, you need to help me find a way to be true to what’s best for kids while adding or adapting what I do. You need to take small steps with me, you need to be patient, you need to be understanding, and you need to praise me along the way. You need to know who I am as an individual–heck, you, too, must differentiate for me. More than anything else, though, you need to be honest, up front, and encouraging. You need to tell me you are trying to take me from good to great or great to excellent. If I’m reluctant to change, you could come model what you want me to do. When I have a bad day, you need to hold me accountable while still being understanding. You need to figure out what’s getting in the way of my greatness–for me, it was nuts and bolts and breaking things down into smaller parts and slowing down, not dominating collaboration, and listening. Choose a small area of weakness that will yield the most gain–scaffold, support, encourage, and constructively criticize. Sometimes I have even needed to be pushed, prodded, and criticized. If you need to criticize me or hold me accountable, then do it one on one with compassion and respect. Adjusting to constructive feedback was tough for me, but I wouldn’t change this year for anything else, and I know, as long as my principal is observing me, I will always be challenged to better myself and to grow. If your teachers don’t want to grow, they really need to go. Good luck. Let me know if you have any more questions.

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