Comparison is the Thief of Joy

competition

Note: Many years ago a teacher told me, “Comparison is the root of all unhappiness.” He was the neighbor teacher whose class everyone wanted to be in. I was the other ELA teacher, new to the school. I thought of this teacher’s words the other day when I was compared–I wear the red ribbon in the picture.

Check out the image-two ribbons, one a blue ribbon, a congratulatory cloth–the other a red ribbon, a meaningless concilatory cloth. Yes, blue ribbon, the victor is adorned with higher growth. Red ribbon gives blue ribbon’s hand a congratulatory shake all the while wondering if maybe she’s been shafted–thinking of how she carried much of the weight of the team through planning, developing resources, and creating assessments. Still, though, she wears the red ribbon. For a second, red ribbon questions why she shares, collaborates, and creates.


 

878535b4aa230509ab90553166df2d51

Even if meant as a button pushing joke, the data dump of comparison feels like a slap in the face devaluing her. In spite of all the other numbers, evidence, and data, she feels quantitatively inferior. Deflated and discouraged she questions why she has worked so hard. A single number reveals that she is “typical.” She realizes blue ribbon is “typical,” too, and wonders if with all other factors and data if perhaps the single number doesn’t signify that she is, in fact, inferior.


 

comparisonquote_blog2Discouraged she analyzes the data (data from a new CC test that is compared with half of old test (ELA only) with algorithms that somehow demonstrates student growth in a way the state claims is equitable for all students regardless of achievement level because there is no ceiling effect). Whatever!!  Is teacher efficacy based on a measure comparing two different tests with students with like scores? Is this fair, valid, or reliable? She tries to let go realizing that the comparison was a button pushing joke, but still she hates being pitted against others, and the comparison steals her joy.


 

comparison

Letting go she realizes that the only thing she should compare is her own data, her own scores, her own classes, her own subgroups–this is how she can improve. Otherwise, she will feel deflated, degraded, and discouraged.

She beams as she thinks of all the other factors that measure her worth: rapport, relationship, humor, engagement, passion, dedication, collaboration, grit, perseverance, pedagogy, compassion, leadership, content knowledge. She smiles knowingly at the realization her gifts aren’t represented by a green circle.


 

peachtreequote1

 

Wanting to grow, she lets go of the comparison refusing to be pitted against someone else. She looks inwardly and lets go of competition. She grows. She blooms.

 


 

albert-einstein-physicist-not-everything-that-can-be-counted-counts-and-not

She realizes that she is more than a number. She is her own person. There is no comparison. Secure in being herself, she lets go of the conveyed message that she is “typical” or “less than.” While she realizes that the number represents growth, she also realizes that there is so much that can’t be counted. She realizes that she is MORE than a number. She realizes that she counts. She begins to let go of a number that measures her worth.

 


 

short-life-quote-4-475x315Like each circle is a person at a moment of time, she, too, must make the most of her moments. At that moment, she realizes that she, too, has her own unquantifiable green circle. She is her own person. With a new attitude she looks towards the horizon in the distance and asks herself what she needs to do to improve.

Bells & Whistles &/or Nuts & Bolts

IMG_0105

Bells and whistles.

Wow!  Look at that!  Whoa–get a load of the stereo in that car!  Blaupunkt–wow–turn it up!  That stereo rocks! I can’t wait to drive around campus listening to that. I can imagine those thoughts racing through my brother’s mind before he bought the stereo along with the car. Oftentimes, as consumers we are wooed by the bells and whistles, the extras that make something stand out. I learned the hard way that Hunter remote control ceiling fans will not last as long as the simpler ceiling fans with an old school string to pull, but I indulged in a ceiling fan with that “bell and whistle” that seemed so cool at the time. What I have found is that bells and whistles often overshadow the essentials of so much.

The bells and whistles  of a lesson may have the potential to transform a lesson from good to great; however, if the original lesson is not solidly formed with all its essentials, then there is not a solid foundation on which to build.  Of course, I am attracted by bells and whistles–the shiny stuff that glitters: the engagement factor, the perfect video clip, an engaging and timely text, the perfect real world connection, and the infusion of technology. Yes, these things have the potential to increase engagement and impact learning; however, bells and whistles are a cacophonous noise of distraction if the essential components of a lesson aren’t present.

At some point, you or someone you know well has been lured by the “bells and whistles” of something:

  • In the 80s, my brother bought a lemon, a Volkswagen Passat. While there were some warning signs, the bells and whistles wooed my brother; the car had a rocking Blaupunkt stereo. As a family, we joked that at least he had the stereo to listen to the many time he was broken down for hours on the interstate.
  • In the late 80s, I bought a bedroom suite of cheap black lacquer furniture that shined and shimmered, with trim of a grey marblesque design, a  geometric sort of design of mirrors, and shiny gold pull handles. My sister’s boyfriend criticized me for buying junky furniture, but I didn’t get it. All I saw were the bells and whistles of having furniture that looked good. I failed to notice the cheap construction of furniture that would begin falling apart after one move.
  • Last year, I decided I really wanted to improve my lesson closings, so I blogged about endings that would WOW my audience and wow me to the extent that I would never want to end a day without closing my lesson: Endings that Don’t Suck, Engage, It’s All the Rage, Thought Provoking Questions to End a LessonEndings that Don’t Suck, Part II, QR Closings, and From a Fizzle to a Finale. Even as I tried to frame my closings around the nuts and bolts, I found myself searching for the wow factor/the bells as my first priority.  In the end, I didn’t create lasting change in my practice. I created a some cool tools that I could plug in occasionally to end a lesson, and I fell short of impacting lasting change.

Fast forward to February of 2016, the students survey data indicates that there has been no improvement in the areas of closings on student surveys under the item, “My teacher takes time each day to summarize what we have learned.”

I could give you a litany of excuses to why that score is again lower than I would like:

  • One class surveyed was the lunch class–there isn’t time for closing.
  • I run out of time.
  • With all the differentiation going on, I’m not sure how to close a lesson.
  • We do different sorts of closings, so I’m not sure if the kids see it as a summary.
  • Summarizing a lesson seems like regurgitation, and that’s boring and falls short of the challenges I set forth in each lesson.
  • Did I mention that the lunch class was surveyed?

All that said, I believe my excuses need to be laid to rest along with my search for bells and whistles in everything I do. If I have too many bells and whistles, the kids miss the point as they are distracted by the noise that I’ve created. Furthermore, they won’t find what’s essential.

Admittedly, I have been distracted by the bells and whistles as I look for what shimmers and what shines. The bells and whistles are the add ons, and I can’t add on to something that’s junk.  In other words, I need to ground myself in the practice and habit of good closings before I try to add to them. If I fail to do that, then, I, too, will fail to find what’s essential. If I try to refine a practice I haven’t mastered with consistency, my bells and whistles are like the cacophony of a Blaupunkt stereo attached to a lemon of an automobile.

Before I get distracted by the bells and whistles of engagement as I try to fulfill my vision, I need to focus on the substance of the work that needs to be done. I need to be deliberate about creating a routine of consistent closing practice that focuses on making sure my students get what they need to master the content/standards. Once I’ve established that with fidelity, only then should I add the bells and whistles. I could suffice it to say that I am continually realizing that the nuts and bolts of lesson construction must come before (or at least work alongside) the bells and whistles, and perhaps I’ve found the root cause of the lesson of dots that I cannot connect and the underlying cause of a lesson that my principal refers to as “too busy.”

 

 

 

 

 

Letting Go of Blame–Naming & Taming My Fear

celebrate-image

Do you ever get stupid as soon as you see the clipboard carrying or laptop toting principal enter your room? I always have, and I thought I always would. Nobody ever called me on it until a few weeks ago when I was told that after 19 years I shouldn’t be afraid–that I should be able to relax and keep focus on students.

clipboard

Perhaps every administrator thought I was a tense teacher all the time. Perhaps they didn’t notice, thought I was unprepared, or thought I was having yet another bad day. Honestly, things don’t always go as planned, but I tweak, adjust, and figure it out–usually without tension and always with humor, passion, and energy.

Unless, of course, the clipboard toting administrator enters the room. Then, my typical M-O was to freak out and freeze up. Recently I wrote about this, Evaluaphobia following a visit from my new evaluator who called me on shifting my focus from the kids to him and called me on my inability to relax with him in the room. Also, he affirmed my experience, expertise, and knowledge and told me I had no reason to be afraid. A few days after I wrote that blog post naming my fear, I experienced my first fearless visit from a clipboard toting evaluator, and that is what I celebrate today.

  • I celebrate being nearly fearless being evaluated for the first time ever.
  • I celebrate an evaluator getting to see who I truly am in the classroom. That felt good–even if I am weird, quirky, goofy, and a little spastic.
  • I celebrate that day in my room, feeling comfortable enough to respond with ease to failing technology and to all the students in need of support never once considering what my evaluator was thinking (well, except when I jokingly picked on a kid for needing tech support from a 47-year-old–was wondering how he would view my sarcastic humor).
  • I celebrate maintaining focus on the most important people in the classroom–the students.
  • I celebrate being called on my fear and being challenged to move past it.
  • I celebrate maintaining my teacher identity in spite of the DREADED clipboard.

My hope is that this is a lasting change and that I can celebrate overcoming this fear no matter who enters my room. I especially hope that HE WHO SHALL NOT BE NAMED (LOL, he reads my blog) will not instill the usual fear the next time he enters my room. I would love to be able to keep my focus on kids and for him to see who I truly am as a teacher instead of seeing the teacher who nervously fidgets, kicks clutter, and hyper-focuses on his presence.  Even with the game face he projects and the constructive criticism he always gives, I’m sure he’d rather see the real me than the fumbling and bumbling me. And, of course, I’d hate for anyone to begin to believe that the stumbling and fumbling and bumbling teacher is truly who I am…

Today, though, I celebrate what I hope is a paradigm shift for me as I have named my fear and am moving in the right direction to overcome my fear. And so my plan is to quit placing blame on the clipboard toting evaluators. No more placing blame–my fear has been named–my fear will be tamed.

And that is worthy of celebration Saturday.

EVALUAPHOBIA

19th year in the classroom and I have to admit that I have evaluaphobia–I suppose this is stage fright of the teacher. I know it’s stage fright the moment I lose focus of the students and begin to focus on every little thing that is off in my lesson.

Few worries when I am in the room with the kids. I have fun every single day and love what I do. The mere thought of evaluation freaks me out. Today before 12 teachers who are a part of this year’s TechEds group came into my room, I was nervous, but when they came in I was fine. Perhaps because they weren’t evaluating me, but in a way they were–just not formally. Why was today different?  My kids knew what they were doing, they knew why they were doing it, we were working with technology, and the attention was not on me, but the attention was on what my students were doing.

Still, though, I am terrified when a administrator comes in my room to evaluate me. Recently, once again, I fumbled and lost focus of my kids in a moment of anxiety. Being that my visitor was not my usual suspect, I was nervous in a different way. What happened? What happened was I quit focusing on the kids; instead I focused on myself. I was more focused on teacher moves than on student moves. Where does that get me? Nowhere fast. In addition, I couldn’t envision my lesson the night before. I had a new idea, but I couldn’t figure out how the pieces would fit together. And my realization on that day was that if I cannot connect the dots from beginning to end, then I’m not ready to teach that lesson in front of anyone other than the kids, or maybe I need a few if then scenarios to play out in my mind, so I am consciously thinking of adjustments I might need to make.

My other revelation based on conversation and time to reflect is that I need to learn to relax and be more confident in who I am as a teacher and keep the focus on the lesson and the students. Like the new suspect said, I have no reason to be afraid as a teacher of nearly nineteen years–I need to relax. He’s right–nearly 19 years teaching, and I should be able to relax no matter who is in my room.

I did a little research after my epiphany that my whole problem is “stagefright.” Reality tells me–the classroom is not a stage–not for me anyway–I am not the sage on the stage. I know I am the guide on the side, right? Soooooo…why do I let the little things that go wrong when visitors are in my room take hold of my brain, shift my focus, and make me a bumbling idiot?

Being that I like to answer these kind of questions, I did some research, and here is my insight of how I can avoid EVALUAPHOBIA (a few articles linked below from where some of these tidbits came):

  1. Make detailed plans–ones that I can visualize, and visualize my lesson the night before (and from a friend–visualize my visitor sitting in your room before my lesson). Visualize engagement, learning, kids laughing at my jokes, etc.
  2. Prepare my tech, my papers, my board, my material–have it all ready and in place.
  3. Be relaxed and natural and focus on getting kids into the “flow”.
  4. Remember the class is my domain. Say it to myself in my brain if necessary.
  5. Breathe–deeply, evenly, and slowly for a few minutes if I start to lose it. Slow down my thoughts, and keep my focus on students–ignore the person in the room.
  6. Encourage students, and don’t let misbehavior frazzle me–deal with it, project an energy that says I’m  not frazzled or embarrassed, and move on.
  7. Be confident. Let my  passion, skills, and rapport shine through.
  8. Quit stressing about being judged or defined by that snippet of time–what truly defines me as a teacher is much more than numbers in little boxes.
  9. Most of all, I think for me it’s important to realize that the people who come visit me are ultimately here to support me: they believe in me, and they legitimately want to see me find my best teaching self, and with that, there is something in it for me and ultimately my students.

I’m going to work on prioritizing this list for what to do before, during, and after evaluations in order to continue to focus on opportunities for growth. For now, though, I must sleep because who knows who will be in my class tomorrow. Have any tips yourself? I’d love to read them.

Links to Relevant Articles:

http://thecornerstoneforteachers.com/free-resources/professional-development/teacher-evaluations-observations

http://www.icaltefl.com/stage-fright-teaching-for-the-first-time

http://hubpages.com/education/Tips-for-Successfully-Passing-Classroom-Teacher-Observations

Mentally Tough Teacher

Discover. Play. Build.
I celebrate Ruth Ayers at ruthayres.com for encouraging celebration and positivity.

im

Convincing myself for so many years that I was tough was counter-productive, counter-intuitive. Now I realize, being tough did not mean what I thought it meant.  Life continues to show me how wrong I’ve been and how wrong I sometimes continue to be.  Being mentally tough does not mean being mentally stubborn, dismissive, or arrogant. Being mentally tough is all about being present, letting go of my junk, living in the moment, and relying on God. Gordon writes of 20 ways to get mentally tough; I applied this to my teaching life.

 

20 Ways to be a Mentally Tough Teacher 

  1. USE SETBACKS TO REDEFINE YOURSELF. When you encounter a setback in teaching,  think of it as a defining moment and seek the takeaway that will lead to future growth and success.
  2. EMBRACE ADVERSITY–WALK THROUGH IT AND KNOW IT WILL LEAD TO SOMETHING GREATER. When you encounter adversity (behavior, motivation, management, conflict, whatever else), remember, the best don’t just face adversity; they embrace it, knowing it’s not a dead end but a detour to something greater and better.
  3. STAY POSITIVE WHEN YOU FACE NEGATIVE PEOPLE. When you face negative people (students, parents, coworkers), know that the key to life is to stay positive in the face of negativity, not in the absence of it. After all, everyone will have to overcome negativity to define themselves and create their success.
  4. WHEN YOU FACE THE NAYSAYERS, REMEMBER THE YES SAYERS.  When you face the naysayers (both young and old), remember the people who believed in you and spoke positive words to you.
  5.  WHEN YOU FACE CRITICS, TUNE OUT THE CRITICISM AND TUNE INTO FOCUSING ON BECOMING YOUR BEST. When you face critics (those who only see your weaknesses or who just don’t get you), remember to tune them out and focus only on being the best you can be.
  6. FROM YOUR HOUSE TO YOUR CLASS–WALK IN GRATITUDE AND PRAYER. When you wake up in the morning, take a morning walk of gratitude and prayer (from your doorstop, to your drive, to the parking lot, to your classroom). It will create a fertile mind ready for success.
  7. FAITH IS GREATER THAN DOUBT. When you fear, trust. Let your faith be greater than your doubt. Like Martin, recognize those fears, name them, cast them out, trust in God, and shed the doubt. 
  8. FIND THE LESSON IN FAILURE. When you fail (a lesson is unsuccessful, the test scores are not what they should be, an evaluation is less than satisfactory), find the lesson in it, and then recall a time when you have succeeded.
  9. ENTER THE BATTLE VISUALIZING SUCCESS. When you head into battle (that class, that student, that parent), visualize success.
  10. PUT YOUR ENERGY IN THE NOW. When you are thinking about the class or lesson or test that did not go well or worrying about the next class or lesson or test, instead focus your energy on the present moment. The now is where your power is the greatest.
  11. DON’T COMPLAIN–SEEK SOLUTIONS. When you want to complain about a student or teacher or parent or principal or standard or assessment, instead identify a solution.
  12. WEED OUT DOUBT. CULTIVATE POSITIVITY. When your own self-doubt crowds your mind and the tasks at hand seem too great, weed them out and replace them with positive thoughts and positive self-talk.
  13. WHEN DISTRACTED, CLEAR YOUR MIND & SEEK THE ZONE. When you feel distracted (when you are tired, sick, struggling or being evaluated), focus on your breathing, observe your surroundings, clear your mind, and get into The Zone. The Zone is not a random event. It can be created.
  14. WHEN ALL SEEMS IMPOSSIBLE, LOOK TO GOT AND REALIZE ALL IS POSSIBLE. When you feel all is impossible (that the bar is too high, the summit is unreachable), know that with God all things are possible.
  15. WHEN YOU FEEL ALONE, REMEMBER YOU’RE LOVED AND SUPPORTED. When you feel alone (just you and that daunting task of meeting each kid where he/she is and meeting all his/her needs and moving each forward), think of all the people (including the kids, parents, coworkers, family) who have helped you along the way and who love and support you now and realize you are NOT alone.
  16. WHEN YOU’RE LOST, PRAY FOR GUIDANCE. When you feel lost in your own school/content/class (in a lesson, a day, or a year), pray for guidance.
  17. WHEN YOU’RE TIRED, DON’T GIVE UP–ALWAYS FINISH STRONG. When you are tired and drained and the next break seems miles away, remember to never, never, never give up. Finish strong in each lesson, each day and each year. 
  18. WHEN YOU FEEL DEFEATED, SEEK THE STRENGTH OF GOD. When you feel like you can’t make it through the class (much less the school day, the quarter or the year), know that you can do all things through God who gives you strength.
  19. WHEN YOUR SITUATION IS OUT OF CONTROL, PRAY, SURRENDER–THEN, FOCUS ON WHAT YOU CAN CONTROL.When you feel like your situation (the class, a student’s motivation/ability/behavior/work ethic, the standards, your resources, the evaluation measure), is beyond your control, pray and surrender. Focus on what you can control–let go of what you can’t.
  20. WHEN YOU FEEL PRESSURED, DON’T LET STRESS DEFINE YOU. INSTEAD REMEMBER WHY YOU’RE A TEACHER AND SMILE, HAVE FUN AND SIEZE THE MOMENT. When you’re in a high-pressure/high-stakes situation (when the next test ominously looms around the corner, and the daunting task of preparing the kids for this ominous task is haunting you), remember to not let that stress define who you are. Instead, remember why you became a teacher, and then, smile, have fun, and still enjoy each moment of teaching. Life is short; you only live once.  In spite of all that is thrown at you, quit counting the school days, and quit counting the days until that test. Be present to your students and to what they need.  SIEZE THE MOMENT!

 

At first when I encountered Jon Gordon, his positivity was too much for me, and I was critical of his writing, but now I see the difference that positivity makes, so as I read his blog, Tweets, and books, I try to reserve my cynicism. I enjoy the narrative, at times shaking my head at the naïveté of the protagonist, until I see how I am like a bit like the  protagonist and in need of a lesson. Then, I try to embrace my part in the story.

Like Martin, I feed the wrong wolf at times letting what others think about my teacher identity define who I am and/or get me down. When I see a negative comment about a moment in my classroom as a commentary on who I am anything but mentally tough. I do not want to feed the combative snarling, growling, and whimpering canine; that’s for sure.

e7da65ce96591902751e3aca80642415

This is not who I am, who I want to be, or who I’m destined to be. Seeing the wall as unscalable,  I let myself be defined by what I think of myself and what others thing of me. When I try to climb the wall focusing on the obstacle without seeking God’s help, the wall is insurmountable.


 

Other writing about Gordon deals with  falls and setbacks/cha chas. Also, related to Gordon: Driving the Bus (9/9/14), My Greatest Asset will NO Longer be My Biggest Obstacle (9/15/14), Obligation or Opportunity (6/9/15), and From a Fizzle to a Finale (7/6/15).


 

The original list about being mentally tough:

behpm01ccaafqjb

 

Avoiding Train Wrecks

IMG_0105

I’m somewhat flattered that my principal asked a teacher, one who like myself is too busy in her lessons, to read my blog. Of course, when she told me that she, too, is busy and has a lot going on, I didn’t know if  I should be flattered because I’m working through my problems or if I should be deflated, because I’m still struggling with having too much going on.

Lately, I’m not sure I’m walking the words I write. I really would like  to evolve into the woman of my words. I’d like to find those things I seek, strive for that which I purportedly aspire, continually better myself, and  be consistently on top of my game.

Last year, I felt like I grew–a lot.  As I pushed myself to reach the ever-increasing bar, my principal  pushed me as well through the questions he asked, the challenges he gave me, and the bluntness and constructive feedback in which he evaluated.  With 10 criteria and 4 levels of being evaluated and with my desire to not be seen as “inconsistent,” my year of reflection evolved into action:

This year I feel like I’m hitting a wall and unable to grow and reach the ever-increasing bar. And so, busy teacher wonder-twin in the building, I want my words to have meaning; perhaps we, in our busyness, can co-mentor each other as we strive to better ourselves, our students, and our teaching.

Sometimes I feel like the optimistic cha-cha I wrote about a few weeks back has devolved into a bunch of backward steps, and I have two left feet when it comes to stepping forward.

 

optimist

Earlier this fall when speaking of academic vocabulary or differentiation or something else not going on as it should across the school, my principal asserted, “We are consistently inconsistent.”

I hate to ascribe those words to myself, “CONSISTENTLY INCONSISTENT.” I hate to own those words, but in a recent email from my principal responding to my email about his observation,  he wrote, “I have observed some outstanding teaching days and some not so good ones over the past few years.”

Ouch–that hurt! Admittedly, I am at least  sporadically inconsistent, but still that’s not acceptable to me. I do strive to be consistently on top of my game. Most nights I look over my plans and think about the next day, and at times my conceptual brain can’t figure out how my lesson will work logistically.

The last lesson my principal observed I would consider great in the lesson plan, but a train wreck in its execution. Honestly, the night before a part of me predicted the train wreck, and I even asked myself, I wonder how I can make this flow from beginning to end. I wonder how my logistical and strategic principal would recommend I put this together. And while trying to make sense of that, I neglected to gather the data I planned to use for differentiation. Result: TRAIN WRECK–I could visualize the derailment before it happened even though the most of the pieces of the lesson were good, there were a few missing pieces as well as a few odd pieces that didn’t belong, and so all the parts didn’t fit the whole.

3qt3x7

Little did I know he would visit my class the next day, witness the train wreck, and offer some harsh yet constructive feedback.

In response to one of my emotional and defensive emails regarding my train wreck of a lesson that could have been good had I put the pieces together in a way that made sense and tweaked or eliminated the pieces that didn’t fit,  my  principal elaborated explaining that nobody is perfect with everything 170-180 times and that if I expected that in myself, I would be disappointed. And guess what?  I don’t expect perfection. Still, though, I want consistent mastery of the standards set forth for me because I realize with consistent mastery of the standards, I will be giving my students what they need and what they deserve.

While I don’t expect perfection, I know my content, I understand the expectations set forth for me, I am a passionate and knowledgeable teacher, and DANG IT–with that in mind, I’d like to be consistently evaluated as  proficient and consistent in all areas. And not even because of the numbers on the rubric, but because it’s what each student deserves in each and every class and it’s also what I am capable of.

So even when things happen, lessons change, the 117 papers cannot get graded as quickly as I’d like.  Even when those things happen, I would like to know how to ensure that my kids get what they deserve and that I am able to find a way to reach that rung and scale that wall and consistently be who I strive to be.

Over the past few years, as the evaluative measures have changed along with my primary evaluator/principal, the struggles I’ve always had have come out of the closet and are the dragons I continuously am trying to slay, and it ain’t easy, and I’m not winning all the battles.

raising_the_bar_feature

Right now I’m looking at my dragons obstructing the view of the raised bar and wondering what rungs do I need to make to reach the ever-increasing  bar all the while slaying my dragons. Maybe it’s time to reconsider my  One Little Word (OLW) for 2015, prioritize, as I slow down, think, prioritize, break things down, and purposely climb this ladder as I strive to be consistently consistent and become the teacher the system needs me to be while not losing my sure footing by compromising the passionate teacher who I inherently am.

Several questions emerge that I need to answer to slay my dragons and climb this ladder:

  • How can  my first class get the same level of teaching as my latter classes?
  • How can I connect the dots in such a way that I break things down and simplify things so my students (as well as my classroom visitors) understand?
  • How can I plan in such a way that I  anticipate the problems, predict the flow, visualize the flow?
  • How can I recognize the pieces that don’t fit the puzzle and ensure that each piece is integral to what I’m building?
  • How can I make the hours of planning more effective?
  • How can I lose some of the busyness, retain the engagement, and focus more on the skills/targets?

In my 19th year of teaching, I feel like the logistical problems that often surface when I teach should be avoidable. The last “not so good” lesson was planned out well yet executed poorly. Differentiation was the core of the lesson; however, the dots didn’t connect.  As I planned for that lesson, I didn’t foresee a massive train wreck, but I did wonder how I would connect the dots from beginning to end. When I asked my principal, how I could plan in such a way to make these dots connect and avoid train wrecks and logistical nightmares, he said, “I can’t answer that question.”

A man who usually has an answer to any question I ask did not have an answer to the question I am continually asking myself. Perhaps I’m the only one who can answer that question. And so now as I seek to answer the question that will help me become consistently consistent. I suppose I need to find my own answer, but I’m open to suggestions.

you-cannot-consistently-perform-in-a-manner-which-is-inconsistent-with-the-way-you-see-yourself-quote-1

At the same time, I think that as long as I see myself as a person who lacks the cognitive ability to break things down, find the nuts and bolts, connect the dots, and put together the pieces of the puzzle, I think I will struggle.

Cha-cha

This week I’m celebrating perspective, namely the changes in my own perspective. The other morning I read this quote on Facebook:

The words resonated with me, and I shared the quote with a comment directed to my teacher friends, “Yes, I Cha Cha a whole lot these days. Embrace the Cha Cha; it makes us better. I might even call it the TKES Cha Cha.  Yes, embrace the Cha Cha, my friends. Let’s dance! Happy Thursday!”

In a day and age where a former student who wants to be a teacher is told by every teacher other than me that she should not be a teacher, in a day and age when Nancie Atwell wins a million dollar teaching award and tells young people not to become teachers, in a day and age when a teacher’s resignation letter/vent goes viral, optimism is missing in our field.

I will be the first to admit that there are problems in education. I will be the first to tell you that the current culture of assessment and accountability is flawed.

At the same time, I also assert that there are parts of the current culture that have made me a stronger teacher. For example, I look at steps backwards as opportunities for growth and opportunities to renew my perspective.

truman_optimist

Last year I told my principal that I was learning to cope with compromising pedagogy to do what he asked of me. Today I see the situation differently. Now I see who I’ve become as a sort of Darwinian adaptation–yes, perhaps who I’ve become is about ensuring the survival of teachers with positivity. At the same time, I have learned to see things through the lenses of others. When my principal zooms his microscopic focus on the details and the data, I don’t just pay lip service to his words, instead I try to switch from my telescopic focus and hone in on his microscopic focus. This helps me adapt and refine; this makes me a more well-rounded teacher able to gain perspective. When I look at the challenges of teaching through that lens, no longer do I feel as if I have compromised pedagogy–instead I feel as if I have refined it.

Perspective. I woke up Thursday morning with a quote about the dance of stepping forward and  backward being comparable to the Cha Cha.  Of course, that is the day of a TKES evaluation from my principal. Not feeling the part of optimist as he sat in my room–instead I felt the pacing was off, the opening was too long, and the logistics of the lesson were in need of work that my brain could not figure out in time for the day. After the visit, I thought about how I both dreaded and longed for the constructive feedback. One one hand, I thought I would hear about being busy and scattered. On the other hand, I wanted to ask questions about logistics, about how to get feedback for some of the steps I saw as bungled Cha Cha steps. I wanted to hear how the strategic brain would have planned and executed differently. My cynical side has waned–now there is a teacher seeking feedback in a new way. Looking for the opportunities. 

We should all be dancing the Cha Cha. We should all allow ourselves to step backward in order to gain perspective and help us move forward. I’m not into dancing, but I am all about gaining perspective and adapting to become a better teacher and to help my students learn. I love how I find myself continually challenged to see things differently.  Today I found myself more open and less cynical. I celebrate optimism. I celebrate the Cha Cha. I celebrate being an educator. If tomorrow I had to choose my major, I would still choose this.

cynic_frustrated_optimist