Some of us have been back to school for two or three weeks, and some of you will start this week. Whenever you began, I am sure you had an extensive to-do list (possibly like the one above). I am guessing that most of the items centered on your classroom, your students, and school compliance tasks. No doubt, these are essential tasks that need to be completed, however, most of us left off something important. We left our own growth and support off the list.
I am not talking about required goal setting for evaluations, meeting your assigned mentor, or meeting with your PLC (Professional Learning Community) that has become another to do list item. I am talking about building genuine support systems for yourself. Relationships don’t just happen – they need to be nurtured. Now is the time to start feeding those relationships that are sprouting so that you can harvest from them during the trying times ahead and be a harvest to others who need support.
Isn’t is enough to be cordial with colleagues and participate in team planning?: Isn’t it enough to share some resources? Isn’t it enough to smile and say, “Good morning”? All those are nice gestures, but if we really want to accomplish great things, we need a strong community in which to work. Lucy Calkins addressed this during her opening keynote at the June Reading Institute this summer at Teacher’s College. She shared that one way we can truly change our happiness level is by being part of a community around a cause you believe in. What stronger cause is there than educating our students with the type of instruction they deserve? We know there will be hard parts in our school year and as Lucy said, “We don’t want to be alone during the hard parts of life. We need to be with each other in the hard parts.” She went on to share this scary statistic – “80% of Americans feel disengaged from their jobs.” Can you imagine what the ramifications are if teachers are disengaged from their jobs, from their students? As Lucy went on to say, “We need a new educational story. Communities who come together.” How can you help write a new educational story this school year?
If you haven’t had to write professional goals for yourself yet, you probably will soon. Most of us will be required to use testing data to write at least one of our goals. Our evaluation systems will make us write goals that fit certain criteria. What are your real goals? Not the ones you are willing to share with your appraiser – the real goal. As Dr. Eric Jensen says, “The gutsy goal.” The kind of goal that is so ambitious that Lucy says we should only be able to reach 60% of. Goals that “exceed our grasp”, but by striving for them we would grow our students in ways we think are only dreams. In order to grow into goals like this and do hard work we need a safe community or as Lucy says, “a nest.” This kind of a community is one where you can make your gutsy goal public. Communities where you can explore important questions like, “How will this school be a different place because I was here?”
How do you build a community like this? It starts by listening and observing. Who is saying not necessarily the most in staff meetings, but saying things that make you nod in agreement. Who is treating their students like each has the potential to solve a major world problem? Who is carrying a professional book with post-its sticking out like cactus thorns? Plant seeds by starting a conversation with these people. Ask them questions and show interest in the answers. Praise them and ask for help from them. Ask them if you could come and observe their classroom. When you observe them be sure to take notes and leave a thank you note indicating how you will use what you learned in the classroom. Bring them a small treat like a cookie or a cute notepad with a note. Offer to buy them a cup of coffee at a local shop so you can discuss your goals. Ask them to observe you and offer feedback on a goal area. Ask them to be an accountability partner with you. Each of you holding each other accountable for your gutsy goals. Natalie Louis of Teacher’s College said in her closing keynote, “It takes a lot of slow to grow.” Take these small steps and the relationship will grow. Hopefully, a network of similar minded colleagues will develop from these small steps.
So add one item to your to-d0 list:
Find like minded colleagues and begin to grow relationships
Living the Workshop With You,