Tuesday, August 29, 2017

And then Life happens....

For many teachers and students, this month marked new beginnings- new year, new students, new classrooms, new schools. It is one of my favorite times of year because there is so much hope and energy at the start of the year.  We plan, we decorate, we meet the teacher.  Then...life happens. And everything changes. In an instant. This week, life happened hard, for a lot of people.  

Free photo Help Support Financial Crisis Lifebelt Males - Max PixelFor Houston and surrounding areas, life happened in the form of crazy amounts of water rising up and taking away cherished possessions, homes, and in many cases, life as they know it. Our fellow Texans will be recovering for weeks and years, and the children and teachers will eventually go back to school.  When they do, school will be different. It won’t be as big of a deal if homework is not done or if a reading log didn’t get signed. STAAR will take a backseat to reality...hugs will become much more important, and the need to introduce kids to books they can get lost in will take on new significance.  

Perspectives always change when life happens.  But, here’s the thing….life happens all the time.  The kids in your classroom today have life happening every.single.day. It may not be flood waters, but it’s something. Teachers, too….that teacher that seems resistant to trying something new...guess what?  She has life happening to her, too.  Let’s face it. Life is capable of pulling some serious punches and kicking us hard in the gut when we least expect it.  It hurts. There’s not always a silver lining. Sometimes it’s just crud that we have to trudge through.  Sometimes a lot of us have to muddle through the same crud together, and other times, we have to wade those infested waters on our own.  For many of our students, school is their place to get supplies so that they can muddle through a little longer. For others, school is, unfortunately, the place where they have to do their hardest fighting.  

As the year begins, it is easy to get caught up in the need to jump right into content or find out reading levels or get every kind of data point possible on our students so that we can group and chart and intervene.  But...I’ve never seen a test, or curriculum program, or even a leveled book jump into alligator infested waters to save a family, so….they can wait.  

I challenge my teacher friends to just take some time as this year begins to get to know your students...and their families.   Find out about their Life. What gifts has their Life given? What punches has their Life thrown? Let them in on your Life, too. All the other stuff will be there.  Life happens hard-for better or worse.  Let your classroom be the better.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Words of (sort of) Wisdom to First Year Teachers

It’s your first year of teaching! Congratulations! As you embark on this journey, let me give you a few words of wisdom...well, not really wisdom...just stuff you learn from teaching:
Male Teacher Cartoon Free Stock Photo - Public Domain Pictures

  1. You bring a lot to the table. There will be times that you feel (or someone else makes you feel) like your voice doesn’t matter, but trust me, it does!  You bring the fresh perspective that we ALL (if we are willing to admit it) need.
  2. You will want to quit.  There WILL be THAT kid that is hard to love, but you will love her anyway. There will be days that you do EVERYTHING wrong. There will be times (day after Halloween, day before Christmas break, Valentine’s Day) that you just throw up your hands and acknowledge you are simply hanging on until 3:30. But there will also be the last day of school when the kid who drove you nuts all year walks across that stage and you start to cry or that day when one of your students READS!
  3. You will fall in love.  With THAT kid.  You will fall in love with lots of kids.  They do that to you. They drive you crazy and break your heart.  Most of them you will never hear from or see again, but they are all worth it.  Every bit.  Some of them….you will become part of their lives. You will get to know their families (shout out Jimmy’s mom!), and you will have boxes of notes that they wrote to you when they were 6...10...15…Treasure those.
  4. You will learn more in one year than what you learned in 4...or 5 from college or any alternative certification program.  There is nothing that can prepare you for your first year.  Really, your first five years.  I know that seems like a long time, but it goes by in a flash. Enjoy it. Learn.  
  5. You WILL make us proud.  The fact that you CHOSE this profession makes us proud.  You have hundreds of thousands of teachers who have your back, so go out there and do your thing.  There will be plenty of people who discount your decisions, who try to legislate your classroom (without knowing your students), who try to undermine your expertise...and YES, you DO have expertise.  BUT...there will be others who support you, show you possibilities, listen, and make you better.  Latch on to those people.  They are what you want to be.

WE are glad you are here.  Go make a difference.