Saturday, January 27, 2018

Saturday Sayings: No Breaks

I woke up Monday morning to an email with news that a good friend from church unexpectedly passed away the night before. Life doesn't give teachers a break, so after many tears and prayers, I headed to school and spent the day teaching 25 first graders with a surprising amount of both patience and energy. 

Even though I managed okay in the classroom throughout the week, I found it difficult to concentrate on any kind of evening schoolwork that needed my attention. In the midst of my struggle, I couldn't help but reflect on my students -- on this generation of students. 

In the past few months I've heard statistics regarding the percentage of students who have experienced trauma. Though I can't recall the number, I remember my reaction. That's way too high. Our students, both young and old, are carrying around a lot of baggage.

If I, with my adult-sized willpower and ability to process, struggles to concentrate on school-ish tasks when in the midst of crisis, how much more of a challenge do our students face when required to physically and mentally inhabit a space that feels trivial compared to the load they bear. As the adult in the room with a long list of tasks to accomplish, I'm guilty of forgetting this and pushing on regardless.

Sometimes if we're paying attention, we'll notice that life sends us the gift of perspective, and more importantly, empathy. That's what my week did for me. Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs is the real deal as much for me as it is for my students. I'm reminded of the need to investigate, listen, offer some wiggle room for those bad moments or even bad days, because life doesn't give students a break either. 

Dedicated to my friend, Ryan, who always took such great care of the sprinkles on the sound cupcake. You will be both dearly missed and remembered. Know that we'll take good care of Vaness and the boys.

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Saturday, January 20, 2018

Saturday Sayings: I Can Do Better

Here I am writing the post that's been written a million times over in a million different ways. My own hand has contributed a handful of versions. Yet it won't leave me alone, like a tiny but persistent first-grade finger poking me in the backside. Though I might reply to that six-year-old with, "I talk to boys who don't poke me," I'm surrendering completely to my relentless thoughts and giving them my full attention and mindful energy. 

I can do better. 

These are the words playing on repeat in my mind while walking the halls of my school. They communicate with me on my drive home after a long day. They greet me the following morning. It's a constant refrain, like the song in my head that's playing even when I don't recognize its presence. 

Is my classroom a place where mistakes are safe to make?
I can do better. 

Are my students allowed to have bad days?
I can do better. 

How do I react to those behaviors that make me vibrate?

I can do better.

Why are some students struggling to find joy in writing? 
I can do better. 

Are all readers willingly engaging with books? 
I can do better. 

I feel inspired and challenged, a dichotomy of simultaneously feeling energized and overwhelmed. I'm energized by the realization that I'm on an upward trajectory of developing the art of teaching. It's simply impossible to flatline on this path I've chosen. Yet the cognitive work involved can at times feel so daunting. My list of I-can-do-better items is longer than I'd like to admit. 

As I sit here with tears in my eyes, I resist the urge to wallow  and instead challenge myself to accept the hard parts of this job because of my "why." Why did I sign up for not simply this job but for this lifestyle? Because I believe what I do makes a difference in the lives of a young generation who deserves better than the world at times gives them. So...

I can do better.

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Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Caution: Our Social Media Stories

Some might tell me to "lighten up," but out of concern for my profession, I'm going to ignore that thought and throw out a challenge for all educators who dabble in social media. Considering you're reading a blog about teaching, you're likely to be part of this audience I hope to reach. So without further ado. 

Ahh, teacher memes. These are two I've seen recently. First off, I recognize they're meant to be humorous and light-hearted. Secondly, I enjoy my breaks as much as the next teacher and admit I'm not quite ready to set that alarm and ignore my stack of fiction. But teacher memes, like the two above, shared amongst teachers and shared on social media to a wide and varied audience are two very different things.

What message do these two memes send to our patrons? What about parents? Students even? I think we can all agree it's not the one we want them to hear.

Let's also remember that unfortunately we have not won over our entire audience. Social media is mottled with tax payers who don't have to think very long or hard about the many reasons we're not doing our jobs well. Their angst is real, and they're rarely bashful about voicing their opinions. I can only imagine how memes like the ones above fuel their fires. 

I'm not saying we must now put on our pretty faces and pretend that teaching is all unicorns and rainbows. We all know its challenges, more so than anyone outside the educational world could ever imagine. We also know about the amazing and inspiring things going on in our schools and classrooms. Which is most important for our patrons to hear? We have a responsibility to tell our stories. If we don't, someone else will and they'll likely get it wrong. So please share. Tell your story, but use caution when it comes to social media. 

You never know who's listening.

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