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Thursday, October 27, 2016

Writing Windstorm: Pushing Me Forward

I know, it's been a windstorm of writing in the past few days.

This is not uncommon after I attend a dynamic teaching/learning event and then return to the reality of school. There's always great disruption, and just think, last week I attended four days in a row of steady, dynamic, positively challenging professional learning. I suspect I'll engage in a similar writing windstorm after I attend Educon in January so beware.

Perhaps in other environments, there's time on task to digest the learning and discuss it with colleagues, but in busy schools, there's little time to even acknowledge that you were gone. Also when a teacher is gone, others have more work to do which doesn't always result in the most positive feelings with respect to the new learning. Yet, many welcomed me back with positivity and interest.

I can't move through the disruption without thinking deeply and writing. I feel a strong need to tell my story and reason through the many challenges I face each day when it comes to doing a good job. For example, I had what I thought was a great idea yesterday. I put a significant amount of energy into it only to be told that, at this time, it's unacceptable. That was discouraging, but as some would say, I work with a team and I can't make all the decisions myself.

Throughout last year's Teacher Leadership Initiative (TLI), I learned a lot about process and advocacy. It was great learning and training, but also learning and training that takes practice in the field, practice I'm working on now.

The challenge right now is to do the following:
  • Focus on being a positive, contributing member of the great teaching team I work with every day.
  • Focus in on a few areas of positive change and advocacy. There are so many aspects of school I'd like to change, but if I try to change them all, I probably won't change any so I have to be thoughtful about what changes will have the best impact on what I can do with and for students and families. With this in mind, I'll focus in on math, cultural proficiency, and SEL teaching/learning goals.
  • I'll also continue to advocate for greater system-wide communication, transparency, lead time, and inclusion. I think we can make time by creating more dynamic systems of share. Systems like this will lessen the questions, confusion, and delay we sometimes face when it comes to good teaching and learning. Of course this effort will include the work and efforts of many. I hope that my work with the union can support these changes.
  • Seek balance with regard to time and energy--good balance leads to successful work and service. 
Not surprisingly, I'm home with a chest cold after all this disruption, but tomorrow I'll be back with my wonderful students ready to meet the challenges and positivity the teaching/learning path holds. 

Embrace or Steer Clear of Drama

Yes, I'm dramatic.

I feel deeply, like to create, and do a lot of my work based on the signals I get from the people and places around me.

This energy is often positive and sometimes not so positive. Mostly, it works well when teaching large groups of young children. Like me, they're energetic, expressive, and creative too.

This drama isn't always the best when working with adults. Many adults like it to be calmer, slower, and less intense. They seem to prefer order, logic, and less rather than more.

These are gross generalizations, but I have a sense that these generalizations, in some ways, point to the struggle that some teachers face as they navigate the classroom-management connection. The classroom calls us to be flexible, responsive, creative, and curious, while management desires that we follow the directives set and complete the tasks expected. I will think more on that.

Drama has its place, and that's an important consideration as I continue down the teaching/learning road.

Promoting and Advocating for Change

A few years ago my team advocated for a change to a three-teacher shared teaching/learning model. We spent hours creating our proposal, responding to critique, and promoting this change. We had to endure a very long waiting period until we received approval, and when we received the approval it was a cautious and less than enthusiastic yes from some administrators (others championed the idea).

I was very upset during the waiting period. I couldn't understand why some would make us wait so long for a yes or no, and why the waiting period was marked with little communication at best. Also while we waited for yes or no, we missed out on other important opportunities that could have supported the model. Nevertheless, the model was approved, and we feel it is a very successful model for many reasons. We've still, to this day, received little feedback or commentary from the naysayers, yet the champions are in agreement with us about the model's success.

It's difficult to promote change.

For example, I was recently involved in a meeting of educators who were promoting change, and the change was met with little support. There is good rationale for this change, but clearly some hurdles too--hurdles we've come to understand some time after the change was first discussed. Yesterday, upon advocating for that change again and offering another suggestion, I was given guidelines about how to advocate for change and the accepted process. This morning I followed that process to the best of my understanding.

I would like making change to be a natural and welcome part of school life. I would like change ideas and change agents to be embraced with dynamic, strategic process, however, this clearly depends upon the change. There are changes I don't believe in or welcome too. Usually I have little voice or choice related to these changes. When changes come with good rationale, choice, and voice, it's much easier to embrace change, but when voice, choice, and the rationale don't exist or don't match the research, then it's more difficult to embrace that change.

The new process for change prompted me to take a strategic approach to advocating for this change. If our first meeting was led with greater attention to strategic process, we may not have reached this point, but now that we have, I can see opportunity for greater share and valued change and development of our system-wide grade-level program. Of course, I'd like to see a broader, more vigorous path to uplifting our program including the tools, programs, content, and pedagogy we use, but for now I'll embrace the process that exists and move forward.

Change is never easy. It takes time and collaboration. Good process, transparency, and inclusion helps. Let's see where the next step takes the team.