Monday, May 20, 2019

The Greater Plan: The Next Three Years

I was reviewing a number of long-range planning documents this morning, documents related to my position as a fifth grade teacher and documents related to my family members' pursuits as well. In many ways, it is yet another point of recallibration in my life and the life of many around me. Rather than that steady plateau time in life, it's a bit of a climb right now--a point of ascent and positive growth.

What does that mean for my career path and efforts. In many ways, it's more of the same, yet to solidify that focus, it takes continued reflection, discussion, and work. Otherwise it's easy to be distracted since the world of teaching and learning is filled with possibilities that move in all kinds of directions.

For me, however, the following efforts will take precedence:

A warm welcoming and organized learning environment
Creating and maintaining an organized, warm, and welcoming teaching/learning environment demands substantial focus, effort, and advocacy. This is a main objective of work right now. Though seemingly simple, this goal is very important to positive teaching and learning.

Science education
We've reached a lot in this area over the past two years, and there's more reaching to do this summer to build on what we've done as a teaching team so far. This reach will be aided by summer reading, study, planning, data analysis, and collaboration.

Math education
Similar to science, there's been substantial effort in this arena by multiple educators, and now it's time to re-organize the documents that lead this work while also developing the work via reading and study.

Relationships and community
Continued efforts to continually develop a strong, supportive, caring learning/teaching community with students, family members, colleagues, administrators, and community members continue. The better we can work together to support one another, the more we'll be able to do and give our students. This is a critical component of good teaching and learning.

Professional learning and respectful advocacy
Continued professional learning as noted above as well as continued respectful advocacy for what is right and good for educators is essential to forwarding the good teaching/learning possible.

Passing the torch
In every way possible, it's important to support the school and system's future leaders. Our schools are filled with bright, enthusiastic, and talented early-career and mid-career professionals. As a teacher in the later part of my career, it's essential to support these kind, creative, and bright teacher leaders.

Next steps
Exploring after-teaching arenas will also be part of my next three-years plan. I'll explore greater areas of writing, math expertise, family support/care, art/illustration, research, and political activity during these years as well. It will be interesting to see the kinds of posts this blog, or perhaps future blogs, will include four years from now. Onward.

The week ahead; last week in May 2019

As I look over the schedule for the week ahead, the theme of presence is clear. More important than anything else this week is to be there and to support the good work of the students and educators around me.

The Play
This will be the primary focus of the start of the week. There are lines to perfect, costumes to complete, and encouragement and praise to share.

Climate Change Projects
Once the play is past, we'll help students complete these projects. Then we'll make a film that illustrates their teamwork and accomplishments.

Solar Ovens
I'm hoping that we can cook our s'mores in solar ovens on Wednesday--let's see if the sun cooperates.

Nature Field Study
We'll spend a day in the field.

Biography research and writing
When there's time students will work on their Global Changemaker projects.

It's a busy week, and we'll take it one positive step to the next positive step. Onward.

Retirement Parties: Points of Reflection

It is that time of the school year when many teachers are attending retirement parties. These retirement parties are points of reflection, time when educators who represent varied years of experience, have a moment to think about their career to date and career to come.

At and around these retirement parties, the parting messages always include gratitude. Those leaving the profession after significant years, always note how grateful they are to have had a meaningful profession, one that placed them with good people and positive work. The day-to-day challenges disappear at the end while the good moments of camaraderie and care rise.

Teaching is such fast-paced work that there is rarely time to stop and see the big picture of what it means to teach, and the fact that the work is overall positive. When teaching, there are always opportunity to better what we do on our own and together, so it's difficult to just step back to see all that we have done day-to-day and year-to-year.

As I near the final years of my teaching career, I'm watching closely how colleagues end their tenure. I'm taking note of their gratitude and grace as they complete final tasks. I see how those of us at or near the end of our careers can support those beginning and mid-career educators. We can encourage them to lead their career in the following ways:
  • Rise high on the pay scale by knowing your contract and the ways you can increase your pay via professional learning and extracurricular stipends
  • Team with one another to strengthen what you all can do to teach children well and care for one another too.
  • Speak up against injustice, and work for the best possible work conditions and salaries. When educators receive fair salaries and enjoy optimal work conditions, they have the opportunity to teach and serve students and their families better.
  • Always be respectful, and when frustration hits, seek the support of your union, laws, colleagues, and supportive leadership. 
  • Don't suffer in silence, but seek positive paths towards betterment with others.
  • Keep the focus of educators' collective work which is to teach children well at the center of what you do each and every day.
A teaching career is challenging work, and work that each and every educator can be proud of. These retirement celebrations and reflections, provide an opportunity for every educator to think about their career including where they have been and where they are going. 

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Questions can be controversial

I posed an issue and asked a question today. In response, I received a somewhat negative response.

I had no ill intent with the questioning, but I finally got up the courage and time to ask a question about what I have thought of as an unfair practice for about ten years. When this unfair practice was started, there were many unfair practices occurring in my midst. I was frustrated at that time, and unsure about how to best deal with the large number of events that I deemed unfair, and not in keeping with good ethics or equity in my midst.

Since that time, there have been many promising changes. Good leaders on many levels have had the courage and smarts to work for a more ethical and fair organization. There have been many small wins that have resulted in better working conditions for all--this is good. As always there is more to do, but lots of good work has happened so far.

I have asked the question I asked today many times over the past many years. The general response I received was that I had to live with the injustice. Then when I learned more about the situation, I knew I had to speak up as I deemed the situation unfair. On the scale of things in life, this situation is small, but if we don't speak up when small injustices occur, then greater injustices will follow. Onward.

Be there

Presence is an essential feature to any loving relationship.

As you get older, to be present is as important or more important than active participation.

You need to be there when you're needed, but step back to let others take the helm of their own lives and decisions.

To be present means making the space and time so you're available when someone wants to stop by, share a story, or ask a question. It means a less-full routine and more spacious mind-space and life-space that welcomes others.

Being there matters, and to truly be there for others is a conscious choice.