Friday, November 22, 2013

A Year of Revision

As we employ multiple new tools, strategies, and programs, the year has been in a constant state of revision. The basic schedule has been altered multiple times to meet the needs and interests of students, colleagues, and leaders. At times, these shifts have been easy and expected, and at other times the changes have seemed too quick and too many.

This push-pull of old-new, data response, and student need with multiple voices often leaves the classroom teacher, particularly the elementary generalist teacher, in the midst of many initiatives with little time for planning, thought, understanding, or organization.

Yesterday after a large number of changes over a period of days, the last expression of change was met with dismay--How can I employ one more shift, change, addition? I thought weary, upset, and overwhelmed by the heavy weight of recent education traffic. I didn't expect to reach that point. I had previewed the data, and it looked pretty good. I knew the team was working hard, and the children were happy. Perfect, no, as nothing is ever perfect and there is always room for change, but I didn't expect to be challenged so, and the fact that it came after many recent curriculum challenges simply served to tip the scale.

I went home. I thought more about the most recent change, and yes, it was child-centered, research-based so I worked to alter the schedule and make room for the effort.

How can we make change today without the wasted time of too much anguish, struggle, and back steps? How can we encourage one another on this teaching road as we move towards new, and hopefully better, practice?  What is the best way to strengthen team, teaching, and collective knowledge? What are we going to remove from our schedules in order to make room for advantageous change and growth?

As I alter my route yet again this year, this is what I'll do.
  • Adhere to the new schedule as much as possible, but know that changes will continue to occur as we respond to data, student needs, new research, and structural change.
  • Advocate for lead time and heads-up for information that is tough. It's difficult to hear challenging information at a collaborative meeting without any preview or time to think about it in advance.
  • Stay as classroom and child-centric as possible, the joy of the job comes from working with children and serving them well.
  • Know as a generalist you cannot be an expert in every detail of the job, and there are many details to choose from. 
  • Place your growth, research, and extra effort in areas that are well supported, positively encouraged, and enriching to you and your students. For too long, I've tried to create in areas where there has been considerable pushback and struggle, so for now I'll leave those areas alone and move into areas where there is support and care.
  • In many respects be your own boss, the caring leader you look for, and in that resolve make sure you don't work too much, take care of yourself, and do the most important task at work which is to teach children well each day that you are there. 
As you face the multitude of changes in education this year, how do you keep calm, centered, and focused on the positivity and growth in the job?  Where do you find your strength and support? How do reconcile the fact that you cannot humanly meet all the demands that are currently present, demands from multiple sources in and outside of systems?

Teaching children well is important work, work that draws those who care about the welfare and education of children. It is a unique profession to be in, and a profession that holds great promise if done well.

As I write today I am reminded of so many ways that I can bring more peace, positivity, and promise to my own work too--we are always in the midst of change as humans, families, and organizations, and the key is to travel the road well bringing as much happiness, love, and grace as possible to your own life and the life of those you work with and serve.  Onward.