Who supports your good work? Where do you find the sustenance to teach well?
As I wrote recently, a poll by an ed consultant demonstrated that most teachers surveyed sought support from their close colleagues and Google searches. It was a small study, but I'm sure that a larger study would show similar results.
As I think of school year 2016-2017, I recognize how important it is to define and support your circle of support. These are people that share your vision and are eager to develop teaching/learning in similar ways.
These circles of support will actually include multiple circles.
First, there's your learning team--the teachers, parents, students, colleagues, and administrators with whom you work with daily to achieve similar results. For me this is my grade-level team. Fortunately we share similar goals for our fifth grade students--goals that begin with strong/dynamic relationships that result in engaging, empowering education.
Next, there are those who support my teaching/learning work with new knowledge, resources, challenge, and support. This is the next circle, the circle of people who visit the classroom, impart their wisdom, and affect the programs in ways that matter. This year those people included a number of local foundations, education groups, and naturalist organizations including Wayland's Green Team, Wayland Public Schools Foundation, Drumlin Farm, The Discovery Museum, Transition Framingham, and Stearns Farm CSA.
After that is the broader group of mentors whose books, social media share, conferences, and financial support forward your work in incredible ways. With regard to my work, that group includes Jo Boaler, Jose Vilson, Massachusetts' 2016 ECET2 Team, The Bill and Melinda Gates Education Foundation, ECET2/Teacher2Teacher, The Massachusetts Teachers Association, The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, #sathchat, #edchat, #edchatma, NCTM, CTQ, NBPTS, Twitter, my FaceBook Ed PLN, and Educon. These are all rich resources that inform my work continuously mainly by Internet share and connection.
Acknowledging and assessing your circles of support is necessary with regard to developing your craft and practice. While it's important to listen to and regard those whose opinions and direction differ from you, it's mostly not valuable to put much time into these circles, and instead direct that energy into the areas that support your good work and effort.
Going forward, I look forward to deepening my connection with the many I mention in this post. I'll give most of this time and energy to the center circle, then I'll work to schedule meaningful time with the layer after that, and finally I continue a pattern of regular reading, research, study, and attendance at signature online and offline events with regard to the third layer--the layer that inspires innovation and positive change at the center point.
How we do our work is as important as what we do--focusing on circles of support directly impacts the way we do our work so that we teach children well.