Saturday, June 25, 2016

Summer Sets In: A Path Invigorated

It's been a busy four days as I work to create a summer pattern and find places for all that end-of-the-school year thinking and left over home and school work. A lot of home-work and thinking-work gets pushed aside during the busy, active final days of school.

Fortunately the weather has been outstanding--just perfect, and that has helped with regard to energy and the ability to get from one place to another without much trouble.

In many ways this summer feels like a turning point in my professional career. For a long time I've been advocating for change in schools. My advocacy has taken the path of writing emails, creating websites, interacting on social media, attending courses and conferences, getting involved with education organizations/start-ups, and reading. It's been a busy ten years (30 years?) or so of round-the-clock ed study, debate, and conversation.

At the end of this path, I can say that I've learned a lot and have become a better teacher, writer, researcher, and learner. All this practice has led to greater speed and depth with all things related to learning and teaching, and this has been terrific since I can find what I need and embed that into my practice well.

In some areas, I've had less success. I've wanted to impact systems of education share and collective effort close to my work more than I have. Due to what's deemed by some as an "overwhelming" voice, I haven't had the impact I've hoped for, and in fact, have experienced great challenges and obstruction with regard to new ideas and process. I haven't let that stop me, yet I've been thinking about the feedback and responses, both good and not so good, that I receive. And while I've been disappointed with regard to how my ideas and communication is met by some, I am grateful for the ideas and advocacy that have taken shape particularly with regard to the three classroom shared teaching model that was approved and successfully implemented last year. I recognize that there is a body of knowledge related to organizing and advocacy including related strategies, mindset, and efforts--knowledge that I have access to and will read, study, and integrate in the days ahead.

Like many who advocate for change, our voices, at the start, are often unsteady and less powerful or convincing. There is much to learn in this regard. In part, this work begins with positive professional relationships--not relationships that replicate "an old boy network," but instead relationships developed with mutual respect, a sense of mission, recognition that together we are better and no one has the monopoly on skill, will, talent, expertise, and collaboration with regard to boosting each other up and supporting one another to serve children well in ethical, inspired, and promising ways.

In general, however, as I begin the summer, I realize that it's time to develop the way I advocate for change close to home. Few to none are listening, and I am weary from the negativity, disrespect, silence, and isolation my share has earned me. Often new idea share is met with no response or great challenge. And a willingness to get involved is similarly met with untimely response and little respectful process or support making it challenging, at best, to do the good work possible in those situations. Many structures that exist are cumbersome leaving little room for teacher voice, innovation, and ingenuity at my level when it comes to working outside of the classroom/school realm.

All is not lost, however, as there are great opportunities to collaborate, make change, impact, and do good work in the classroom, at the school level, and in areas outside of the local organization. At the classroom level I plan to invest heavily into continuing to develop and create a strong classroom community, positive student-teacher, student-student, and collegial relationships, cultural proficiency, and teaching math/STEAM well. I will gain sustenance for that work via my grade-level/school team and outside organizations and affiliations such as NBCT, NCTM, DESE, MTA, NEA, ATMIM, Mass Audubon, my PLN, Framingham State University, #edchat, #satchat, Christa McAuliffee Science Center, and more.

For a long time, I've hoped for a great sense of organizational team that includes positive, regular communication, honest, transparent share, a servant-leadership/partnership mindset, distributive leadership, autonomy, mastery, purpose, and an openness to individual and collective innovation and ideas. In many ways old-time structures impede that kind of vision for many teaching/learning organizations. The role of teacher is still viewed by many as a lesser, "do as your told" and "be seen, but not heard" role. I know that these attitudes are somewhat rooted, in part, with the fact that many educators are women and historically women's voices have often not been regarded with respect. I continue to hope for continued change in this regard, and as I hope, I'll work to let my actions locally and my research, writing, and efforts globally lead toward more empowered and engaging teaching/learning organizations.

As summer sets in, it's a turning point--one in which I'll continue to better organize, streamline, and implement my efforts to teach and learn well, and one in which I shore up and continue to develop the energy, demeanor, and character I desire and deem worthy in order to reach for better schools, do good work, and partner with colleagues and students to serve children and their families well.

The path to inspiring, contributing to, and activating positive work and change is not an easy road. It's one that takes skill, grace, time, and care. What I love about this path is the potential it holds for bettering lives and the community. There is nothing more rewarding than to work with others to enrich and enliven ideas and efforts that serve people well--there is great joy, promise, and result in this work--work that so many do each day in their chosen disciplines, organizations, and lives.