Sunday, August 28, 2016

School Starts Tomorrow: Focus on What Matters

Tomorrow is the first day of school for educators in the system where I work. The key is to focus on what matters as I start my 31st year teaching school.

Goals and Vision
The superintendent will share the systemwide goals and vision. I like to teach with the goals and vision in mind so I will listen carefully to his introduction.

If I've learned anything as an educator, it's that we're better together. You simply can't do this job on your own, and you need your colleagues. After the superintendent speaks, our local union president will speak. He'll discuss upcoming health care benefit changes which will cost educators more money. He'll also mention upcoming negotiations, and I'm sure he'll end with the fact that it's our collective good work with and for students that matters, and that working together for fair and beneficial work conditions and salaries matters too since "our working conditions are children's learning conditions."

Listening, Planning, and Collaboration
Today's students are rarely taught by one teacher. Instead it's a team event where students are taught by many, many educators throughout each week, educators that include technology coordinators, librarians, art teachers, music teachers, physical education teachers, special educators, paraeducators, guidance counselors, math teachers, ELA teachers, and social studies and science teachers. Hence we'll spend a lot of time at the start of the year listening to one another as we finalize learning/teaching schedules, routines, and priorities.

Expect the Unexpected
In every complex environment, obstacles, known and unknown exist. It could be the fact that expected supplies haven't arrived, incomplete renovations, a last-minute change in staffing, and new curriculum programs--whatever it is, you can definitely expect some unexpected obstacles to the fine tuned plans you've created over the summer. It's best to understand that this will happen and continue to work towards mitigating these kinds of events as much as possible with colleagues.

Focus on Students
Whatever you do in schools, if you use the lens of what's best for students, you'll make good choices. Keep students front and center in every action, and model with colleagues what you hope students will emulate in their own collaboration, learning, voice, and choice.

Outreach, Collegiality, and Professional Learning
Look for inspiring opportunities to reach out, collaborate, and learn. Countless opportunities exist including our upcoming ECET2-MA2016. Make a point to make time for this kind of work as it serves to ignite your passions and elevate your efforts to teach well.

The start of school can be overwhelming, and the key is to meet it with a sense of positivity and promise. This positivity will translate to better learning and outcomes for you and your students.