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Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Teachers Ride the School Surf

Teaching, in many ways, is a bit like surfing as teachers surf the school surf. In many ways it's an unpredictable surf that rises and falls according to citizen/administrative decree and decision, student/family events/needs, knowledge/skill, and the myriad of daily events.

Like any good surfer, we try to obtain the best "board" possible by collecting optimal resources, organizing our environments, learning as much as we can, working with each other, prepping, planning, and teaching well. Yet, every day we run down to the surf, we have to surmise what we see. Is the surf more challenging today or is it a day with no waves, one perfect for review, reflection, and creativity. That's for us to decide, and then figure out how to "surf" the hours away.

Every teacher approaches the surf a bit differently depending on his/her years of experience, background, vision, goals, and connections. For some, they are satisfied at keeping a good surf profile--doing what's expected well. Others have visions of riding the tallest waves and navigating tough surf to increase their skill and impact. There's really no right way with the exception of bring your wave riding a positive, respectful attitude, best effort, and a willingness to learn.

I'll be riding the school surf for a few years to come. I've been surfing for a long time. What's important to me is learning all that I can in order to help my students grow with confidence, skill, and vision. I want my students to have the best possible lives, and I want schools everywhere to afford children this opportunity. I see no reason why we have to leave anyone behind. Yes there are times for all of us when we are stymied in schools--times when we face problems which we haven't solved yet when it comes to teaching well. Way back when my brother was in school, one problem was dyslexia. No one really knew what to do, and my brother suffered greatly from that lack of knowing.

Still today students suffer from our collective lack of knowing in schools. For example grade-level standards' expectations put a lot of students in jeopardy. If you come to the fifth grade with a solid second grade foundation, you're going to struggle because many education institutions haven't adopted the understanding that learning is developmental, and that you can't rush a child way ahead when he or she needs to establish a strong foundation for greater learning. Education leadership often closes their eyes to this reality, and instead of treating all children, no matter where they fall with mastery, with respect and needed programming, they might punish the teachers, expect unrealistic results, or simply turn their heads from this issue. It's an issue we have to deal with in schools today.

Similarly the opportunity gap continues to exist. One way this gap is clearly evident is with regard to those who have access to technology and those that don't. At my school we started lobbying months ago to bridge the computer gap. Now, almost six months later, we're still working to bridge this gap. There's been some good movement with regard to funding and permission slips, but we all have more work to do to bridge this gap.

If we look around at the school surf, we'll notice our skill and where we are doing well, and we'll notice where we still have room for better finesse and effort in order to teach all children well.

I'll use the microcosm of my own little "beach" or school to improve my craft, try out ideas, and advocate for better. I'll write to share my story with others, and I'll read and attend learning events to learn of others' stories, efforts, and innovation.

Teachers ride the school surf everyday. Citizens and administrators afford them the time, resources, and equipment to navigate this wave riding. Some embrace a servant leadership model and do everything they can to help those teachers ride the wave well, and with others in some places, there's room for improvement in this regard.

What waves are your\ riding? Which are easy to navigate, and which are giving you a great challenge? I wish you well with the surf; enjoy the rides you take.