Public educators are currently living a very outspoken existence. With our current unqualified national leadership and the strike in Oklahoma, it seems we are in a place where more teachers are clapping back when we are criticized, unappreciated, or unseen. Yes! Let ’em know!
However, it appears that we have gotten a little too sensitive when it comes to professional development. In starting this blog, I have seen individuals on social media light into well-intentioned educational specialists for providing them with next level strategies to engage kids and inspire learning. It’s time we focus on why these tools and tricks are being shared with us, rather than jumping down people’s throats the first time someone suggests a paperless classroom.
The kids that take up residence in our classrooms for 180 days are the why. They come to us as empty vessels waiting to be poured into. It’s pretty powerful when you think that some nugget of lifelong wisdom may be imparted to a child by one singularly influential teacher.
One unforgettable piece of knowledge I still remember from Mrs. Debbie Mihalic’s third grade class is when things get hot they expand, and when they get cold they contract. I don’t remember this because of a textbook or a worksheet I did, but because she had us out of our seats with our arms out at our sides expanding; after we would say, “Expand,” we would wipe our brows and exhale as if we were sweating. We’d then say, “Contract,” in chorus and wrap our arms around our bodies and feign teeth chattering and shivering.
Mrs. Mihalic was an unforgettable teacher who poured into all of us in portable 3 at Brushy Creek Elementary a love of learning that I’m sure was imparted using all the most engaging strategies 1991 had to offer. We used textbooks, worksheets, tests, quizzes, and probably listened to her just lecture several times. The point is, regardless of any tool she used, traditional or cutting edge, the way she used them could only be attributed to her.
Teacher friend, when concerned with what’s really going to make the most impact on your children, quiet the noise of those around you and say it’s “Me, Myself, and I.”
No one can do what you do for those kids for those 180 days. OWN IT. You may have a fantastic way of presenting engaging guided instruction using a textbook. That doesn’t mean that when the big wigs of education suggest never using a textbook, you lock yours away with your confiscated fidget spinners and Pokémon cards. You do what’s right by those children. Maybe you have amazing skill at writing deep, probing, higher level questions–it would seem then, that a task-based assessment may simply be just an option for testing your kids. Conjure up that paper-pencil test and watch your students soar.
Understanding our own personal strengths in the way we deliver instruction to our students is twofold, however. It’s important that we acknowledge when we need to be poured into as well. Often I say, “For the sake of our students.” This is when we have to carry our burden and take time researching new strategies, learning about new techniques, and being uncomfortable trying something new in our classrooms. No one thinks you suck. Point blank. It’s just you have to be open to continuously bettering yourself so that your students can get the most out of you before June. Wouldn’t it be great if one day, they’re sitting somewhere at age 34 understanding that their back door always gets stuck in the summer because, “Expand” (arms outstretched, wiping brow)?
We’ve got it. When we answered the call to teach, there was a gift in all of us that ensured we could develop the amazing way in which we deliver information to our students. No one can take that away from us. But if our why is truly our kiddos, we will seek out good counsel and innovative ideas that will help us get better for the sake of our students.