Sunday, November 30, 2014

Grown-ups Need Teachers, Too…


I am a teacher. Most of my days are filled with asking and answering questions, facilitating discussion, filling out nurse passes, collecting and disseminating money, and trying my best to deliver a curriculum that is way, way, WAY different than what I was accountable for when I was in elementary school. Oh, and I try to do that in ways that are innovative, creative, pedagogically sound, and fun. It sounds easy. It is SO, SO not.

Here’s the thing. I am also a learner. I LOVE learning. I know that sounds cliché and Eddie Haskell-ish, but I do not think I am alone. I believe most teachers are learners by nature, I’m just not sure that there are adequate opportunities for teachers to expand their knowledge, hone their craft, extend their ideas, and to really, truly grow as educators.

Enter…the Self-Directed Professional Learning Model. Designed by me. It’s actually not a model. Or even an actual real thing. I made it up because teachers should be learning. Adults need to learn. You want your doctors to understand the newest techniques, you want your plumber to stay apprised of the best ways to…um…plumb? You want your dentist to learn new ways to keep your dental experiences efficient and pain free…Do we not want the people that spend the very most time with our little humans to be at the top of their educational game? Wouldn’t it be fantastic if educators could just sign up for a training that they need and attend? It sounds easy. It is SO, SO not.

Teacher friends, I feel your pain. The SDPLM (that’s my model, that’s actually not a model) involves you taking charge of your own professional learning. It is reading research and educational blogs and talking to your teacher friends about what matters in the classroom. It is inviting other educators into your classroom and watching them teach and learning from them. It is talking to that teacher at your campus that you know is really good at (insert thing that teacher is really good at). It is trusting that tiny little voice inside yourself that says, “I know what’s best for kids and it may not be teaching three properties of multiplication all in 47 minutes…” It is having tough discussions and standing up for kids whenever the need arises. Even if you cry in a dad-gum meeting. Again.

And for me, it is seeking out mentors.

Teachers need mentors. Actually, all adults need mentors. We need people that are wiser than us, people with more life experiences, people who can show us perspectives, ideas, and angles that we may not have thought about before. We need it in all areas of our lives, I suppose. Last week, I learned so much about myself at a lunch date with an education professor, that I was close to tears (SHOCKER) because I left with a new goal, a new reading list, and a new outlook on this profession that I love, but lately has gotten me all tangled up.

Truth is, I am so fortunate to be surrounded by mentors of all ages…

*I learn EVERY single time I shut my mouth and really listen to my mom. She is beautiful and wise and funny and so accepting.

*I gained true insight the other evening when I met my aunt for dinner and we talked and laughed about life and teaching and parenting and sangria.

*The baby teachers that I get to work with mentor me on Snapchat, boot socks, technology integration, and how to use a curling wand without getting third degree burns. Again.

*The intensely passionate and HIGHLY driven sister I have been blessed with teaches me about parenting, going after what you want, networking, and public speaking.

*My dear friends, who challenge me, celebrate when I am up, console when I am down, smile knowingly when I go, “off,” and bring me Summermoon.

*My Kacee, who texts me at 4:57 in the morning to talk about professional development, our kiddos, life plans, and outfits.

No matter how you spend your days…at school surrounded by kiddos, at home taking care of your own little ones, at a high-powered office or a low-powered coffeehouse…find a mentor. Commit to your own Self-Directed Professional Learning Model. Find a person who challenges, inspires, teaches, and offers a new lens. Surround yourself with solid, happy, interesting people that push you to grow. You may just discover that you are the mentor. You are the one to inspire. Maybe you are the one that will help someone else to grow.

The student has become the master.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Hot Mess, but Blessed

Just keepin’ it real, friends…the education profession can be a hot mess. The demands are great, the resources are few. We are asked to do increasingly more with significantly less training, less money, and less support. I often cry during the work day. My colleagues do, too. Sometimes it is because we are exhausted. Sometimes it is because we haven’t seen our own children in three nights. Sometimes it is because 100 second graders singing to our veterans is so beautiful and precious that we can’t even stand it. Sometimes it is because we forgot our lunch on the kitchen counter. Sometimes it is because we are laughing so hard…

Today I laughed out loud 157 times at things my students said because KIDS ARE STINKING FUNNY. Sometimes they are trying to be and sometimes they are not and that makes it even better. Sometimes my kiddos make me want to check myself into the Hyatt or the funny farm, but they are tiny, precious humans and I’m 100% in love.

Here’s how my day teaching third grade went down…
*Mrs. Taylor, I like the strings on your shoes. They’re very stringy. (It’s fringe, baby, and thank you…I certainly hoped I would look, “stringy.”)

*Mrs. Taylor, where are we post (supposed) to put this paper when we’re finished? (The same place EVERY paper you ever complete is, “post,” to go…in the gigantic black basket cleverly labeled in a darling font that says, “Completed Work…”)

*Mrs. Taylor, your leopard jacket looks cool. Did you know leopards roar? Kinda like jaguars. (Then she hisses. Like a jungle cat. Then pawed the air. I wish there was a way to communicate the hilarity of this exchange. There is not.)

*Mrs. Taylor, it’s OK that we spilled your water on your desk and it’s running in your purse. It’s OK because we cleaned it with Kleenex. It’s OK. Mrs. Taylor, you should maybe move your water for next time. (Hey punkin’, why don’t you move your body AWAY FROM MY DESK and my water wouldn’t spill. Into my purse. That is now full of wet lumps of tissues. It’s fine.)

*Mrs. Taylor, why did you write, “Who dat, who dat,” on the top of my paper?" (Well, because even though I have mad intelligence skills and the keen ability to perform handwriting analysis on 27% of any given assignment, I feel like I owe it to the teachers in the grades above me to hold you accountable for this minute task that you have been able to handle since you were five years old. Write your name on your paper. EVERY TIME THERE IS A PAPER. Not one time in the history of papers will there EVER be a time I do not want you to write your name at the top. Or on the bottom. Heck, write it in hieroglyphics backwards in purple crayon. Just write it. On the paper. I figured that maybe quoting an Iggy Azalea song would appeal to one of the multiple intelligences that I last received training on in 1997 and that you would feel inspired to write your name. ON. THE. PAPER.)

*Mrs. Taylor, do you think you should eat some chocolate? It might help with how mad you seem.(Sweet pea, you haven’t seen mad. You’ll see mad when the next friend asks me where he’s post to put the paper.)

*Mrs. Taylor, my mom said this money is to feed the hungry. My mom said this money is for t-shirts. My mom said give you this for a turkey. My mom said this is for the fun raiser. (That’s not a typo.) My mom said take this money to the cafeteria. My mom said take this note to the nurse. My mom said could you print that letter. What letter? Just that one you need. Got it.

*Mrs. Taylor, when we did that fire drill, was the school really on fire? (No, if the school had burned down, we would not be in the school now. It would be burned down.)

*Mrs. Taylor, can I get you ice? Can I take out the recycling? Can I take this to the nurse? It’s my haler. For if I need to breathe. Can I take this to my kindergarten teacher? Can I work in the hall? Can I wear your jacket? Can we go to recess? Can we do math longer? Can we play football in the hall?
*Mrs. Taylor, can we stay at school longer? I want to read all the books. (That would be so fun. But no.)

*Mrs. Taylor, you said we could switch plus and times, so I just added all of them even though I think it’s post to be multiply. (Um. No. What I said was that, based on the commutative property of addition, the order of the addends can be switched, so 3+4=7 and 4+3=7. I then clearly explained that, based on the commutative property of multiplication, 3x4=12 and 4x3=12. At NO TIME did I ever mean to imply that any student, past or present could just switch the plus and times.)
But maybe just turn it in where you’re post to without a name, and we’ll start over again tomorrow.

Education may be a hot mess, but I’m so blessed to be a teacher.