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.