Teaching is not for the faint of heart. We spend most of our days alone in classrooms, cafeterias, offices and playgrounds where we are greatly outnumbered! There are so many of kids and so few of us. Yet we keep coming back with smiles on our faces as we try to give as much as we can of ourselves to all of them.
Then there are days like the day after Halloween in which we not only get to go to school and be outnumbered by these children, but we get be outnumbered by there children who have eaten candy for breakfast and who have filled their lunch boxes with it, too. But, yet, we show up. We give it our all! We smile through it!
Stay strong, my friends! Happy day after Halloween to you!
We work hard and we want to be our best every day. In doing so, it seems that it is often times easier to remember our failures, the times we fell short and the moments when we were not at our best. What we forget is that in those hard times, we learn the most. Right now, I am in a season of flux. I am questioning some of the practices that we used to think were best. I am opening my mind to new ways of thinking about teaching and learning. I am forcing myself to look honestly at our data and pinpoint areas where we can grow, where I can grow. What I love about this is that as I force myself to be vulnerable, I am allowing myself to grow. It’s messy, it’s hard, it’s stressful. But, what I’m not doing is beating myself up about it. Just because I want to grow, just because I see that I can be better doesn’t make me lose one second of sleep or feel anxious about coming to school each day. In fact, it energizes me. So, I ask you this, how do you look at hard moments? Do you beat yourself up and say you’re not good at your job and feel like a failure; do you listen to the critics? Or, do you roll up your sleeves and dig in?
Do not allow YOURSELF to be your toughest critic. Do not allow yourself to get in the way of your own growth. Maybe you need to change what you’re doing in your classroom, so what? Maybe you need to rethink the way to teach reading, so what? We’re on a journey with no destination. When we feel like we’re arrived that means we’ve stopped learning! The best thing to remember is that we’re all in this together. We’re all in the muck and the mess! In the words of Theodore Roosevelt, “there is no effort without error and shortcoming…”!
Keep doing the work, my friends!
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
― Theodore Roosevelt
We talk a lot about being purposeful and intentional. We talk about getting our reps in and building upon the things we do really well. Being purposeful and intentional is HARD work. It means that we have to be honest and reflective with ourselves.
The dictionary.com definition of the word purpose is "to set as an aim, intention, or goal for oneself; to intend; design"
I love the use of the word “aim” in this definition. It means that to be purposeful we have to know where we are headed and then intentionally plan the steps it will take to get there. But, one thing that we often forget to talk about when we discuss purpose is that sometimes in an attempt to be purposeful and intentional, we miss the mark. That’s right, our aim is not always going to be spot on. We’re not always going to hit the target and that is OKAY…as long as we dust ourselves off, admit it and keep trying. That’s because purposeful does not mean perfect.
When I looked up the word perfect in the dictionary, I found this definition,"conforming absolutely to the description or definition of an ideal type."
The definition of perfect couldn’t be more opposite of who we are as educators. There is no perfect student, just like there is no perfect lesson, perfect teacher or perfect solution for a problem! There is no ideal. We want each of our students to be the best version of themselves. We want to be the best version of ourselves. This is why we must pick purpose over perfect.
If we live our lives striving for perfection we will be forever disappointed. But, if we live our lives purposefully we will take aim, set goals and adjust along the way. In purpose we learn to celebrate hitting the mark just as much as we celebrate getting close to the mark. And, in purpose we give ourselves a chance to readjust our aim when we are way off.
As we strive to act with purpose, we must remember that being purposeful doesn't mean staying at school all hours of the night lamenting over every move we are going to make the next day. Purpose means that we know where we are, we know where we want to be and we take aim. We might miss the mark. Missing the mark is how we learn! So, remember, purpose of perfect.
(A special thanks to our AMAZING instructional coach, Amanda Davell, for inspiring this post!)
My ONE WORD this year is PERSPECTIVE. One way I’ve lived out this word is by reading memoirs about the lives of people who are NOT like me. The lives of people who I sometimes think I understand but I have come to learn that I do not at all.
I used to feel like I could say that I understood refugees and immigrants because I know them, I work with them, I teach their children and I’ve even visited their homes. I welcome them to our country. I care about them. However, deep down, I knew that I was missing something and that I had much more to learn. So, I’ve been seeking out new learning to gain perspectives on the lives of these important people. I stumbled upon the book The Ungrateful Refugee, by Dina Nayeri.
As I’ve dug deeper into the memoir of Dina Nayeri I’ve learned that I have the wrong idea about refugees and asylum seekers and that I have certainly unintentionally offended many. My mindset has been—“I bet you are so happy that you’re here! You’re safe now.”
But after reading this excerpt from Nayeri’s book, I changed my thinking….
Refugees and asylum seekers are escaping violence, corruption, religious persecution and more and we have the audacity to say “He made it out! He’s safe!” Imagine the trauma and suffering that occurred in able to “make it out”. Imagine all that was left behind. Imagine all the culture shock, the humiliation endured by having to accept public assistance and charity. Imagine living in a refugee camp in an unknown country and being treated like a “faceless” person.
While I don’t have the answers, I do know that my perspective has changed. Instead of “I bet you’re so glad you’re here” maybe I’ll try “You are so brave to make the choice to leave your home. I’m sure that had to be terrible.” Or, maybe just “Welcome! We care about you.” I’m not sure what the right words are but I do know what the wrong words are. In trying to be helpful we can unintentionally be hurtful. As we continue through the school year and we support our children and families let’s continue to think about perspectives other than our own and choose our words wisely. I also know that for our children who endured the terror of escaping a country as a refugee or asylum seeker LOVE IS AN INTERVENTION!
I recently finished reading Lincoln on Leadership which is a book that analyzes the leadership qualities of Abraham Lincoln and connects those qualities to the behaviors that leaders today should be exhibiting. The following is an excerpt that made me think about our work with lead now. As Tim Kight says, people from the leader first and the vision second. As I read the following excerpt I was reminded of the importance of the leader having a clear vision so that as people follow they are certain to be going in a positive direction.
The first dictionary definition of a “leader” describes a primary shoot of a plant, the main artery through which the organism lives and thrives. In much the same way, organizations prosper or die as a result of their leader’s ability to embody and communicate the company’s vision. How a manager or professional influences others very much dictates the health of the department, region and ultimately the entire organization.
All this translates into one of the major factors that distinguishes leaders from mere managers: vision….You have to know where you are going, to state it clearly and concisely. And you have to care about it passionately.
-Lincoln on Leadership pg. 162
As I reflect on this excerpt I’m reminded that you are leaders in your classrooms. While your students will follow you first and your vision second, it is important that you clearly know your vision and that you passionately and concisely share that vision with everyone.