As the school year is coming to a rather quick close. I still remember the start of the school year and sharing picture books with my kids. I remember clearly moments like reading Mama by Jacqueline Woodson and a student having to excuse themselves overcome with emotion, I remember my first book talk of the year “Some Kind of Happiness” by Claire Legrand and how it is now tattered on the shelf from all the readers it has made its way to. I remember meeting the members of my PLN the Curiosity Crew early in the school year and starting a learning journey with them and so many others. Now it is June and as I look back I take a moment and reflect. The moments are wonderful, they make me happy and my students did learn but could they have learned more? Could I have been better?
I think we all have room to improve and take a step back, take in all that is happening around us and make decisions based on not just what we hear but also what we see and in the end what we experience.
When I first started teaching I came in like a hurricane, I was armed with all these new current teachings and instructional practices and I was not trying to hear any advice from established teachers because they way they taught was out of date. I have written about this and I look back and in the words of my dear friend Mary Howard I was being a Professional Bully. I disregarded anything that did not align with my opinion, I rolled my eyes at suggestions that we all do a Penguin unit for no reason other than they liked Penguins, I threw the suggested workbooks in the garbage and taught about Social Studies curriculum through the events happening in the world. I was killing it and I also did not keep a job. I was difficult, I made my co-workers uncomfortable, I questioned their practice in a way that only made them feel bad it did not help them take that important step back and reflect on themselves.
Lately, I have these thoughts come back to me as I see debates on Twitter with topics like:
- Voice and Choice vs Teacher Directed
- Conferencing vs Skills in Isolation
- Teacher Planning vs Personalized learning plans
- Test Scores vs Student engagement
- Play-based learning vs Traditional Early instruction
The only common thread I see in any of these points is VS. Conflict is not why I got into the field of education. I became a teacher because I had great ones that primarily taught using practices that I look down on today. I am not defending a practice that has been proven ineffective I am just wondering if we can not make the conversations around our practices more productive.
The Professional Bully that Mary referred to here is a real person. They are comfortable in their ways and take offence at the notion that they are no longer the best ways. I caught myself today after reading Mary’s brilliant post and reflected that some might think I am a professional bully. When the term AR comes up in conversation I respond with nothing but negativity. There is not an argument out there that will convince me it is a good program. You want to end independent reading time I will argue with you and happily enter that arena of conflict but we shouldn’t have to. If the idea is and should be, that students are our number one focus we need to not be rigid in any practice. My wife tells me stories of kids that love AR in the elementary. They are reading their first books ever, I should celebrate for that child because they have a book and are reading. I shouldn’t make that moment about my opinion and scoff and talk about how terrible AR is, that is not the time for that fight.
My friend Susan and I were talking the other day about balance and the danger of pushing things too much one way. I think we need to look at all the practices out there and work to find what is best. A part of that, I think, is taking that step back and maybe a step into the shoes of others to try and see things from their perspective.
This was a random jumbling of thoughts but I do think we need to be kinder and more welcoming. Bees with honey and all that. Those Professional Bullies (I really love the term) are out there and sometimes I can be one. I want to work to understand the points of those I disagree with and work to find a solution that helps the most students.
Perhaps too lofty a goal.