Tuesday, October 9, 2012

My Easy Hard Decision.

It’s odd how difficult it can be to make the easiest decisions – what to cook for a special dinner, which movie to watch, what to wear to a daughter’s wedding.  But the hard ones, the ones that change your life, are often easy.

I recently made the easy hard decision to step down from my district position and return to the classroom.  In many ways, it was more difficult to leave the classroom in the first place where I felt daily that my work was making a difference for students.  However, given the opportunity, I believed, more than four years ago now, that I could support more students by supporting the work of many teachers.  At first, I thought that I was helpful when I shared “good practice.”  In retrospect, I was as green as the young teacher who came to me in tears with her binder of meticulously prepared lessons:  despite her hard work, she said, the students wouldn’t listen. Of course they wouldn’t - her lessons had nothing to do with the students in front of her.

I eventually came to realize (thank goodness) that my job wasn’t to “fix” teachers or to show them the “right” way (armed with my well-organized binder and slick presentations of research-based practice), but to support them with the resources, in-service, tools they told me they needed and to advocate on committees, in meetings, to the board for what they told me was important.  A short list of key things teachers have repeatedly said were necessary:
  • To feel heard, appreciated, valued, cared about, supported, encouraged, inspired, included.
  • Collaborative networks to exchange ideas and develop learning/leading partnerships.
  • Time in the work day to work and learn together, to incorporate new strategies and ideas, to reflect and plan, to share and ponder.  
  • Well-organized information so they can easily find resources, support, ideas, connections to colleagues whenever they need them wherever they are.
So much energy and resources are spent everywhere in education to change it.  But it seems to me that change is easy.  People change all the time.  And teachers in classrooms certainly deal with change every day. Working with thirty to 120 students each day is not like sorting grommets or writing reports – every day is another change.  It’s exhausting work.  Ask them to do one more thing - tell them to use a different test, another set of strategies, go to five more workshops, write different things on their boards - and watch the doors close.  Give teachers (educated, thoughtful, caring individuals) some time to think together, the simple support they need so they can focus on students, value their input and their strengths – and watch schools transform.

I’ll be in a classroom with my fingers crossed.

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