This Saturday I spent my whole day, away from my family so that I could fill my educational bucket. From the moment I walked into Riverside Church to hear Diane Ravitch ignite the flame that would fuel us through the day, all they way until now, my head is swimming with amazing ideas for practice and sharing! So where should I begin? I can think of no better place than to begin with the end. A closing address from Kathy Collins. Sadly I missed this speech because the bus we took had a different plan.
Fortunately however, through the power of Twitter I was able to find so many inspirational words. Those words capped the day for me and brought it all together so I should frame my ideas on the Teacher’s College Reading and Writing Project Saturday Reunion with them:
-Kathy Collins told us that we need to find our people, our fellow teachers, and that we should be encouraging/clapping for one another. We should be doing this beyond one day, but every day. Share, laugh, cry, create, explore, learn and build a better world with your fellow teachers, administrators, and staff members.
-Remember that your students are children. It is not enough to get students to “the next level”, but to help children become great people. Too often we forget that these students in our classroom are so much more. As educators we say “know the students in your class” but I think we need to do more than that. Knowing students means we know their academic tendencies. Instead we need to “know the children in our class”. Knowing the children means we understand their interests, struggles, and what drives them. This year I have known my students very well, but I did not feel like I started to know my children until much later in the year. I feel that now, and I see a difference in my class!
-Finally, and perhaps my favorite message of the entire day, “The universal pleasure of being a teacher is seeing kids and the lovely, crazy, funny things they do.” In every possible way this defines the attitude of great teachers. While sometimes we laugh, cry or complain about all of the outrageous things that happen within the four walls of our classrooms, would you rather be anywhere else? There is no more exhilarating moment than closing the door and losing yourself in the process that helps children grow. Children are precious, remarkable, and amazing. Every teacher lives for those moments where your students get it. That “ah ha” moment, even when rare, is enough to sustain you on any day.
From the end, now to the beginning. Diane Ravitch set the stage for a great day of learning. Diane has been one of the most outspoken defenders of public education. She is incredibly intelligent and well read on the topic. While I do not subscribe to every single thing she says, I do love a number of her messages. My first tweet from the conference was echoed by nearly a dozen other people. “I have yet to meet the child who learned to read because his school was closed.” We are the first, and in many cases, last line of defense between children and a life of isolation, poverty, and emptiness. While that may seem to be a major responsibility (and it is), we, educators, are that important. We must band together collectively, work together and build a better education for children. Our schools are not perfect, but schools are never perfect. They cannot be fixed, they cannot be reformed. They are ever-changing, evolving, institutions. The concept of reform is what has allowed things to get stagnant and cause many of the concerns that people have about school. Much of those concerns are glorified for the benefit of others, but regardless, we as educators should be coming together, collaborating, and enhancing education for all of our students, and for students to come. Finally, while schools continue to experience instability and chaos, we need to create stability and routine for students to grow. There is a difference however from stability and being stagnant. A school can offer stability, routine, and safety for students without eliminating the desire to take risks, introduce new things, and embrace constant self-reflective practices to effect change.
Well over 3,000 educators packed into the halls of Columbia University on a beautiful Saturday. I met people in sessions from as far away as Virginia, and read tweets from people attending that came from as far away as Maine! The dedication of these educators is a testament to how amazing teachers are, and how much they care about their craft. This was not something anyone was paid to attend, and the college offered it to us for free! Thousands of teachers, young and old, running up and down stairs, cramming the occasional snack as they crammed as much knowledge as they could to bring back with them. How many people who are not teachers would volunteer their time, give up a Saturday with their families (this was the first day I did not see my child awake in her whole 18 month life) to enhance their ability at work. I salute the members of my profession. I commend those who joined me at the Saturday Reunion. Like Kathy Collins, I believe I have found “my people” and I have left refilled, rejuvenated, and inspired to help others find their people and then make sure we are all clapping for each other. We deserve it!
My thoughts from each Saturday Reunion Session I was fortunate enough to attend will be upcoming! Way too much info to share in one post.