The Island Revisited

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Teaching is hard.  Let me say that again, teaching is hard.

 

 

Let that sink in for a minute.

 

 

Teaching is so hard, that as a nation and even much of the globe turns its attention to vilifying educators and the profession, it has become increasingly stressful.  We see teachers not only fleeing the profession, but pouring gasoline on the pile and tossing a lit matchbook behind them on the way out.  It seems like every week we hear about another teacher “calling it quits” over the stress and struggles of daily life in the classroom.  Why is this?

There are many possibilities, but two jump out at me.  The first, which is almost certainly true for most, is that preservice teachers don’t always get to see/hear the truth upon entering the profession.  So for those of you thinking about teaching, here is the blunt, brutal truth:

Teaching is stressful, there is way more to do than there is time.  Teaching drains your emotions, every class has more sad stories than a Chicken Soup book.  Teaching isn’t valued, everyone says they love “their child’s teacher/school” but rarely do people truly apply that value across the profession.  Teaching is lonely and often you will be unsupported, looking for solutions to problems you couldn’t imagine, with no one to guide you.

The next possibility is that our educators are on an island.  Each and everyone of us finds ourselves alone at some point.  We are alone with students, alone in our doubts or worries, and alone in our decisions for the best intentions of our students.  In schools with great cultures (often promoted and cultivated by great leaders) teachers rarely feel alone.  Unfortunately, even in great schools there are pockets of isolation.  In other schools, there are vacuums.

What can be most disheartening and overwhelming as an educator is not that there are problems in education.  There have always been problems in education.  It is instead, the greatest trouble is when the promise that we are working to make things better feels violated.  When we become isolated from one another we start to lose the joy in sharing, the power of collaborating, and the hope that strong bonds can create.

One of the greatest struggles for an educator is dealing with being alone.  When you are alone you don’t have anyone with which to share your triumphs and struggles.  When you are alone you will second guess yourself, your stress will build, and your enjoyment will fade.  Being alone in the profession leaves educators increasingly distressed, without hope that things will get better in far too many cases.

Instead, now more than ever, we need to reach out to one another.  We need to find our people.  Find them outside the walls of your school and find them within.  Reach out to people, be there for them, mentor them.  In turn, find mentors for yourself, find people with whom you can develop relationships that guide your experiences.  Being alone seems to be so easy for educators.  We close our doors, we shut out the world, and we get to work.  That trend of forced isolation needs to stop, not for the empowered few, but for the every day educator.  What are you doing to build up others around you?  What are you doing to help people off their islands?  Too many educators are left on their islands, starving for mentors, starving for hope that what we are doing is making a difference.  Are you giving it to them?

Why I Lead #SAVMP 1

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I have been told many times, by many different people, that leadership is not based upon a title, but upon your actions.  So, while I have yet to take a titled leadership position, I find myself leading in many ways.  This year, upon reflection I realized I needed to increase my focus on leading within my own school.

Over the past two years I have taken the easier path of developing my leadership in the broader educational community.  I consider this to be an easier route, because the majority of those I was working with were willing participants.  Leadership is easy when those around you are interested in going in the same direction.  By contrast, within my school there are many more difficult challenges to overcome.  While I do work with amazing people and with amazing kids, the willingness to trust, learn new things, and take chances is not what I find in the areas I have worked most actively in the past.

In leading from within my own walls, I have come to realize a new understanding.  I lead because it is anticipatory, because it is about driving to make both myself and my school the best it can be.  I see the alternative as being reactionary, waiting for my students or school to struggle before seeking the solution to come from somewhere else.  I lead because I fail to see why anyone would want to wait for that solution.  I know that in doing so, I will occasionally take a wrong path, but that path still leads me closer to finding success for the children I serve.

Ultimately, I don’t think leadership has been my choice.  I have never been content to allow the winds to blow me where they may.  Thus, I have frequently sought out ways to improve myself and those around me.  Leadership is about actions, and in taking more actions to create a better classroom and a better school for kids and adults, I feel as though I am actually doing my job.

A Magical Feeling

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While I often share about my experience, my view points, and my kids, today I am going to simply talk about me.  Today I am going to spend just a moment to share in my own personal excitement.

All of us have hopes, dreams, and things we want to accomplish in our lives.  Those bucket list items vary in size and achievability, but regardless of what they are, there is nothing more amazing than being able to check one off.

Last week I was able to check off one of my biggest personal dreams.  Since I was in elementary school I always thought about writing a book.  I even once attempted a novel in college only to find out that:  1. it was 10 pages long because I was so excited for the big finale I forgot to write a book, and 2. it had essentially the same plot as “A Beautiful Mind” a story I had previously been unfamiliar with at the time.

When I started working with children and learning about children’s literacy, I realized that books that boys would enjoy from ages 8-11 were sparse at best.  I was inspired by some wonderful books in the genre as well as by the kids with whom I spent my day.

Several years ago I wrote a book.  I looked into the publishing process only to find out that getting companies to read your manuscript was highly unlikely and thus gave up on that dream.  I would still pull the book out every year to read it with kids, make adjustments, and then put it away again.

Two years ago I read the book to my class and the support staff member in my room enjoyed it.  I asked if she would draw pictures for it knowing how talented she was and that she would enjoy it.  When I saw her work I was speechless.  When I found out I could easily have someone (y42k publishing) I was beyond excited.

Now, after having gone through such a long process, filled with setbacks, excitement, and frustrations, I have my very own book.  It is a real thing, available for purchase on Amazon like all other things on earth…

It has my name on the cover (along with my amazing illustrator Billee Nicosia -want illustrations, I bet you can hire her!) and a life long goal has been achieved.  There is something absolutely magical, inspiring, and empowering about reaching for a dream and then holding it in your hands.  Its a feeling I wish for everyone, and I had to share it!