Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Eyes Wide Open

     Glancing out my kitchen window on a hot summer evening, I stared through the approaching dusk at my neighbor's trees, mindlessly enjoying the scene.  Out of the corner of my eye I saw something fleeting.  I turned and looked carefully to try and confirm what I thought I had seen in my peripheral vision.  My heart jumped as I opened my eyes wide trying very hard to see in the increasing darkness.
     After waiting what seemed like minutes, I saw it again, but not where I expected it to be!  If there had been no intervening wall, I probably would have found myself running through the yard to try and follow it, just as I had many years ago as a child.

     If you haven't guessed what I saw, then you probably have never chased fireflies, or "lightning bugs" as we used to call them.  I don't see them as much any more, and when I do, there don't seem to be as many.

     The only other time I remember staring that hard was when my parents took my sisters and me to Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico.  We walked down to the bottom of the caverns on a tour.  I remember them turning out the lights creating the thickest, blackest darkness I have ever seen.  I was staring hard trying to see anything!   No matter how wide open my eyes were I could not even see my own hand in front of my face.

     When was the last time you looked that hard for something?  Have you ever looked that hard for something in the classroom?  How much time do we actually spend looking for those momentary 'aha' flashes that come from our students?  How many missed opportunities have we had because we haven't had our eyes wide open?
     It is easy to see negative things.  We all have found ourselves correcting students continually throughout the day: "Please get back in line", "Put your chair down", "Please keep your hands to yourself", "Go back and sit down", "Please stop talking".  The list can, and does, go on and on of ways we can find to correct students behavior, choices, and work in the classroom.

     What if we spent just as much, or even more time, and energy, looking for things for which we can praise students?  Looking for those moments of comprehension and understanding that might be just as fleeting as the flash of a firefly.  How powerful would it be if we responded to that flash at just the right moment, in just the right way, to encourage, support, and expand on their learning?

     Paul says in Philippians 4:8 "Finally brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things."

     Maybe I don't see as many fireflies as I used to because I am not outside looking for them with my eyes wide open.  This year I plan on being intentional in keeping my eyes wide open for my students.  How about you?


Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Dear Veteran Teacher Self

     This blog post is a result of a challenge thrown down by Aaron Hogan of Shattering the Perfect Teacher Myth during the #TeacherMyth chat three weeks ago. 

Dear Veteran Teacher Self,

     I am so excited to be teaching First Grade this year!  When I learned that I got the position, I called MY First Grade Teacher to share the good news!  I have a wonderful class of 18 sweet, smiling faces.  I don't know when I'll ever get their names right!  I have 2 Kevins, 2 Ashleys, 3 Joshuas, not to mention a handful of names that all begin with the letter J!  I will be stuttering all year long!

     The first of the year was fast and furious setting up rules, schedules, and getting to know my students.  Now that my days have begun to settle down to a routine, I am finding myself curious about what is going on in other classrooms.  When my students are working independently, I am tempted to, and often do, peek into the classrooms across the hallway.  I observed in numerous classrooms during my teacher training.  I learned all that I needed to know, right?  I've got this.  Maybe.

     My grade level team is awesome!  I am one of 3 brand new teachers on our team with 2 other experienced teachers.  I am always asking questions and love the fact that we plan together as a team!  The opportunity to collaborate makes me feel so supported.

     Here is the question.  If I am a trained, certified teacher, then why do I feel the desire to constantly ask questions and look into other classrooms?  Is it just a matter of not trusting myself, or is it something more?

                                                                                      Your First Year Teacher Self

Dear First Year Teacher Self,

     You've got this!  Please don't doubt yourself, although asking questions of yourself and others is a good way to learn.  Even thought you are a trained, certified teacher, you still have much to learn.  That is okay.  A teacher should never stop learning and growing.  You are in fact a lead learner.  Your students are going to learn so much from you.  And you are going to learn so much from others.

     You are going to learn from your students that relationships matter.  You will learn that 'Students won't care how much you know until they know how much you care'.  Make the most of those relationships.

     You are going to learn from your team members.  Collaboration is an awesome way to share ideas and make them your own.  Don't shy away from that.

     You are going to learn from your evaluations.  There will come a time that you will have an evaluation that will devastate you, make you cry.  You will be asked to observe another teacher and then take what you learn and have yet another evaluation.  Don't dwell on the failure, grow from it, get better.

     You are going to learn from trainings, workshops, and conferences.  Make connections with the presenters and others attendees.  That's called networking and it can be invaluable!  Don't be afraid to speak up.

     There will come a time when you will learn from something called Twitter.  When encouraged to join, don't drag your feet, just jump on in!  It will be like networking on steroids.  You will be able to make even more connections and build your own personal learning network, or PLN.  This PLN will support, challenge, encourage, and inspire you.  You will grow like you have never grown before.

     The reason you are curious and asking so many questions is because you want to be the best you can be for your students, and if there is a better way, you will find it.  Continue asking those questions, peeking in classrooms, and learning from others.  We are always better together!


                                                                                  Your Veteran Teacher Self