Again, I’m working smarter, not harder and using this post as an assignment in the course I am taking. Our job is to: Consider one timeline event that falls within your teaching career. Why did you include this event in your timeline? How did this event impact your teaching?
So, looking back at my timeline blog, this sentence was in my last paragraph @ 5 Decades, 6 Schools, and 1 Dedicated Teacher.
Leading and learning with the adults that surround your kids is just as important as leading and learning daily with your students. Teaching in a silo-especially when you are good at it–is like living in a well, deep and cold.
I have spent much of my career thinking about teaching in a silo. I have spent much of it thinking about making connections across classrooms, grades, schools, localities and even the world. I have been building a PLN my whole career, and my PLN and the connections I have through it are a critical and crucial part of my career, I think. It is with my PLN that I often think deeply, question, learn tons, question, collaborate, question, get new ideas, question, find new resources, share and question. My PLN spans the globe right now, but even when it was just in a building, that sentence is true–leading and learning with the adults is JUST as important as doing it with your students.
I originally included this comment about leading and learning with the adults in my building in my timeline because it is central to who I am as a teacher. However, revisiting it has made me realize there’s another piece to it as well–connections.
Just as kids want to connect to others, wanting to belong, so do adults. In fact, our adult identities are often wrapped up in who we connect with as we grow up. Our work is often connected to who we connect with at work, because as adults, we STILL want to belong–we want to be accepted, liked and honored for who we are, and we want to interact with people who help us be better people.
The experience of writing on the Cooperative Catalyst blog, and the power of building and being a member of a PLN outside of my building, my county, my state, and even my nation has made me look not only at my own practice differently, but also my own life. I am more committed than ever to teaching adults as I do my students–with all of my heart and in ways that impact upon their hearts.
I learned a long time ago to stay out of the gossip mill in the school–so I am often the last to hear of news anywhere–kids moving, people having babies or getting married, teachers transferring or switching grades, etc.
I learned a long time ago to be careful about being too bullheaded and ticking people off, because you never know when you’ll change schools and that person may be there, too, in a different position where your past behavior may come back at you in a not-so-pleasant way.
I learned a long time ago that parents talk among themselves and even when they have promised not to share whatever you said, you cannot count on that, so don’t.
I learned a long time ago that if you try to stay in your silo, that isolation backfires on you, EVERY time.
So, if you don’t gossip, you’re not interested in making your school colleagues your out-of-school friends, and you don’t belong to a team per se, how do you NOT live in that silo?
You lead and learn with the adults. You try to connect in many ways, keeping in mind that the personal connections are always the most powerful. You support them every way you can and you always, always be nice. One thing to remember, as a resource teacher, in dealing with a staff is that their personal lives are the most important thing to them–so always, always, make that your most important thing with them as well. Realize that you may be concerned about the schedule, but if their kid is sick, they won’t care about your schedule. If you call them with a question when they are lining their kids up, they can’t think about it. And, if you want to have a deep conversation that includes theory or research, perhaps it’s best to make an appointment.
The people I most connect with most easily and most deeply are really intense people who think a lot. Those are the kind of people with whom I do my best leading and learning. They’re mostly teachers, as that’s who I am. I have lived most of my life in a classroom (as both a student and teacher) and while I LOVE interacting with my students, they move on–they grow up, go to other teachers, move on in their lives, as well they should. I have changed schools before simply because I didn’t have a connection with other adults. . .and I move to schools where I know the principal will “get” me–an intense, smart person who has high expectations for myself and everyone around me.
I’ve loved the years I’ve had someone in my building that really understands gifted education, who really asks hard questions, who doesn’t mind struggling in ambiguity for a while before coming to clarity in determining conceptual ideas or essential questions or planning big units. Those people are rare. But those conversations rejuvenate me, they stimulate me and they help me grow. That having a critical friend, one who has unconditional support while also modeling unconditional critique is unparalleled in helping a person grow. I’ve felt very blessed when I’ve had that experience.
Just as kids need like-minded and appropriate peers, so do teachers. I’ve only had a couple of times I had a person in my building who really enjoyed intense conversations about theory and practice as much as I do. (I can’t even imagine what I’d be like if I’d had that most of my career.) I’ve often wondered if that’s why so many of our bright young teachers leave–no appropriate peers to make school a thinking, stimulating place to come each day.
I’m a big kid now, and while I’m involved in some great online conversations that completely challenge me at times, I still need a thought-provoking friend in my building. I’m actually feeling like my kids right now–I’m wishing schools would take into account providing that critical friend for all kinds of teachers, too, so that none of us would even be tempted to teach in a silo. Just as we carefully place kids in classrooms each summer, so should we place teachers to be their best–and that may mean clustering, just as research shows works with our kids. As I make my recommendations for class placements, I think about silos–and not creating them for kids in a classroom. I wish people doing the adult hiring for schools could do the same.
(update: July 18, 2010–a blogger who wrote about similar needs: Dynamic Reflection)