For many of us, the new school year is gearing up, just around the corner, or recently begun. While there are many things we do that should remain in our lessons or classroom, there are plenty that need to go. If you follow other educators on Twitter, then you may have noticed this as a reoccurring theme for the last month or so. I am not entirely sure where I developed my own sense of oppositional defiance, but I have quite the aversion to doing things like everyone else. In fact, I have a hard time even considering it. I’m constantly on the lookout for how to do things better. To that end, let’s evaluate some of these that I’ve structured around my three class rules, adopted from those of my late father, David Ingalls, educator extraordinaire. We can all do better during this school year without learning a new method or tech, though we will likely have to become uncomfortable. Are you ready? Here we go!
Politeness never goes out of style. As teachers, we need to cultivate politeness in our students and in ourselves. We do not have to personally like every single person we work with or every student we teach, but everyone should believe that we like them. I understand that this is easier said than done on some days and with some people, but we need to be the grown up and sell it to every student that they are treasured, valued, and important in our classrooms this year. Sell it. By the same token, I challenge us all to sell it to every adult we work with that they are treasured, valued, and important to the work we all do. Take the high road when others don’t. Smile when you don’t feel like it. Stop and listen, truly listen, when a student wants to tell you about the new game they discovered, the new level they conquered on an old game, how cute their cat is, (Yes, I love the Oxford comma) or how their ballgame ended the previous night. If a staff member needs a safe place to vent, be that. Let them vent, calmly remind him or her of the positives, and redirect the focus to solutions not problems, and under no circumstances repeat the rantings of their bad moment. Be Vegas for them. I understand that it may seem impossible because the teacher down the hall is almost exclusively focused on negatives, and little Sally lies to her parents and is impossible in class, but we can do this. We’re at the foot of the mountain. Let’s climb.
To help in our plan to spread our own politeness, we need to be quick to encourage others. We should promptly provide feedback when students are doing well, doing the right thing, and trying hard to achieve mastery of manners and of content. The feedback should be prompt when students fall short of the mark as well. The faculty and staff we work with deserve our prompt thanks, praise, and appreciation. Let’s continue to brainstorm ways to pat others on the back and let them know we appreciate their efforts, the attempts and the failures, and then let’s tweet out and share how we succeeded and how we failed. My friend, Krista Penrod, (@ItsMrsPenrod) wrote a blog post about failures and tweeting them out in July called Would You Tweet a #Fail? What better way to be learning from each other than modeling what we preach to students? We are no longer teaching on an educational metaphorical island. No longer teaching in isolation. We are most definitely #BetterTogether. Baby steps.
Throughout the warm days, cool days, and the brutally hot and cold days of this school year, we all need to be prepared to try new things. We need to experiment, to challenge ourselves, find a hobby we enjoy, and indulge our passions. We can’t expect students to learn and be curious if we teachers do not model it or have an interest in learning new things. How can we expect students to challenge themselves, to develop a passion for learning, and to experiment with new ideas, methods, and technologies if we refuse to do so ourselves? Be prepared this year to fail in front of your students. Let them watch how you handle it. Be prepared to establish a safe environment for risk taking. There are plenty of educators on Twitter talking about this in chats, blogs, and in daily tweets. It’s not a novel concept in general, but the teacher as a failure is not something most of us are comfortable with as a general rule, if we are that teacher. But then, that’s the point isn’t it? This is a status quo that really must go. Students can lead and teach, and teachers can learn and discover. Technology, love it or hate it, has opened the world up for all of us, not just our students. We can watch webinars and attend conferences from the comfort of our living room (THANKS, Matt Miller!-Ditch Summit and Ditch That Conference). We can bring professionals into our classrooms to speak to our students without the need for travel. We can be social without leaving our homes. It’s a new and changing world, and we need to grow and change with it. Keep climbing.
Be Defiant (not one of my dad’s class rules…)
It’s a new school year, so let’s change the status quo. It starts with us. Let’s make positive noise, learn new things, and dare to try and fail. It’s hard to climb mountains alone, so it’s a really good thing we don’t have to anymore. Grow your PLN so that regardless of what mountain you choose to climb this year, you have someone to pack the right sandwiches, encourage every agonizing step up the trail you take, and help you up when you fall face first into a snow drift. Sure those drifts look scary, and they are cold and wet, but you can do this. You’ve found your tribe. Now let’s climb together. We got this!