I recently had a conversation with a first year teacher that caused me to reflect on the value of struggle in learning. It isn't a new concept, but the balance of making a learning activity challenging but still attainable is a tricky slope. Some educators fall down the slope, trying so hard to make students struggle that they get caught up in trying to be the tough teacher, and then forget that it isn't about us. If an entire class does poorly on a test, that isn't a valuable struggle. It's poor test writing, didn't assess what was taught, or a combination of both. That slope is a tough one to master, but just like that gritty Russian grizzly cub in the YouTube video that went viral, we have to keep climbing.
In the spirit of #GratitudeSnaps, the #4OCFpln Voxer group decided to do a joint blog post about all the things we are thankful for now that Halloween is in the rear view, and Thanksgiving is just a couple curves away. Our individual author information is listed prior to each post. I'll kick it off on my site with my post, so grab a snack or refreshment, get comfy, and enjoy the reflections of our group.
I had a student recently complain that the quiz website I wanted everyone to take their quiz on was "not working." I know that most everyone else in class was on the website taking the vocabulary quiz, so that meant the issue was with that student's Chromebook. "Did you restart your computer?" I asked when she told me the quiz website wasn't working. "Sure." I turned my teacher eye on her. "Did you really? Off then on?" "Uhgggg!" She groaned. "That will take a whole 12 seconds!"
This is a phrase we have all heard before, or at least I assume we have. It is usually uttered when we have reached that pivotal point where we have had enough. As I think about it, I am sure I have thought, if not uttered, those very words to or about a classroom of students. This. Is. The. Last. Straw. But it isn't and never will be. Not for me. If I reach that point, I take a deep breath and ponder, not my life's choices up to that moment, but all of the choices I made leading up to and during the class that brought me to those words. That phrase. Did I, at any point, consider the Last Straw my students may be facing? Maybe sometimes, but generally, not in that moment. No, when we reach that point, typically, we are all about ourselves.
Q1: What are way we can build bridges instead of barriers to foster collaboration with colleagues inside and outside of our building or district?
Growing up, my dad always had a few cows, chickens, and the occasional pig or rhea (he liked to take risks outside of education too). He was a high school teacher by day, a farmer by evening/night and any spare minute he had available, and a preacher on Sundays and Wednesdays (and I wonder where my propensity for being a Mad Hatter, aka multiple hat wearer, comes from). Dad decided one day that we needed fresh eggs. He grew up on a farm in Louisiana, so he bought chickens and a rooster. My brother, sister, and I thought of these new additions to our small farm as pets, so we named them. My parents, though, named the rooster. His name was Cocky Locky, a name that still drives a shot of fear into my heart when I hear it (or think about it as I write this).
Over winter break last year, I decided to take a dirt bike ride up the educational mountain of flexible seating, so I brought in a few pieces of my mom’s furniture and removed 18 desks from my classroom. My mom had recently downsized from a 2400 square foot house to a 910 square foot apartment. She had some furniture that I could use, so I did. Pushing those desks out into the hall was more difficult than I imagined. It wasn’t the physical exertion that was difficult. It was the letting go of tradition and status quo. Letting go and venturing into the unknown.
Often in education we struggle. Did I say often? I mean always. There is struggle in education. It isn't the kind of job that you go to daily, do the same thing, get into a routine geared toward efficiency, and put yourself on autopilot. We can get very good at what we do, but there are oh so many times that we just utterly crash and burn. Teaching is hard.
So, I took my daughter to her college town today. She had an apartment reserved with a security deposit, and today, August 1st, was the first day she could move in, so she did. This is her third year in college, but it will be her very first year in this town, at this particular university, and her first experience at living on her very own in an apartment with a roommate.
This is not your regular blog post. After all, the blog is Rockin' The Boat, so if I don't bust out of even those preconceived blog post parameters every now and then, I'm not doing my job and would need to re-title this blog and rethink my life.