"Let us move forward with boldness and not retreat back into the comforts of the past." - David March
Content passion + Professional passion + Personal passion = an engaging teacher that inspires students to be passionate as well.
My problem with blogging is the same problem I have in many other areas. As a passionate learner, I tend to have so many things I want to do and say that I often struggle to translate that knowledge into solid action. Every time I feel like I have a good topic to blog on, I wind up trying to say everything all in the first paragraph.
This week while checking out the #TIA17 event via Twitter, I stumbled upon several tweets by Ashley Hankins a 5th grade teacher from Denton ISD. I have long been a fan of the things going on in Denton, so it was no surprise to see their teachers sharing great takeaways from the things Dave Burgess was sharing and more. I have read many of the Dave Burgess Publishing list and would consider myself a fan of the energy and message that Dave has been spreading.
I loved the tweet above because it is such an accurate formula for success. It is also exactly why educators get so burned out they start looking forward to those much needed school holidays. And it is also why I love the start of a new school year. Revived from several weeks of time off and professional learning done throughout the summer new and experienced teachers look forward to getting to start from scratch with a new batch of students. Eager to establish norms and get in a routine, the energy of educators during the back to school stretch is invigorating.
I work all summer, so I miss that excitement of a new start but our teachers give me added energy upon their return. My dream has always been a way to capture this time of year and be able to infuse the energy back into our teachers at those key times in the year when they need it most. I have yet to find a successful formula, but I refuse to give up, and I am for this to be the best year ever for our teachers and students.
So how do we go about supporting and growing the passion teachers have at the start of the year, so it can be sustained long term. Dave's recipe is spot on and the problem is during the year, teachers will go through things that make it hard to keep up the passion in all three areas. Whether it be the stress of a test impacting their content passion, or a lack of training or support weakening their professional passion, the reality is that everyone will go through stretches where they lose parts of the formula. We have to be intentional about how we refuel each of these passion buckets.
Content Passion - All teachers have certain parts of their curriculum that are more interesting than others. This is where I think the ability for teachers to collaborate with other departments would be helpful. When you get "stuck in a rut" struggling to find a better way to teach that material that is less than your favorite, reach out to others in your building for a new perspective. Look for ways to bring that topic to life, find an expert and have them spend some time with you and your students. Thinks like Skype in the classroom or Nepris, or even a Flipgrid asynchronous collaborative activity with another class could all be ways to bring new life to a topic that you don't naturally get excited to teach. This could be an entire blog post by itself, but be sure to look outside the norm when you get in a content rut.
Professional Passion - This one is probably my biggest frustration point. As a district wide employee I see a lot of different things from campus to campus, and also outside of our district. The daily grind and expectations put on teachers really can make it tough to keep up the positive attitude. But with that said, this is also one of the best parts of being in a school or district community. So often all it really takes is a few kind words or a little added support to really make a difference. If everyone in the building looked to lift up someone else each day, it would do wonders for the morale and professional passion. Teachers are passionate about learning, but they need time to do so and when given that time, they need to know they are going to have time to really grow. Administrators can do a lot by simply giving some flexibility in learning opportunities and limiting unnecessary face to face time for meetings and such. If we want this to be the best year ever, we ALL must be diligent in providing the support and guidance to all teachers, but especially our new teachers. This is the one thing that tends to break down as a school year goes on and everyone gets wrapped up in trying to keep up. So work hard to seek out ways to make this a priority this year.
Personal Passion - Teachers come from all backgrounds and have different personal passions. It is important for teachers to be able to get away and focus on those passions from time to time. If you are taking papers home to grade every night or constantly looking for that perfect lesson, you will neglect things that are important to your well being. I would love to find some examples of districts that let their teachers take some time during staff development days or other times in a school year to explore some of their personal passions and find ways to tie that into their classes. Combine this with the idea of cross content collaboration and some really powerful learning experiences for teachers and students could be born.
In the end the hope is the reality is this school year will be the best year ever for many teachers and students. It will also be less than perfect for many others. How are we going to go about doing our part to lift each other up this year? How are we going to sustain this at the times when it is most difficult? How are we going to know when someone really needs to be checked on because things are going south? I don't have an answer for all of this, other than to say, I am hoping that some of the things yet to come in this blog will do just that for some of our teachers and any others that may read it through the year. I would love to hear about some of the ways you take care of yourself and those you work with.
Alone we will fail, but together we are strong.
That is the one certainty in education, I look forward to growing my support system this year, as I aim to be the leader our teachers need.