Growth Talk...

Dont Confuse Pace with Place”… Unknown

Summer is fast approaching for most school districts.  Many of the students are walking out of the building as stronger, more knowledgeable students.  As educators, our goal is to make sure that growth occurs, but how and when that growth happens is something that we have very little control over.  Throughout the course of the year, we confuse two words that are similar, but have very different meanings. 
It is tempting to confuse the pace of our teaching with the place where our students should end up.  Our pace is the rate at which we teach, but that measure is subjective at best.  We are presented pacing guides and expectations of mastery, but often times this gets in the way of the growth our students are actually experiencing. 
At this point, educators have to rest on the idea that pace and place are not one in the same.  Our students dont learn at the same pace, but we expect, that in the same time frame, they will ultimately complete their journey, arriving at the same place. 
This goal is an unrealistic one for so many reasons.  We are not building a culture of widgets or educating a generation of robots.  Students have different developmental levels and these must be addressed and understood.
The journey that our students take must be celebrated, based on growth and not the speed at which it happens.  Im not suggesting that we devoid ourselves of pacing guides and timelines, but I am encouraging the celebration of growth over the course of the year.  AS we receive the scores on the standardized tests, every student may not exceed the standard, but their journey of growth is certainly worth mentioning. 
As we reflect on each individual student, we must remember that a students pace may not be as swift.  We are in the business of celebrating growth and that is not determined by pace, but by the place each individual student ultimately ends up.   

Just Teach....?

Last week I had the opportunity to people watch while waiting for friends.  I overheard a conversation between two upcoming college graduates.  One asked the other what he was going to do when he graduated.  While this conversation doesn’t’ seem interesting to the average person, to me it was quite entertaining because he ran down all of his prospective opportunities first and then he said something that struck me as, well, odd.
He said, “If I’m not offered anything I like, I’ll just teach until I figure out what my next move will be.”
This was stunning to me as an educator because I was curious of what “just teaching” looked like.
I wanted to ask, but I thought that would be both odd and transparent at the same time.
One can’t just teach! Similar to other professions, there is a standard of excellence and that standard must be met in order to be considered a quality educator.
In essence, anyone can walk into a classroom and begin transferring information, but only a select few can command the attention of students, create connections, manage a classroom, engage parents, constantly interact with teammates, write lesson plans that hold students’ attention for more than five minutes, dry tears, encourage laughter, listen for meaningful conversations critical to learning, all while operating on a few hours of sleep and less than thirty minutes of lunch and down time.
In order to “just teach” you have to have the capacity to devoid yourself of concern for your students and empathy for your parents.
I wanted to jump in and suggest alternatives such as “try teaching” or “attempt to teach “instead of “just teach”.  However, no suggestion seemed quite right for this profession or his cavalier conversation.  Teaching is a calling, a profession that requires a bit more than want; it requires grit and staying power.  I’m sure he’ll learn that if he chooses teaching, but it’s my hope that he listens closely and if teaching doesn’t call, he shouldn’t answer.  You can   “just” when it comes to many things, but in my experience, you can’t “just teach”! 

The Sum Total of Our Experiences...

The child who is not embraced by the village will burn it down to feel its warmth.
~ African Proverb

The aforementioned quote speaks to a few of our more difficult students.  Many of the students that come to us during the year are the product of various teachers and even more teaching and learning styles.  These are the students that are apprehensive about learning and leading in the classroom environment. As an educator of over 14 years, I have seen this many times.  Students that don’t trust their teacher won’t trust the process.  If they don’t trust the process, then their ability to learn will be compromised.
Our village of educators must embrace these students in an effort to change the trajectory of their experiences.  As we learn our students, we grow to understand that their life experiences are the sum total of what they have encountered.  This statement simply means that as you learn your students and their stories, you see that their story contributes to the little person in front of you. 
In essence, as the proverb states, “a child who is not embraced by the village will burn it down to feel its warmth”.  Students seek attention as they yearn to be embraced by their village.  As an educator, we are the village that must embrace them. The amount of attention they seek varies, but if given, it will make for a much smoother transition.  Many times a little “warmth” goes a long way.  

Success and Survival...

Enter to Learn, Depart to ServeMary McLeod Bethune

In honor of the final day of Black History Month, my blog is dedicated to the most selfless educator that I know:  Mary McLeod Bethune.  I was introduced to her early on, and began to understand why she risked her life to educate children, specifically children of color.  She is most notably the woman known for erecting the college built on prayer, vowing to rebuild each time it was torn down. 

Bethune, like many early educators understood that learning was tied to survival.  Once a child learned how to read, the world could not contain them.  For as much as this is true, Bethune also coined the phrase, enter to learn, depart to serve.  As we break apart what Bethune is asking of students, we realize that she is requiring them to serve others with the same tenacity as she served them.  This tenacity is an unyielding one; one that is found in many educators.

Bethune understood the level of service required to educate children.  She took the responsibility of arming her students with the tools necessary for survival very seriously.  I am compelled this evening to ask myself and encourage you to ask yourself what tools you are arming your students with.
When they depart or leave your classroom to serve others in whatever capacity they desire, are they prepared?  On the eve of Read Across America and the heels of Black History Month, Im pondering that very question.  Have I armed my students with the tools they need to be successful this year?  Am I preparing them for success and survival?