Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Loving Our Students
I think one of my favorite conversations from today was with a student that I had to see for a discipline issue.

The student sat across from me, and sized me up. There isn't anything quite like being sized up by a skeptical fourth grader. As we talked he regarded me with much disdain, and through the initial discourse it was clear that he was sizing me up, and seeing if he could engage me in a power struggle. When it was clear that I would not go down that path, he tried a different tact. He launched into a decent monologue about how I must not like him. I was honest with the child, I told him I barely knew him given that I had only been an administrative intern in the building a few short weeks. But I also told him something else. I told him that while I certainly did not approve of the behavior that landed him in the office with me that afternoon, it did not impact my ability to love him.

At first he seemed skeptical. Then I shared with him a few things. First, that as a mom there are definitely times when I am frustrated by the choices that my own children make, but those choices do not cause me to love my children any less. He conceded that, that was possible, but that it was because they were my kids; so I continued. I showed him a picture that I had, of a former student and I together. I asked him what he saw in the picture. To which he replied, "You like that kid a lot; I can tell because of the way you both are smiling." I said, "You're right I do like that kid a lot! I love that student. But you might also be surprised to know that last year that student really struggled in school, he had a really hard time, and there were behaviors that I didn't approve of. Does it look like I love him any less?" He couldn't argue, and suddenly the sullen boy sitting across from me dropped his shoulders, and relaxed. Yes, it is possible to detest a particular behavior, to have to impart consequences, but it is also possible to continue to love the child.

I think one of the most important things that we can do for children is to have high expectations for learning and behavior. The other is to treat them with compassion, and to love them. Many are fighting a battle we know nothing about.

An Opportunity

I have been given a pretty amazing opportunity. This year I spend Monday thru Thursday morning, and all day Friday teaching in an Integrated Co-Taught classroom, and on Monday thru Thursday afternoons I am an administrative intern in another elementary building in my District. This came about through the tireless efforts of my Assistant Superintendent Dr. Maureen Patterson, and my amazingly supportive Superintendent, Dr. Mark Potter. Being split between buildings, and carrying out the roles and responsibilities that are required of each position is challenging, but it is also worth it. This unique opportunity is stretching me and growing me as an educator, and as a leader. I have the opportunity to see education through different lenses, and to gain a greater understanding of how our organization functions as a whole. I feel like this whole experience is Fullan's theory of action, The Six Secrets of Change, put into practice. In his book, Fullan talks about these Six Secrets:

  • Love Your Employees
  • Connect Peers With Purpose
  • Capacity Building Prevails
  • Learning is The Work
  • Transparency Rules
  • Systems Learn

I certainly feel that I have been given the opportunity to learn continuously, have purposeful peer interactions, develop new competencies and new motivation, and learn while doing the work. All of this is incredibly satisfying. Far more so than I would have anticipated, and I'm only a few short weeks in. I am grateful for this amazing opportunity, and am looking forward to the year ahead.


I would be remiss if I did not take the time to mention another individual that has made this amazing opportunity possible, and that is my teaching partner Jeannine Oliver.

Jeannine and I have worked together for a number of years, and over that time have really learned how to maximize our instruction and play off our strengths. We balance one another, and over the years have really found a rhythm that works for us and for our students. I owe my teaching partner, Jeannine Oliver, a great deal. I am certainly a better teacher for having had the opportunity to work with her so closely. You would be hard pressed to find a more dedicated, and tireless advocate for students than Jeannine. More than that, over the last three years she has been one of my strongest supporters. Thank you, Jeannine! I couldn't have done this without you!

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Grassroots Teacher Leaders

Nate Perry Elementary has always been like home to me. I began teaching there in 2003, and over the years my colleagues have become like family. They have been with me through everything, professionally and personally. They inspire me and challenge me, to be more, and to do more. In the last few years, many of the staff members that I began my career with have retired. I look around, and suddenly find myself one of the more veteran members of our staff. With that comes the realization that there are, or will soon be, people looking to me the way that I looked towards more seasoned members of our staff not so long ago. I looked up to these individuals not only because of their instructional expertise but also because of the way that they engaged the different members of the learning community. I looked to them to see how they interacted with colleagues and what norms had been established for our learning community. I looked to them for guidance and support, both formally and informally. All of this well before there was much mention of the role of teacher leaders. Teacher leadership seemed natural. It wasn't a specific job, title or role. It was something these individuals just assumed naturally. It grew out of the love they had for their profession, their students, and for one another. In our desire to promote teacher leadership, let's not forget the importance of this grassroots sort of leadership.