I’ve been back in the classroom for a few weeks now and couldn’t be happier – there’s joy everywhere I look: school is a place of hope, honesty, and purpose. In my last post I wrote about the idea of “going back to the classroom” from a district role – the metamessages in reactions, statements, and questions I noticed when I began telling people of my next journey.
This post comes as I slowly shift focus to my current perspective: a recovering helping teacher* practicing in the classroom with gratitude for two years of deep learning with colleagues and a monumental appreciation for the day-to-day experiences, relationship-building, and deep learning and practicing that comes with being in a classroom full-time. I’ve missed these aspects of being a classroom teacher, but I have also come to some realizations that I’d like to share with you all.
Here are three lessons learned that have made their way into my consciousness this month (this is probably the beginning). I’m hoping that fellow educators that are away from the classroom or returning to the classroom can relate:
1. Don’t take autonomy for granted.
There’s nothing more precious than being able to self-govern our practice. We’re able to represent, own, and take credit for our ideas while building on our learning through working with others. Hence, this is a generous gift. Autonomy does not mean we have the right to shut our doors to colleagues or administrators so we can keep doing what we do. As I mentioned in my last post – seeking, sharing, and challenging our perspectives is everything. It means we are able to develop a positive identity as individuals by realizing that with all the discussion about ideas and guidelines around curriculum, the intention should be about developing ourselves as practitioners (our competencies) rather than about conforming to what we think we are supposed to do or worse, what we think others want us to do.
2. It’s not always about optics. It can’t be.
It has been a hectic few weeks to say the least. To begin, I’m learning how to use our student information system MyEdBC (yes folks, I left the year MyEdBC was implemented), learning the (new) routines of my close-knit department, planning courses I’ve never taught, managing our school blogs again, and obviously getting to know my students.
I know the hectic feeling is not going to blow over; it’s not just going to go away; and it definitely isn’t going to be alleviated by someone else. This is one realization that has remained consistent for me: I can now iterate that our raison d’étre isn’t and can’t be about looking good, right, or perfect all the time – especially at the expense of others. Once I started checking in with my humanity (being patient with myself, being open with myself and others about my challenges, being honest with those around me about my thoughts and feelings), I found that what I had tried to control and/or avoid because of optics was more about my selfish self-preservation than those that I served.
3. Others’ learning isn’t mine to take and represent, but I can sure step aside and give them a voice.
Yes, I’m proud of my students and their learning, just like I am proud of my colleagues’ continued learning now and when I was a helping teacher. However, the more and more I think about what I post of my students’ learning and my practice the more I question if I have the right to fully edit and communicate what they are learning and have learned.
I don’t believe that I have the right to tell learners’ journeys for them – however, I can empower them by building relationships and providing genuine opportunities to share and build on their learning with others. If we all have platforms to communicate, curate, and compile our learning on our own, we can share authentically.
Last school year’s Food for Thought series and the CSLcamp36 series in 2016 were built on the philosophy above. During the two years in my role as a helping teacher, we developed a network of teachers that were interested (or at least initially curious) in moving their practices along with regards to assessment, curriculum design, and communicating student learning (CSL). Colleagues came from all areas of learning and eventually the core group of about 200 secondary teachers tackled vague ministry guidelines, created CSL working groups, and shared enthusiastically with our larger community. As expected, what I learned from crafting these experiences was that appropriating the learning of others and sharing their stories through my lens does not build capacity. It is not my right to edit or tell someone else’s story to others – but we have opportunities as educators to empower learners to share their stories by creating experiences where they can do just that. Ultimately, Food for Thought’s intent was to be those experiences.
Finally, this long-winded reflection connects to one of my own learning intentions for the year: to create the conditions for students to experiment with their own ways of representing learning by developing their skills in communicating learning first hand, not through my lens.
Another midnight musing going into my second month back in the classroom. I hope you’ve all enjoyed sharing in this evening’s scattered thoughts!