Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Pursuing Growth and Health


For the majority of educators, putting themselves "out there" becomes a common job requirement. Presenting a lesson after a new haircut, tripping in front of students, or just plain starting a new year all require a sort of jumping out of your comfort zone. As new priorities, dictates, and research come down the pipe, the majority of educators are observed and evaluated much more frequently than in the past and have revised both content and pedagogical directions of their classrooms drastically. On top of that, educators are facing a myriad of critics: everyone from parents and politicians to strangers and comedians on social media have an opinion on changes to education. 

However, it's not like educators are necessarily more comfortable with putting themselves forward for critique or potential rejection than the non-education population. I have seen educators refuse to go to a professional development without knowing someone that will be at the session. I have heard many educators refuse to revise lessons with changing curriculum or testing because the current rumblings in politics lead them to mistrust the validity and consistency of those changes. 

As for myself, I am consistently seeking out those "leave my comfort zone" opportunities. I have honed my interview skills, reflected, researched, and practiced- and failed. Spectacularly. Embarrassingly. Painfully. 

Even as I write this, I know what to say to myself- so? Suck it up. It's part of growth; it's all a learning experience. Every failure is just the chance to grow. It's your 20's....they are supposed to suck. What kind of model are you to students if you are not approaching failure as a chance to grow?

That's all true, but I just coming back to the idea from Dave Stuart Jr.'s e-book "Never Finished"- no teacher starts out burnt out. NO ONE. 

So, backpedaling a bit, what can individuals do to prevent burnout and what can system-level organizations do to build up professionals? Here, have some info-graphics! 


In a nutshell, make sure you are prioritizing your long-term growth, and not just professionally. 

While I am a big fan of personal responsibility in creating healthy careers, I think all organizations, schools, and professional development opportunities should take a serious look at their applicant process. Specifically...
Whether you are selecting students for a writing competition, or one day hiring candidates, you have the power to build people into leaders or contribute to bitterness and burnout. Be sensitive.

Love and light,
-Ms. L
  

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Mercury Retrograde

Credit: the internet search for "Mercury Retrograde"
It's been a pensive week. Maybe it's the resolution season, or just the gathering of W2's for taxes, or just the whispers of change in the air. Or maybe it's because I am a scientist gathering evidence, a historian looking into the past for clues to the present, and an unmoored artist, all rolled into one.

I realize that the past was not clean, neat, or pain free. I also know that the future also demands different things, causing my own personal evolution, and therefore I simply cannot be static-ever. So, it's not exactly nostalgia that I'm feeling; it's just that I feel the need to self-assess and evaluate my own professional and personal growth and make sure I am not swerving towards some foggy cliff in the near future. I feel like things have gotten a little too wonky to not suspect cliffs.

I've re-read old emails from ASMSA (circa 2006), my application for Teach for America, and emails from my my earliest days of teaching (circa 2011). I've re-read sections from Eat, Pray, Love- a book I vividly remember reading in the winter of 2007-2008. I've been drawn back to books that formed my initial thoughts about education: Teach Like A Champion, Teaching as Leadership, and the big green manual of required readings.

After all of that introspection, I cried- a couple of times, really. I cried because I was both ashamed of the girl I was at ASMSA and because I missed her- I was once someone who was independent enough to leave home at 16 years old, and insecure enough to cling to people. I had meaningful relationships- now, I have obligations. I felt painful twinges of guilt reading my application to Teach for America-where are my fundamental values as a teacher today and do they line up with that application, now five years old-or should they even line up any more? Am I really making an impact in educational equality for all students, not just the ones that pass through my classroom?

Not that there aren't things to celebrate! Of course, in my fourth year of education, things that were once incredibly complicated or strange to me as a new teacher, suddenly make sense to me. I have a new critical understanding of all educational theories, arguments, and texts, including things I once accepted without question. I also have the ability (finally) to have some free time; it's taken four years to reclaim Sundays, to not sleep through the news most evenings, and to not fight semi-regular panic attacks. I have even left school with just one bag on occasion lately.

However, to paraphrase/quote Hairspray, "I'm hungry for something that I can't eat!" Yes, I have miles and miles to go professionally, but I don't want to build my life solely around my professional life, or give up my core values professionally-there has to be some balance. As I consider next steps and next jobs, I don't want to sacrifice my values or abandon the good things about myself. Self-reflection is good-it's just uncomfortable.