It is nearing the end of another school year. The little valley in all education calendars when teachers are nearing their end of patience with students because there is so much to get done in such a short time while the patience for deep learning by students reduces by the minute because they can sniff the freedom of summer.
When we as people, humans, creatures, insert word of choice, are being pulled emotionally and mentally in many directions at the same time we reach a breaking point. Before we hit that breaking point and SNAP let us go back and tackle some key buzzwords that are used all the time and bring some focus.
This very question to the beginning of the article linked has sat on my brain for some time now. As we are pushed time and time again to improve as educators and schools, we cannot forget to take time to recognize one another. The days are busy. The stress levels are high. Sometimes we hit our goals and have breakthrough moments. Sometimes we fall short. That does not mean we are bad at our job(unless we continue to do the same thing over and over again). Rather, it means we are working to improve and just like students in our classrooms sometimes our ideas that fall short set up and teach us more than a successful lesson or unit.
So many times we are upset and feelings are hurt when our hard work goes unnoticed. This goes back to an issue of culture. The issue that is so often talked about, but rarely addressed because it is hard and difficult. Addressing culture means taking on ownership of what works and what doesn’t. It means owning up to our shortfalls and more importantly addressing the elephant in the room(a different size and color of elephant for each culture being addressed). It is that dreaded topic that is easy to criticize, but harder to achieve solutions. There has to be a way.
We must take time to notice others. If everyone took time to notice another person AND actually told them, wrote them a note, or highlighted their work, then things would start to change. This small task has to be genuine and not fake. It also needs to be done by everyone involved in the workplace from the administration to the teachers to the paras, secretaries, custodians, and more. We must all commit to noticing others and in the process people will start to take notice of you. We must treat each other like family. We are the family structure to many kids in our schools. They can sniff the issues out like nobody else can. The things that frustrate us in our own classrooms are often the very things we indulge in ourselves in our professional circles.
Additionally, there are times when people do gain recognition. It should not be so scandalous when every once in a while media outlets run stories about people. Instead of tearing down one another we should celebrate because your school is your tribe. We should feel happy for everyone. We should feel like a story about one person is a reflection of all.
It breaks my heart when I see educators working tirelessly and not getting the kudos they deserve. Sometimes they work so hard and there are ways to make the load lighter. Sometimes they work so hard and it might not be the exact vision of others. Sometimes they work so hard doing tedious work that is not necessary(but they are still working hard regardless). Sometimes that hard work has a breakthrough moment. Sometimes, just sometimes we just need a reminder that we are all doing great work. I don’t know of a single person involved in education who does not want to get better. I do know that many times we just are not sure how and a little pat on the back might be all that it takes to sprout that next seed of insight.
Negativity does not work. It might work short term, but in the long run it will catch up and burn out the flame that started the vision to begin with when you started. I have learned this lesson the hard way as a parent and also as a basketball coach. It comes down to having a vision and a plan. It requires what it takes to step back and make decisions when emotions are not engaged in the moment. It requires looking at the end goal as well as the checkpoints along the way to determine the proper course of action. It requires treating people like people. For example, my wife does not like how I fold clothes. When I step up to the plate and try to surprise her with perfectly folded “Hoosier” style folding techniques she does not knock the process. Now, she might go back and refold certain items of clothing, but she applauds the effort and thought behind the intended action. The same holds true for educators trying to do the right thing. The same holds true for the students in our classrooms.
What are we to do?
- Start off by taking note of the work of someone who you usually don’t do business with. Seek out what they are doing and give them a nudge of positivity. Start by action and leading the way.
- When you get treated unfairly or judged by those who maybe don’t have the best perspective or understand things(there are many reasons for this) then utilize the toddler method.
- We must also look at ourselves and learn to determine the difference between working hard vs. working with rigor. Seth Godin states it best when he states: Doing things with rigor takes effort, but not everything you put effort into is done with rigor.Rigor is a focus on process. Paying attention to not just how you do things, but why….We know that you’re working hard. The next step is to do it with rigor.
- Believe in ourselves. Believe you are doing good work. And if you believe it, then share it out with the world. Invite people in to see the great things. Lead by example. Let your work do the talking. Just do what you do if you know what you are doing is good enough.
- Ask for help. Regardless of where we are in our development we must continue to learn from others. Ask for help. Pick the brains of other people. Never stop asking questions. Never lose the spark of curiosity of a 5 year old. Please, never lose that passion for knowledge. Will Richardson posed a great question when he wrote this piece: “Kids have a deep desire to learn when we first meet them. They want to understand not just some things but every thing about the world around they live in. Can we honestly say that is the case when they leave us? And if not, why not?”
- If there is a problem, then talk about it. As Seth Godin(I love this man!) states on his blog – If you have a problem and don’t address it, then it becomes two problems. Even more importantly when it is time to have a crucial conversation about an issue we must learn how to speak and handle ourselves so things don’t turn sour fast.
- If you are feeling stressed out, torn between two ideas, not sure where to go, then it is time to step back for a moment. Hug your kids, cook dinner, become a master at Slither.io or create a new playlist of music. Just get away and clear your mind.
Part 2 will continue with another buzzword…..