let the conversations begin...

One thing about teaching that irks me more than anything else is the lofty lingo. Often times it's more about what you say you do than it is about what you do. I noticed this when I stepped into my classroom for the first time this summer. My mind was overwhelmed with the task at hand. Coming into my room are several students who are significantly behind grade level. I immediately started diagnosing the parts of my instruction that needed some serious reworking. I then began the process of prioritizing the list. But when I talk about my shortcomings with my colleagues I rarely find meaningful encouragement. Instead I get advice. Not that I don't want advice, it's that I'm seeking meaningful advice. The advice I hear includes all of the modern buzz words that must be said - guiding reading, thinking strategies, data driven, studies show, student engagement - as though those words hold some power when spoken. Then the teacher gives me an example of what they do and the conversation ends.

But really the conversation never began. If all of these teachers were being more successful than me, then my kids would come to me on grade level. Their test scores would be much better than mine. My classroom would look more like the black sheep instead of just another zebra. Those things don't happen though. If it makes us all feel better, let's use the buzz words. But I think people prefer those words because it automatically shows that they know what they're talking about. Whether they do or not.

I want the conversation to allow for me to talk about the things that aren't going well without people assuming everything in my room isn't going well. I want the conversation to result in change, be it small steps or large, instead of confusing language. I want the conversation to take place between teachers who want the best for everyone instead of between teachers who just want to be the best one.

Last year toward the end of the year my grade level team began to reach a point where we had real conversations. They were very meaningful and resulted in change. I hope that carries into the 2009-2010 school year. If it does then change will be seen. Let the conversations begin...


summer reflections

Two years done. I'm not satisfied. My first year was defined by several well-planned but disconnected lessons. It went ok. By years end I still had students who didn't like school and I had a couple of students who didn't grow much. My second year I changed cities, changed schools, changed demographics, and wanted to change my instruction. After the shock of moving from a well equipped school - my classroom had an interactive whiteboard, an elmo, a laptop, student laptops, a projector, three student computers, and new textbooks - to the inner city. My new classroom had three new student computers, a teacher computer, and little else. My new district did a good job of providing the essentials such as math manipulatives and books for reading. There just isn't money for the luxury of my first district.

I'm not satisfied. Not with my students' achievement. Not with my instruction and reflection. I feel overwhelmed and underqualified. I also feel excited with the challenge in front of me. I hope I never lose that excitement.

During this year I will try to be transparent with my blog entries. Just in case someday someone reads it. I don't want to be transparent for my audience, but for my sake. Improvement will not happen if I am minimizing my flaws. My problem with most professional development is that it either takes place on a cloud or it is so boring and repetitive that every set of eyes in the room is glazed and every mind is elsewhere. The productive meetings I've been in take place in small groups of like-minded educators who willingly challenge each other. It's constructive.

I will try to be transparent because I will otherwise speak in cliches. I will annoy myself. I will be transparent because I want to do my best, I don't need to impress. Because I want to get better at teaching, not better at making you think I'm teaching. Because I want to get better at being a teacher, not better at being someone I'm not.


Intentions and Fears

I am going to start blogging because I get so much from reading blogs. Not any one blog, but the weekly scanning of hundreds of blogs has proven to be one of the most beneficial forms of professional development.

I am going to continue blogging because I love to write and I love the transparency of a blog post. God is at work in me and maybe some of the lessons I am learning will be beneficial to others.

I fear becoming indulgent. I fear that I will begin editing what I write so as to please an audience. I fear fruitless and meaningless wasting of time. I fear being misunderstood.

But hey, I can always delete the blog, right?