I have shared with you about this school year. I have shared that when this school year started I quickly realized it was collectively a classroom of the most challenging students I have ever taught, but I haven’t shared with you this part of that journey yet…this lesson learned.
The moment that has become thus far the one of the most pivotal moment for me and my journey this year.
When I started this school year I was excited! I was excited for this new adventure. Excited to try new things with my students, excited to introduce them to ways of learning they may have not explored yet and excited about empowering my students to be the most incredible learners they didn’t know they could be.
A few weeks into the school year I found myself in tears. They were tears of frustration and tears of anger. They were feelings I had not felt since my first year of teaching. I took a deep breath. I summoned the experience fifteen years of teaching gives to you and used my team to help me find my way through this. We talked, idea shared and problem solved. I took our discussions and I made changes in my classroom. I modified my teaching style and tweeked and twisted my approaches to teaching my students. Even with so much effort and change, I continued to find myself in the same place. I was still frustrated and upset, but now I was just surviving.
It was exhausting.
Thoughts loomed in my head and whispered…Maybe they are not ready for project based learning, a gamified classroom or a technology heavy classroom. Maybe it was time to go back to the old way. Sit and get. Me talk. They listen. More sit, more paper, more structure, more routine and more rigidness. I sat and talked to my social worker (errr our team social worker they are ours sometimes too aren’t they) she listened as I shared what was not working. She heard in my words my struggle, my lostness (she listened for a long time). Then she took me back. She talked about last year and years past. She shared what she knew about me. What she knew about my teaching style and the strategies and tools I use. She reflected with me what had worked so well for students I had worked with before. Suddenly, in that moment she made it all made sense. She brought me the clarity that I had been seeking.
It realized it wasn’t me that needed to change. The foundation of who I am as a teacher, my consistency, the structure I provide, viewing each student as an individual, my ability to tap into their strengths and how they specifically learn, teaching them maximizing their strengths and how to use tools to compensate for weaknesses….they needed me to be that teacher.
I also realized that I refused…refused to give up the advancements I have made and brought to my classroom because of their struggles. I wasn’t going to give up giving them a high quality education because of their weaknesses. I would modify my approach to teaching it, add more supports to enable them better and provide more structure, but I would not give any of it up.
Then it happen.
In this moment I had this vision….you know that a ha moment.
Each school year I bring with to my classroom me and my ship. The hull of the ship is strengthened and developed each year by my learning and the skills I hone and develop. The hull of my ship holds the core of who I am as a teacher. As I grow as a teacher my hull changes and strengthens.
My Ship…on it are me, my teaching assistant (not seen), our students (not seen) and the knowledge.
My Maps…I have with me a pile of maps from journeys past, present and future. You never know which one we will need and when our course will need to be changed.
My Compass…I it in my hand. It is a beautiful compass. It is experiences and wise. It is full of so much wisdom. It represents my team. It symbolizes the guidance they are always there to give me when I need help remembering my path. No matter how lost I am or stormy the weather is it is always there to help my get back on course.
The Boxes…The boxes and boxes and boxes the ship carries holds information we carry with us to learn. Some knowledge is carried with us for a long time, some of it is picked up along the way, while others are taken in and then quickly discarded.
My crew….Some years (like this year) I am the sole captain of this ship. I plan the course for me and my crew. I lead and they works with me. I take them on the trips and am there to pull them back in if they struggle, lose their footing or need a reminder they belong on this ship. I hand out tools and strategies depending on which crew member needs them to work on our ship. There are other times (and school years) when for a moment my crew takes the wheel to drive the ship, determine our course, decide our adventures. Then there are moments when my crew pulls their own tools to use. They make the decisions about how to fix things and what will improve our journey. My role on my ship flexible and always changing.
The boat…Pulled by my ship are the tools and strategies I have picked up throughout the years. Some of these stay with me for years, others get tried once and then tossed away, still others get pulled out some years and other years are never used. I go to it whenever I need them.
My sail…The sail of the ship is pushed through the sea by my passion. As long as my passion for teaching and being a teacher stays strong, my compass is with me to help guide me, my maps give me endless adventures and my crew is with me to share their learning and their passion…this ship will always sail.
As I look into the distance the path we are on is already so very different than when I started writing this post. I think about this ship that holds me, the tools that guide me and the crew that is with me. This journey, this adventure will be the very best one I can give them and in the end my crew will know that they are capable of adventures and feats they never thought they could…and I will too!