Friday, October 25, 2019

The Importance of Our Strengths

For anyone who knows me or has been following my blog, it's probably not a secret that it has been a tough beginning of the year for me. A district reorganization, a new job, new teams, and a lot of change means that I've been spending a lot of energy the past few months adjusting to the changes. And it's been hard.

As I continue to struggle with settling into my new job, I've tried to figure out why - and I had a realization today. I'm spending far more time working out of my weaknesses than out of my strengths.

What does this look like, practically? I'm supporting subject areas I'm just learning, while the teachers I am supporting have been teaching this class for years. I'm spending most of my day in meetings, rather than being out with teachers and students. And, in the areas where I feel like I have strengths, the work has shifted to other people/job functions, so I am not supposed to be doing these things (so we can all settle into our new roles).

It's frustrating. I also know that we are still in the beginning stages of this change, and sometimes things just take time.

Meanwhile, this has sparked many thoughts for me about how we treat our students. Are there kids in your class who feel like they spend their whole day working out of their weaknesses, and desperately want you to recognize their strengths (whether they are in traditional academics or elsewhere)? Do they feel like they are cut off from using their sources of strength to aid in their learning? What does this do to their confidence and their view of themselves as learners?

I hope that we can all take a strengths-based approach to see the beautiful strengths all of our students bring. They may be learning English, and they have a rich cultural and linguistic heritage from somewhere else. Their family may be staying with another family right now due to financial constraints, and they might have learned how to get along with a wide variety of people. They may have a disability, and they might have learned to think creatively about how to accomplish things. Which side are we going to focus on?

I hope that we, as educators, can leverages students' strengths to build their confidence and capacity as learners, allowing them to move onto bigger and bigger challenges and ultimately to soar!

(And I hope that, one of these days, I will find ways to bring my strengths more and more into my daily work!)

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Once a Teacher, Always a Teacher

I'm now entering my third year being out of the classroom. Three years. In some ways, it feels like forever ago, but in other ways, it feels like just yesterday that I had students of my own.

It's hard, sometimes, working at the district level. I miss kids. I miss those relationships that only develop when you see them every day. And I miss teaching itself - the art of crafting a lesson, knowing your learners, and connecting with kids in that moment!

I also worry about becoming irrelevant. About losing touch with what life is like when you are teaching kiddos day in and day out. I fear that I might forget the planning, the grading, the parent emails, the hallway duty, and the never-ending stream of wondering how you could help your kids even more.

But then I remember: Once a teacher, always a teacher. A couple of weeks ago, I got to teach a Sunday School lesson at church (to kindergarten/1st graders), and it was awesome. One of those moments where you feel like you have their attention, they are engaged and excited to learn, and everything is just clicking! And then, this week, due to ice and snow and bad roads, I got to be an emergency sub for a couple of hours (until all of the teachers could make it to school). It was so much fun to be teaching kids again! It made me remember that:
1) I still love this,
2) I can still do it (even if I am a little rusty), and
3) I never want to lose touch with teaching.

I'm a firm believer that, no matter where you are in education, it is important to be in schools and important to be in classrooms. That's where the rubber hits the road! I've tried to keep that lens and spend time in classrooms throughout my time in a district position, and I hope I can continue to find little ways to exercise my teaching heart as well!