One of my favorite education books is The Courage to Teach. In that text, Parker Palmer explores teaching as a daily exercise in vulnerability. As teachers, we expose ourselves, and often the content we love, to an at-times unforgiving world. Difficult students, dud lessons, doubting colleagues, short-sighted initiatives, all exacerbated by the challenges of our lives outside the classroom, can eventually harden a teacher. And that skepticism can make it a lot harder to take the risks necessary to get better.
So finding the courage to continue to care deeply, to continue to seek feedback, can be challenging. But I’ve found, as scary as it may be, that student feedback has been an important catalyst for reflecting on and improving my practice. Hearing directly from students also aligns with my own deepest motivations. More than test scores, or my desire to introduce students to great novels and great questions, I teach so that students feel someone believes in them and they feel empowered to learn, grow, and succeed. Measuring success on that mission requires hearing directly from students.
A MiddleWeb Blog
Thankfully, every November, when things calm down a bit, I seem to have a shift in perspective, a moment of pause, and I forget I have been racing around for weeks, trying to “get everything done.”
Those first few weeks I forget some core wisdom, like the importance of taking a step back. I forget the value of slowing down, taking a breath. I am so focused on “doing things” that involve a lot of deadlines and paperwork, that I forget the essence of why I teach, which can’t be measured in statistics driven by SGO’s and SGP’s, no matter how hard the data is analyzed, revised, or tweaked.
Finally, a Deep Breath in November
When my head is in the world of corporate education, my heart isn’t fully in my job. When I am focused on how much there is to “do,” I lose some of my teaching magic…and unfortunately, so does my audience.
There are still many abracadabra moments that take me away from the sideshow of Big Education, like the move I use to emphasize 2-sided worksheets. As I dramatically swing my sample copy front-to-back, eliciting mock-gasps and signs of feigned but supportive amazement, we join in laughter and camaraderie, part of an unwritten curriculum.
Thoughts of impending deadlines and the inputting of online grades for a report card that doesn’t really align with my idea of authentic assessment slip into my head, uninvited at times (or prompted by the latest email). But each morning, when I greet my little people at our classroom door, those thoughts disappear into thin air somehow. That’s my kinda’ magic.