Teach & Serve IV, No. 42 | Temporal Landmarks Bookended

Teach & Serve IV, No. 42

Temporal Landmarks Bookended

May 22, 2019

Even better is embracing the confidence that comes with reflection on wrapping up. Better still is envisioning ourselves as we end this year as having accomplished something (somethings!) great.

If you have been a reader of this blog all year, the following may look a little familiar…

You cannot hold back the sea and you cannot hold back the end of the school year.

Those of us involved in education are ramping up, feeling the itch, sensing the inevitable. In the coming days or weeks, we will embark on the closing rituals of the 2018-2019 school year: finals and shutting down and ceremonies and farewells. While we may now be stealing the last few moments of time with our students and our colleagues, we know that those moments are, at this point, fleeting and running out on us.

Hopefully, we are excited for the end to come and for the promise of time off.

Let us embrace the moment because this moment – the end of the school year, has power.

In his work When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing (which was suggested to me by a wonderful friend and colleague and which  I highly recommend) sociologist and scientist Daniel H. Pink writes about when people do things, when they are most successful at doing things and when they should do things.

Particularly salient to those of us in education at this time of year are his thoughts on temporal landmarks defined as dates that have significance and that draw a line between what is past and what is to come. Building on the work of researchers Hengchen Dai, Katherine L. Milkman, and Jason Riis, Pink says of a temporal landmark: “This new period offers a chance to start again by relegating our old selves to the past. It disconnects us from the past self’s mistakes and imperfections, and leaves us confident about our new, superior selves.”

Wow. That is a very interesting way for us to consider ourselves as we end this school year.

This year is about to be in the past. We can, as appropriate, disconnect from it. It is not that we forget it, we simply leave it behind in favor of this break we are about to have, of this summer spread before us. We use the temporal landmark of the end of the school year to review goals, to dream, to let go of our past “mistakes and imperfections” – which we all have.

This is a good thing.

Even better is embracing the confidence that comes with reflection on wrapping up. Better still is envisioning ourselves as we end this year as having accomplished something (somethings!) great.

One of my favorite things about being in education is that our time is broken up into manageable segments. I have not, until this year, however, thought about these segments as temporal landmarks. It is such a powerful way to reflect and to project.

As we end this year, let us reflect on how it went and learn from those reflections. Let us be confident as we stride into the summer. Let us congratulate ourselves on a race well run, a circle well drawn. The end is nigh…

Teach & Serve Vol. 5 | Coming August 2019

 

Teach & Serve IV, No. 41 | You Can Succeed

Teach & Serve IV, No. 41

You Can Succeed

May 15, 2019

… please, for the love of our students, remind them of this, repeat this, tell them this: “You can succeed.”

Any way we look at the calendar, we must inevitably reach one conclusion: things are winding down on the 2018-2019 school year.

It is a time of anticipation. A break is coming. We can almost taste it.

But it can be a time of intense stress for our students. They have much to do and, though their perceptions may not always be accurate, our students can feel that the whole year comes down to the next few weeks, that all they have done all year will not amount to a thing if they do not nail it now. They may feel that the next few weeks are the most critical ones.

While I would be very skeptical of a system or a teacher or a class that backloads everything for students who are not in college to the last few minutes of the year, I know it happens. I know students feel this way.

I know it. You do, too.

Heck, you may agree they should feel this way, that they should be pounding right until the end and that these days should be circled in red.

Fine. Any and all of the above is fine.

But, please, for the love of our students, remind them of this, repeat this, tell them this: “You can succeed.”

It is my hope they have heard this from you in overt and covert ways all year.

They should have.

But now, more than ever, remind them: “You can succeed.”

Your words have power. Your words have meaning.

Your words can change your students’ lives still, even in these last days.

EduQuote of the Week | 5.13.19

Instead, we try to give them affection, confidence and guidance, more or less in that order, because experience has shown us that those are their most immediate needs.

E.R. Braithwaite 

Teach & Serve IV, No. 40 | Walk the Track

Teach & Serve IV, No. 40

Walk the Track

May 8, 2019

“I promise, if you need to, if you want to, I’ll walk the track with you,” he said.

This is important.

Especially this time of year, this is very important.

We have much to do, much we are asked to do and much that we take upon ourselves. We have full calendars, overflowing plates and deadlines – many of which we truly cannot miss. We work with students and adults who have challenges for us, who make demands on our time and who, on occasion, may cause us a bit of stress.

Stress happens.

At this time of year in particular, we sometimes feel stress, sometimes feel strung out and sometimes feel we are not at our best.

So, please, when that feeling comes upon you, walk the track.

Somewhere in your building or on your grounds, I trust there is a space you can walk, an open, extended space where you can get out of your typical environs, get moving, get a pace on. Hopefully there is someplace you can go when you need to stretch your legs.

Perhaps there is a track.

Getting up and walking it is more than a chance to change your venue and your vantage point, this is a chance to get up and get out, to exercise whatever feelings have built up in you by exercising yourself. This is a chance to shake off ennui and frustration and to do something proactive to assist in your own renewal.

A person with whom I work and whom I respect very much made a pledge to our entire leadership team this past summer and I have not forgotten it. “I promise, if you need to, if you want to, I’ll walk the track with you,” he said.

I think I should take him up on that request more often and I should do so immediately.

It is important.

EduQuote of the Week | 5.6.19

Teaching is the most powerful force that changes our world one student at a time.

Debasish Mridha

Teach & Serve IV, No. 39 | That’s Not Our Standard

Teach & Serve IV, No. 39

That’s Not Our Standard

May 1, 2019

Time has passed. Things have happened. The calendar has changed. But our standards are still are standards.

The calendar has turned to May and, even for the most disciplined among us, it is difficult to keep from looking at the end of this month or towards early next without a certain sense of longing. Can we get there? When will we get there? Let us get there very, very soon.

This is a natural phenomenon and a typical one as the end of the school year approaches. It also has a challenging effect. Many of us inevitably suffer a certain breakdown in our work, a kind of let down in our mechanics. We let things past us, let things slip, let things slide.

It is at this time of year when we might, if we put our ear to the ground and listen carefully, hear things like “that didn’t go every well, but it was all right” or “you know, I never would have let the kids get away with that in October,” or “well, that wasn’t the best class I ever taught, but it wasn’t my worst class, either.”

Not my best, not my worst.

That is not our standard.

Remember fall? Remember when we started and we looked into the bright and shiny faces in front of us and thought:  this is going to be a great year? Remember we when were ready for all that these nine months would show us, ready to confront all comers? Remember when we had all the energy in the world?

Time has passed. Things have happened. The calendar has changed. But our standards are still are standards. It may be that we have to be more intentional about them, pay more attention to them, put more energy into them.

But they are still our standards.

Sometimes, especially at low energy times, we must reach back and connect. Or we must look forward for energy. Hey, we even sometimes have to fake it until we make it.

And we will make it. The end of the year is coming.

Let us just be sure we arrive at it with our standards as intact as possible.

EduQuote of the Week | 4.29.19

Teaching is a dialogue, and it is through the process of engaging students that we see ideas taken from the abstract and played out in concrete visual form. Students teach us about creativity through their personal responses to the limits we set, thus proving that reason and intuition are not antithetical. Their works give aesthetic visibility to mathematical ideas.

Martha Bolles

Teach & Serve IV, No. 38 | We Are Not as Special as We Think We Are

Teach & Serve IV, No. 38

We Are Not as Special as We Think We Are

April 24, 2019

Sometimes, in our recognition of our differences and in our celebration of what makes us special, we forget two important truths: there are thousands of schools doing very much the same work we are and we can learn an awful lot from those schools.

Society values things that are unique. We place great price on “one-of-a-kind” items. We pay more for signed memorabilia. We often seek out the “variant edition,” something simply different from the norm and, therefore, somehow more coveted.

Society values things that are unique.

Is it any surprise, then, that many educational leaders and teachers and students believe their school is better when it is different from most if not all others? Is it any surprise that many strive to make their schools different?

We want our schools to be unique places, with cultures endemic to who we are and who we want to be. We want our schools to be special, to have feel and a flavor, to stand out. We want our schools to be different.

There is much to praise about this desire, and much to value.

However, we ought to be careful to avoid a significant pitfall here.

Sometimes, in our recognition of our differences and in our celebration of what makes us special, we forget two important truths: there are thousands of schools doing very much the same work we are and we can learn an awful lot from those schools.

When we tell ourselves how different we are, we can forget that there are others ministering to students, in most cases, literally just around the corner. When we rely on how special we are, we can forget that we have so much to learn from others walking the same paths we walk.

We know that teaching our students collaboration is critical to their success. How can we collaborate with others if we believe we are so unlike them (and, often we believe we are so superior to them) that they have nothing to teach us and that we are speaking an entirely different language than they? How can we learn if we decide we have no one from whom we can learn?

Innovation, yes. Isolation, no.

We are engaged in the work of education and we look to make ourselves better at every turn, we strive for continuous improvement and a growth mindset, but, let us be honest, we are not as special as we think we are and we would be well served to seek out those doing the same work we are both to learn from them and to share what we know.

In that manner, we improve and so do they.

 

EduQuote of the Week | 4.22.19

I’ll always choose a teacher with enthusiasm and weak technique over one with brilliant strategies but who is just punching the clock. Why? An enthusiastic teacher can learn technique, but it is almost impossible to light a fire inside the charred heart of a burned-out teacher.

Dave Burgess