25. Inspiration and Humility
When I started blogging about teaching in April I saw it an exercise to challenge me professionally, to think more critically about my work and to hopefully connect with other teachers. Thanks to Chris Crouch, teacher leader, blogger and advocate who started the April Blog A Day Challenge. It took my work to a new place. The writing in April also provided an opportunity for me to discover what is out there for teachers. There was this community that I had been blind to, only because I was so focused on what was happening in my own classroom and school that I didn't make room to see and hear teacher's voices that would ultimately bring something new to my own work as educator and teacher leader in my community.
When I started talking about the writing I was doing, the conversations I was having with teachers from around the country it was clear that this needed to be a permanent part of my professional work. I was inspired by the work and thinking teachers and education professionals are doing. I was humbled by the feedback I received as well as the learning I was doing.
At my end of year conference with my principal, we had been asked to do some work prior to our meeting, completing prompts about our work for the year to serve as talking points for the conference. As we sat down and began to go over the official end of year rating (done by a complicated algorithm reflected in a number) my boss asked me why I said I didn't think I had been successful as a mentor this year. One of my responsibilities is mentoring first year teachers. There were three that I was assigned, one ELA, one U.S. History and the other, Global history. I was also teaching 16 periods a week plus advisory, an additional 30 minute period. It was a heavy load. Finding time to go into classroom or to even just sit and meet with three different teachers proved to be challenging and I often felt ineffective- not having a clear picture of strengths and struggles and wanting to be able to do more than what I had been. I often watched the other teacher mentors working with the staff and doubting my ability to really support. When I did get to spend time with my teachers, I tried to make the most of it, offering support, encouragement and ideas for actionable change aligned with the goals of our school.
When will I feel effective? What is the balance between effective in my own practice as teacher while balancing my additional responsibilities?
As schools have become smaller here in NYC, teachers and staff are challenged to take on more responsibility than ever. I remember at my first school right out of grad school, at my interview the Principal told me that teachers would be wearing many hats and that has never been more true than it is today. The small teaching and learning communities can be highly effective but they can also be limiting for teachers, spreading ourselves so thin that we are not doing anything highly effectively but are developing or effective.
Next year will be the first year that we are populating all 4 grades, 9-12. I know there is at least one teacher we have hired that I will be mentoring but in reality, there are at least 2. I want to make sure I am supporting their development and one of the ways that I want to support will be though guided reflection. Not- "just reflect at the end of your lesson or unit" but questions that will prompt deeper thinking and questioning of the craft. I believe the teacher narrative needs to be owned by the individual, not the omniscient narrator.