Monday, March 17, 2014

Slice of Life - What Matters

Slice of Life is sponsored on Tuesdays by Two Writing Teachers. For the month of March we are posting a slice each day on our blog. Join in!

I’ve been thinking a lot about the state of education. This weekend I read The Smartest Kids in the World and How They Got That Way by Amanda Ripley. I have several professional development books that I have read parts of and need to finish. I’m reading research on the importance of relationships in the classroom. I’m thinking through the level of engagement of my students in any given lesson. At any point of the day my voice might be teaching one lesson, but my brain is going a million miles a minute trying to decide what to do next.

I’ve also been reading Brené Brown’s Daring Greatly. I will write more about this book later because I am only halfway done. It is a book I want to savor, instead of racing through. I have learned so much from Brown. One important lesson that is screaming at me is the need to be easier on myself. There are days that I think I’m a pretty crappy teacher, if I’m being perfectly honest. That the reason my students score so well is that they are brilliant, but it has nothing to do with me. I’m not asking for sympathy, just stating what that nasty little inner voice tries to tell me.

Today I came to a few realizations. One, yes, of course there are teachers in the world more talented than I am, and that is ok. That being said, I know I do a few things well. One, I connect with my students. I’m a big believer in the concept that relationships with my students and creating a classroom community are the two things that must come first before any teaching can occur. Two, I think that by having those two things in place – relationships and a supportive classroom – students feel free to try things they normally might not. That they engage more than they would otherwise. That they feel free to take a risk because they know that I, or their classmates, will catch them if they fall. I happen to think this is pretty important.

I came home tonight more than a little grumpy. I left the high of a conference and crashed back into reality. Deadlines, a full schedule, and an empty fridge all create a perfect storm of a grumpy mom. I sat down for just a minute to scroll through my blog subscriptions and saw that my student, Delaney, had posted several new blogs. One title caught my eye. It said, “Go Watch My Animoto Video On My Classroom.” (You can view it HERE.)

In Writing Workshop today we discussed topics for our “slices.” I shared my last few posts and my students saw the video I had embedded on Saturday. They asked if they could watch it and then discussed how cool it was. I didn’t have time to teach them how to make one, but mentioned it was super easy when you use the app on your phone.

Delaney asked if she could take pictures of our classroom after school. Of course I was fine with that. I was busy, so I really didn’t see what she was doing. Opening the post and starting the video, my eyes welled up at the words, “My classroom. I love it there.”

So maybe I can work on “teaching points” or creating better units, but when I see that somehow students get inspired to do work like this on their own, when they problem solve how to create the thing they want to create and then actually do the work, I think I’m doing something right. And on days like this, that is all I need.