This summer has been an interesting one for my learning. I have alternated between reading PD books and YA/MS texts that I will be adding to my classroom. I spend a lot of time on Twitter looking at the conversations educators are having. Trying to look at ways I can improve my practice.
When I Started Twitter Edu
When I started my journey on Twitter I was just looking for ideas. I had just read Disrupting Thinking by Kylene Beers and Bob Probst and was invited to check out a "chat" called #g2great. Until this moment I had received all my teaching inspiration from resource books such as The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller and Notice and Note by Bob Probst and Kylene Beers and Pernille Ripp's website among other blogs. Twitter was a whole new ballgame. I joined all the chats I was having so much fun participating and becoming a part of the community. I connected with those same authors, bloggers and teachers I had so come to admire. I met some amazing people that I have created real friendships with like Mary Howard and the #G2Great team and my #curiositycrew. I have had the pleasure of meeting my idol and visiting with her. These are all great things that Twitter made possible. In the last few months I have been introduced to different conversations on Twitter. Different conversations that pushed my thinking. And caused me to question what I was doing on Twitter. Were all the conversations I was taking part in improving me as a teacher? Were all the conversations and interactions I was taking part in preparing me to best serve all my students? The answer quite frankly was no. I still had my go to sources but I cut down the rest. I participate in just as many chats but now they are focused on teaching, equity, antiracism and less on the "feel good". I am not taking away from the feel good for those that need it or want it but it was not inspiring me to be in the classroom to improve my instruction.
Taking it Personally
Teaching is very personal. Before I learned to listen more and react emotionally less to the statements made to me on Twitter I was often offended. If someone questioned an idea I had or practice I believed in I was quick to go on the offensive. Now I want to see from the perspective of others. I listen and learn. I don't always change everything but there is a renewed clarity and sense of purpose now as I prepare for the year. Purposeful practice comes from listening to many voices and applying those critiques to your work. This has come particularly clear as it applies to how much I was doing/not doing regarding equity work in my classroom. I was proud of myself for having a diverse library, for being a culturally sensitive teacher but as I learned more from leaders in the field of anti-racist education I realized that I was failing my students. Not just my students of colour but also my white students that hold a staggering majority in the school. By just providing resources but not talking about them, by just protecting my students from ridiculous arts are crafts based on culturally meaningful pieces but not explaining why we should not do those crafts I was not doing the best for my kids. Hearing that offended me. I care about my kids and I want to do best for them. So I seek out how to learn to be better. I learn that instead of building a diverse library I need to build one that is inclusive that doesn't centre the library around white and "diverse" books. That we look at all the titles as pieces of a well represented library that speaks to all of my students experiences. I have learned that I can't just provide different perspectives in a text book but I must push back against the incomplete narratives and problematic representation that we find within. Through taking this work so personally and yes sometimes feeling offended and questioning what I am doing I have been inspired to do better. I am not stepping away from the challenges but learning from them.
Building a Team
As I continue to search out inspiration I am finding the team matters so much. I am purposeful in who I follow, who I interact with and who I surround myself with as learners. I began twitter a lone wanderer in a vast forest of ideas. Breadcrumbs of shared ideas led me to like minded individuals. As my thinking, experiences and learning needs have changed the team of inspiration has expanded. I am grateful to those who helped me on my journey and can still learn from them, I am grateful for those now who challenge me to be better. Julie and I just watched Shazam. A delightful film where our hero Shazam must face off against a big bad. With all his powers he still requires his team to overcome the adversary. The epic formation of the Guardians of the Galaxy comes from the need to form a team to shoulder the burden and overcome the adversary. We can often accomplish tasks alone, but a team that inspires you to be better, to work hard and helps you find the answers will help you to reach new levels.
As the summer comes to a close I have my PD books ready to inspire, my novels at my side to hopefully inspire my students. I am open to the feedback of others to inspire me to improve my practice without taking offence and checking out of the conversation and I am continually building a team.
Teaching is hard, not all our days are going to be great despite what you might see. Not many people share the pictures of their burned dinners and messy houses. The same is true for teachers. Most hide their misteps thinking their perfection inspires. The mistake they make is that it isn't the product that inspires but the practice, the knowledge of the journey and the dusting ourselves off and getting back up. Teaching is hard, finding inpiration to be better can be especially hard with all the noise out there. I am excited to get my brain back fully into teaching mode.