Between Old and New, I

E, F, and T are the other Latin teachers in my face-to-face teaching world.  On professional-development days like Wednesday, I’m usually the one who “leads the Latin session.”  E, F, and T are also veteran teachers, also have great ideas to share.  But they consistently say they’re glad not to “lead the Latin session.”  Too much preparation, too many meetings, too much additional stress, they say.

But Wednesday wasn’t supposed to be a stressful day.  All 70-some World Language teachers started our day together, watching  a recorded webinar about Presentational Writing.  Then we moved to smaller groups (“the Latin session” for us) to discuss the webinar, share a model lesson, talk about rubric, and plan upcoming units together.

But F suddenly said, “I’m just so stressed out! I feel as though everything is falling apart this year!”

Teachers learn to recognize when the carefully crafted lesson plan must go. Seeing sweet, calm, organized F so stressed, I knew it was one of those times.

“What’s wrong?”  I asked.  Nothing specific – and everything specific.  Trying to change, trying to still be perfect, trying to adapt to the very different needs of students today.  Feeling overwhelmed by “all the stuff” she was being asked to do.  Not seeing clear goals for tasks – “doing them because you do them.”  Conflicting messages.  Concern for her own children and her students.

Earlier this year, F had said change would be hard for her because her very successful school didn’t feel a need to change.  All of a sudden, changes are happening anyway.

That’s stressful!

Change is hard even when you choose it, difficult even when you embrace it.  It’s so much harder when it’s thrust upon you.

We took time to talk about stress, about change, about purpose.  We did the model lesson – which they loved – and took time to plan.  The truly important stuff happened … just as it did with my students this week.  Maybe it happened because I trusted the process, trusted my colleagues, trusted our fragile but sturdy learning community, enough to “let go … and let things grow,” as I put it in yesterday’s post.  Then I was talking about interactions with students – but Wednesday reminded me that teachers also need trust and time when we’re caught between the old and the new.

Responding to Wednesday’s post  on Google+, Debbie said

I got all excited as I read this story — I kept seeing “empowerment”, “empowerment”, “empowerment”. I read “teaching” – teaching how to be in control of one’s own learning and growth; how to be aware of signs of change. VERY exciting!

We talk about life-long learning and yet for some reason we think we have to stuff all of the learning into the first 20 years of life or into one single class in their educational years.

Seeing students as life-long learners, isn’t our role to teach them how to achieve this, how to seek and how to experience, how to process information, how to shift knowledge into Wisdom? Shouldn’t we be focused on those “flashes of joy, of learning, of community re-growing”?

And yes… then…TRUST, let them go, let them grow into their own being.
Very exciting….. my heart is pumping!!

I was also excited by the empowerment my colleagues felt on Thursday.  And I felt better about the concern James shared:

We talked a little before about the tacit judgement of my colleagues I worry comes from the way I do things. There is another side to that. There is the tact judgement I feel coming from my colleagues about the way I do things. It’s a sense, really, nothing more, but it’s enough sometimes to make me worry about being contrary.

Any time you make a change, move toward new things, leave behind old ways, there will always be some who criticize and reject you for “being contrary.”  I heard stories Wednesday about Sra. X and Sra. Y, veteran teachers who not only refuse to change themselves, but are cruel and dismissive to younger colleagues.  I heard stories of pain and struggle, too, from other “seasoned” teachers like me, E, F, and T who are making changes.

Change is hard, even when you choose it.  It’s harder when it seems to be thrust upon you, harder still when folks around you refuse to change.  Harder still when they judge, reject, and obstruct.

Talking about students, George noted that

some days there may not be improvement… we may be on a plateau. And we may be on it for a while. But we have to show up anyway and put in some time and effort.

That’s just as important for teachers as for our students.  It’s important for anyone trying to change.  Whether we’re building a joyful learning community in an isolated corner of the factory, or moving out boldly and building something new, it takes effort, time, and showing up.  Seth Godin talks about it in The Dip.

How do you keep the energy, keep the focus, keep the passion on those plateaus?  How do you show up, with effort and time, even on days when the plateau seems endless?

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Published in: on November 1, 2012 at 9:52 am  Comments (1)  

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  1. […] meeting?” they asked.  ”Why is the schedule different?”  Being out of school on Wednesday had thrown off the rhythm of the week, left them uncomfortable, forgetful, out of their comfort […]


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