If you’d been there to watch, you wouldn’t have noticed many external differences between Tuesday and Wednesday. Two chilly days at the beginning of a new semester; me with a cold; similar sequences in classes; the same number of interruptions and requests. “Was I in a terrible mood yesterday?” I asked several colleagues – and even some students – on Wednesday. And they all said, no, not that they’d noticed.
That’s not what it felt like to me! Not at all! But I’m glad my sour mood didn’t spill over … and I’m truly grateful that somehow, on the inside, where it matters, Wednesday felt as positive as Tuesday had been negative.
Why was that?
Sometimes the anticipation of a new thing actually spoils the thing itself. You build up the New Thing so much that it couldn’t possibly meet your expectations – and then, when it doesn’t, you get mad, resentful, upset. I think of Christmas mornings, zoo trips, the circus when I was a child, things I longed for and loved. But sometimes I got too caught up in the longing, too excited by the anticipated future to enjoy the actual present. Maybe that happened on Tuesday.
When I arrived at school that morning, I felt an eagerness among my colleagues, a longing for a fresh start, a desire for everything to be just perfect … and no doubt it rubbed off on me. Maybe it contributed to the annoyance, frustration, and tension I felt all day. Was I longing for the label of good little worker – the gold star, the pat on the back? Did I want that from the Boss, from my colleagues, from myself? I don’t know, but it all contributed to my anger at B, C, and friends.
And yet, I was as calm and relaxed on Wednesday as I’d been tense on Tuesday, as willingly flexible as I’d been angrily rigid. When the LCD projector’s bulb burned out, we moved on; when the interruptions came, they didn’t bother me. I apologized to B, C, and friends – and even took a moment to talk football with them after I pointed out that the length, not the topic, of the conversation had bothered me.
Each class started out with our traditional “Cumulative Vocabulary Review Thing,” a multi-step process designed to show students how much they’ve learned and to get them thinking about what it means to know a word, a language, or anything else. The “CVRT” looks like Ms. X’s dream of a vocabulary test: there are 100 items in 4 sets of 25, and you match the Latin words in Column A with their meanings in Column B … but some questions have more than one answer, and some questions don’t have an answer, and some of the words are familiar, and some of them aren’t. And after 8 or 10 minutes of working individually, you form a pair, compare your answers. use (electronic or physical) reference tools to look up those annoying and frustrating words that you knew you know. Then there’s a “Mini-Mini Seminar,” a small-group conversation about what it means to know a word or a language. We finished with some reading, in pairs and all together. “Do you realize,” I asked my Latin IV and AP group, “how well you just did with a truly challenging text?” They did, and we all rejoiced together.
I’m grateful for my Google+ PLN, who had just the advice and comfort I needed Wednesday morning. As Troy saidt,
Learn to dance with the frustration. It usually means you are doing the work that matters.
2. If you are doing work that matters, the difficulty never goes away. From A League of Their Own: “It’s the difficult that makes it great.”
3. In your reflection, did YOU learn anything today? Did YOU grow as a teacher? Remember, you matter as well.
4. I used to help a Kindergarten swim class teacher. One of my sayings to her was, “It’s a successful Kindergarten swim class if nobody drowns.”
5. The change you desire is not easy. When tempted to give up or when you get frustrated, research suggest one way to deal with it is to remind yourself WHY you are doing what you do.
And Debbie added,
what will it take? It will take “me” — my beliefs, my motivations, my skills, and my self-control. “I” am only in control of what I do, how I share information, empower, and speak up for what I believe in.
“I” can change things through “being the change”, through speaking up about the change, through actions that inspire others to change, and through challenging the status quo in ways that help others see through objective eyes and not the hazy view of habit, routine, and disempowerment (letting others make the decisions.)
Disempowerment! That was the difference! On Tuesday, I felt constrained and disempowered … by my own expectations, by others’ agendas, by habit and routine, the myths and beliefs of the First Day of School. On Wednesday, I felt Ownership … and it reminded me, again, that you can’t have a joyful learning community without ownership. As Brendan asked,
How might the infrastructure and training for such a change be developed? I think these approaches can have the most impact when used across classes and in learners’ lives as a whole. This is ultimately part of the shift that’s needed from factory to network, both for the purposes of learning and for the purposes of making it in the world. If learners feel like they’re creating something within themselves, between themselves, and that is part of their future, they have the best chance to free themselves from the dependence on grades that so often replaces a desire for learning and building meaningful things.
Sage, hopeful advice … and as I contemplate it, I wonder what Thursday will bring. Constraints or freedom? Joy, grief, hope, or fear? Some unpredictable combination? What will I need to do today, each day, to sustain and protect our joyful community?