Choice

Conferences are always so inspiring. I love attending them and talking with like-minded educators, meeting new people and having time from my busy school life to reflect on my practice. This past weekend, Pat and I attended the Reading Recovery conference in Columbus, Ohio. We enjoyed meeting some of you and sharing our thinking at our sessions. We also enjoyed learning from the many smart people who presented. If you’ve never been, it’s a “must-do” February conference, so mark your calendars for next year!

I attended many fantastic sessions, but I continue thinking about Lucy Calkins’ keynote. She spoke about where education is today, and how we have a choice as to what role we might play in the future of public education. Her words, “as educators standing in this place in our field, we have a choice. We can look out and see problems and despair or possibility and promise,” have echoed in my brain all week as I returned to my school.

If we see our job and schools as sources of problems and despair, do we have the energy to make a difference with the kids we teach every day? Do we wake up full of joy and enthusiasm in our role as educators? No. But some days it’s very hard to look past the testing frenzy, the new mandates made by people who have never set foot in a classroom, the budget cuts, the overcrowded classrooms, the lack of support and so on and so on. It’s easier to see despair and problems over possibility and promise.  Easier? Perhaps. Justified? Absolutely. But it sucks the life and energy out of us as teachers.

So what if we focus on the kids?

As Lucy said, “not one of us can be hiding behind someone else’s proclamation of what we need to do as teachers”. We are in this profession because we love kids. We want to make a difference in the world and see teaching as the way to do it. There have been way too many proclamations about what we need to do as teachers. It’s time for us to stand up and bring possibility and promise back to our schools, our teaching and our professional lives. Focusing on the kids, and what we know is best for them, allows us to see possibility for who we are as teachers, professionals and learners. Standing up for best practices and for our students is empowering. When we can be passionate learners and passionate teachers, when “our teaching is alive and powerful”, when “we are doing work that feels big and significant” – it’s hard to see the problems and feel despair. It’s much easier to see possibility and promise.

Lucy ended her keynote with this question, “are we going to be who we say we want to be? We have the choice as educators.” I am taking this opportunity to really think about who I say I want to be as an educator. And then make sure that my actions, thoughts and words reflect that vision. I want to walk into school every day looking towards possibility and promise. I want to rekindle the passion in teaching that called me to this profession 19 years ago. I want to remember that my focus is on the kids, and that my work here is “big and significant”, joyful and passionate.

How about you? What choice are you making?

2 Comments

  1. I appreciate Lucy Calkins’ comments regarding the need to maintain a focus on the children in our care. I read into this that she is recommending that we forget about all the external policy pressures bearing down on us and stop despairing over the inadequacies and problems in the current educational system. Fifteen years ago I would have wholeheartedly endorsed this advice. However we are living in different times and a focus on the students in our care requires stepping out of the comfort of our classrooms and into the streets, so to speak. We need to speak up, loud and clear, about why our attention keeps getting diverted from the day-to-day classroom activities to real life situations that our students experience and that are being compounded by the current demands on our students, families, and teachers. We cannot afford to close the door of our classrooms and hope it all goes away. It won’t and we owe it to our students to influence the outcome of public education because it is all our futures that are at stake. This frame of mind allows me to walk into my classroom with a focus on the children in my care.

  2. Beautifully said by Lucy and written by you. This is my favorite part.

    “When we can be passionate learners and passionate teachers, when “our teaching is alive and powerful”, when “we are doing work that feels big and significant” – it’s hard to see the problems and feel despair. It’s much easier to see possibility and promise.”

    I’m going to talk about it tomorrow when I do PD for new teachers.

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