Monday, March 9, 2015

The Three Best Weed Killers #sol15

Fearing sounding preachy, I wrote and revised on and off all day and did not hit PUBLISH...until now. I want to share a photo of a former student who is now teaching. The picture showed up on my Facebook feed yesterday and it has led me to chew on one word all day: joy.

So, understand, I am not preaching to you but writing from the heart to myself--writing from a place of joy. Maybe some of you can relate and connect with where I am coming from as I have it out with myself in this post more than having it out with any reader.

The joy of teaching can be choked by weeds if we stop taking care of the garden.

We can all document the who, what, when, where, why of the weeds in education--and we all fatigue from pulling on the weeds. We all have weeds. Weeds are an invasive part of the deal--with gardens and with education. The saddest part about weeds choking out flowers or plants--or teachers--is that another weed soon grows in its vacancy.

If we do no take care of our school, weeds take over.

If we do not take care of ourselves, we are at risk of becoming weeds.

I recommend the following three weed killers. When used liberally and shared with others, hope and joy will grow.

Yesterday's image on Facebook:
Elise's joy--her students' joy--inspires me.
Let Joy Remind Us
When we see joy in education, let it remind us why we got into teaching in the first place.

For example, recently, a former student sent me a connection request on Facebook. Generally, I accept the requests from graduates. Pictures start showing up of this young person--working with smiling, laughing kids. The thing that struck me about the picture was the joy. Joy is everywhere. Joy is infectious in these pictures. I want that joy again.

She writes, "And I love teaching so much, I actually live in Guatemala and work in an orphanage too. Never thought I would be here but I love it."

Become the best teacher, not just the best teacher who works for Such-and-Such Schools
There is a difference. Becoming the best teachers we can be means embracing our role in the profession more than in our buildings. This means spending some time away from the classroom on finding our joy(s) within teaching. Maybe it is connected to our subject or working with young people.

One of the greatest heralds of my joy in education is working with our local National Writing Project--the Pennsylvania Writing and Literature Project (PAWLP). I love being reminded by the example of retired teachers at the writing project. These teachers did not retire from teaching, they just retired from their buildings. And I love that. They still go to workshops and meet to discuss education. They write and read and share. They teach summer classes to kids and the teach graduate classes to adults. They consult with schools. They mentor one another and they act as if they still have everything to learn.

It is humbling to be around people who love teaching--who never leave the garden unattended.

Realize we can't do it all, but realize we have more to give
Get out of our classrooms. Get out of our communities. Get out of our states. We learn things just by doing. Attending conferences and workshops--visiting classrooms in our own building--it is good for us.

When I was at NCTE this fall, a colleague and I got talking to a many teachers who spend their own money to make sure getting to NCTE happens. Some flew in from the West Coast, the Midwest, from all over. They clearly place a value on getting out and seeing and hearing other people. I learned something about the investment--time, money, energy--it takes to raise oneself up.

In many cases, we have to do this for ourselves. And we have to pull colleagues along with us.

Perhaps cost precludes us. There are other ways--there are free workshops offered in our area. Free EdCamps. Maybe set one day aside a week to read an article in English Journal or Voices in the Middle. Maybe devote fifteen minutes a day to checking out other teachers on Twitter or on the English Companion Ning or read a favorite teacher's blog.

Take the opportunity to write and reflect--in a private journal, or maybe even blog yourself. Maybe blog with a colleague or two. Imagine sharing a blog with several colleagues--a place to share successes and joys and in the classroom--a place to model and reflect about what is good in your class, building, community, world.

Final Thought
When we get to the point where we do not want to do any of these things--or we find easy excuses (i.e. time)--then maybe we have let the weeds take over...and maybe we are not all that far away from becoming, well, weeds. But all is not lost. We can always pull the weeds out and make our gardens right again. We can.

We just have to be willing to start pulling the weeds out.

from A Dictionary of Victorian Slang

Have out (Peoples', 1860). To hold a frank discussion, verging upon personalities.

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