Finding my compass – again

I’ve put it off for nearly as long as I dare. It is time to start getting ready for a new school year. Completing my list for summer has suddenly kicked in to overdrive: there’s still much (re)painting to complete, sorting and throwing to do, cleaning and gardening/landscaping. But suddenly, there is a pressing need to squeeze it all in quickly — the students return in about a week.

I used to get pretty worked up about starting room preparations as soon as we turned the calendar to August. This year for the first time in my career, I’ve managed to make it all the way to the last 10 days before school begins. I suppose that’s growth. Hopefully it’s not burnout.

I love what I have chosen for my life’s work. But sometimes, more often now than in the beginning of my career, there are far too many experts telling me how to do my job. And demanding proof that I am doing it. This week,  I am in the processing of completing my self-assigned professional reading: The Cafe Book by Gail Boushey and Joan Moser – better known as “The Sisters”. Reading this book is helping me to find the balance between all the frenetic demands made on teachers today and a calm and purposeful learning experience for my students. Here is a quote from Debbie Miller that the Sisters included in their book (page 60) which caused me to sit up and take notice:

…when getting done takes precedence over the doing, when finishing becomes more important than the figuring out, we’ve lost sight of why we became teachers in the first place. (Miller, D. Teaching with intention: Defining beliefs, aligning practice, taking action, Grades K-5. (2008). Portland, ME: Stenhouse. p 106

As I read and reread Debbie Miller’s words, I realized that this is what has been causing me unease with what I do. In the rush to turn in this, that, or the other evidence, I have lost my bearing: why I am a teacher. I chose to teach because I believe that it is important to give every child the opportunity to soar to heights neither of us imagined possible. I do this on a selfish level because, when that moment of connection happens, when child and teacher both realize that something wonderful has happened, it is the most exquisite of emotions that makes all the hard, hard work worth everything.

This year, my personal goal as teacher, will be to refocus on why I teach, to not let outside forces undermine why my students and I are here, working together. And if I let some of those demands for evidence slip, if I’m late with something someone somewhere wants in order to show that I have been working, that is what will be.

You can find me here in Room 207 helping my students figure out how to take the next step in their learning path.

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