Hey teaching friends! I know many of you are in the midst of testing season right now and will be running hard through the end of the school year to finish things up and pack as much as you can in before summer break. When you are going 1,000 miles an hour each day, it can definitely take a toll on how you feel about your job. I have been there too.
How about a pick-me-up to help you along and maybe even get you excited about finishing up the year on a high? I have just the thing for you!
My good friend and amazing professional author and educational speaker Angela Watson has just released a NEW book called Unshakeable and she has asked several blogger friends to help her in discussing each of the chapters over the last 20 days for a virtual book study if you will – super fun!
You can follow along from the very beginning starting at Angela’s blog right HERE.
Today, I will be covering the last chapter in the book: Innovate and adapt to make teaching and adventure.
I really enjoyed this chapter in the book as I truly believe that only we are able to make our jobs and adventure each and every day in the way an adventure should be: exciting and something to look forward to without knowing what is coming.
One of the first steps mentioned was reflecting on our own practices. That is something that every formal teacher education program will have you do over and over and over again. But it really is a good habit to be in and will help you realize what is working for your students – and what isn’t. Or how a good lesson could be GREAT. I enjoyed Angela’s idea to grab some sticky notes for your lesson plans and jot down your thoughts after the lesson was taught for the day. Make note of what worked, what didn’t, what activity the students loved, or what they could have used instead to make it more concrete. Just by taking a few moments to write it out, you are already more prepared for next year when you pull out that lesson again. Much like a artist, you are honing your craft and tweaking it until it is the best version of your teaching.
Next, Ms. Watson mentions something I have always done instinctively from year to year as a teacher – and I guess I never realized it wasn’t something all teachers did: Choosing your own classroom changes and challenges. What does that mean? Basically, we have so many things in the classroom we CANNOT control. Data to be collected, how we teach our reading block, or even allowing students to choose their own reading selections from the library at times are all examples of our jobs being dictated to us. It can be frustrating to say the least and it can feel like all the joy and creativity has been stripped from us. But there are lots of things we CAN control – and we need to embrace those choices and be excited about trying something new.
For example, one year I decided to try Student Led Parent Conferences with my third graders. I did my own research, read about how it worked in other classrooms, and then sat down and created a version I felt would work best with my style and my class. And each year, I tweaked it as needed until it was the best version of a conference I knew was amazing. I didn’t do it because I was told to try it by administration (in fact no one else in my building had tried them). I didn’t do it because I wanted some big announcement to the staff (a funny story actually: my principal DID ask me to present it to the staff which I politely declined. I didn’t want anyone getting “extra” work for something I pulled together on my own). I did it because I wanted to stretch myself and try something that would make a difference to both my students, their learning, their parents, and to how I felt about conference night. It was exciting to try something new!
Last – I ADORE this subheading in the chapter: “Choose to innovate and subvert the system quietly.” While I always made sure to complete benchmark assessments, I didn’t always teach every single lesson in the math book if I had pre-assessed students and they already knew it. As long as I knew I would cover what the students needed to learn for their grade level standards, I was free to try some out of the box lessons. But I also didn’t blab about it in the Staff Lounge either. I think the key to the subheading is “quietly.” Just be you and be at peace with those things you cannot control – and be excited about those you can.
In the end, you don’t need free reign on a curriculum and the full school day to be a creative and pumped up teacher. You just need a few pieces that you can choose. If it were more than that, you would be overwhelmed anyway. Pick 1-3 new ideas you might want to incorporate next year now and start getting excited about them. It’s time to bring back your adventure.
I highly suggest to everyone to check out Angela Watson’s newest book: Unshakeable for yourself – it is fabulous! For those that are reading along, what was your biggest takeaway from this chapter? I would love to hear in the comments below!