That is what was spent on my two kids' school supplies this year. Throw in their backpacks, and it is closer to $250. We have not yet bought school clothes, and having just had a decently costly knee surgery, bought a house and had a car brake light (the one that you have to get a part from the dealer and not Auto Zone) go out as I was getting the car inspected- it may be a bit.
All this was in my head as I checked out at Target, the first of two baskets we had of paper and pens and stuff. But there was something else.
I am thankful.
Thankful that I can buy my kids supplies- even with the other stuff. Sure, it stretches our two teacher household paycheck more than I like or am comfortable with. But I can do it.
In a couple weeks, I will have students who cannot. I will have students who also cannot afford decent meals. I will have students who will not have parents willing or able to help them when they struggle on home work. I will have students who are sick, or have been abused, or been bullied, or have made mistakes that are coming back to haunt them. I will have students that are being abused by they peers- or used by them. I will have students that fear going home- or have none to go to.
There is a growing buzzword in education called "equity." Used correctly, it is an effort to address the issues in the paragraph above. Unfortunately, it is being used to tell teachers to "follow the plan" so one class does not feel they get a cool assignment while the others do not.
But I want to talk about the real equity. The one that matters.
How do we create equity when the field is so uneven? When abuse meets poverty meets stability meets illness meets guilt meets successful meets popular meets depressed?
I just returned from the grocery store where I bought the last vanilla ice cream so my kids could have root beer floats. The package was damaged, so the cashier asked if I wanted a different one. I explained it was the last one, he bagged it, and I went home. That mentality is necessary for retail- get rid of the damaged product. It's the mentality in almost everything in the world except good families and education.
To me, the ice cream carton was damaged, not the contents. If I was looking at the cartons and there had been more than one, I would have ignored the damaged one and taken another.
As educators, we cannot ignore the damaged carton because it is lesser.
And we cannot neglect the pristine carton either to devote all our time to the damaged.
If we want to create equity in the classroom, there is only one way.
Student voice that leads to empowerment.
We cannot create this as educators, we can merely encourage and equip it.
The depressed student has a voice.
The abused student has a voice.
The successful student has a voice.
The homeless kid has a voice.
The rich kid has a voice.
They need to be ALLOWED to use it. They need to be EQUIPPED on how. And they need to be EMPOWERED to enact it.
For the last year, I have lead an initiative in my district. I have recruited a team of educators and together we have developed a program called LEADS that will launch this year. It is a tool- we hope- that will help create equity. We will be leading a session at College Station ISD's You Matter this Friday, but in the meantime, here is our promo video:
As I checked out with my kids' school supplies and thought of all the kids that will struggle to pay for theirs, I hoped not that I could create equity for those students, but that I could help equip my students to fight for true equity- that through LEADS, or-better yet- through their own initiative they will serve those around them that have a need.
That they would consider others as greater than themselves.
Then I remembered that for them to learn that lesson- I need to first model it by serving others.
This will be the second in a series of blogs on things I learned from life and how they apply to life. The first is here: didacticchad.weebly.com/home/edu-life-lessons-injury
Moving is tough.
Even when it is a good thing, it is tedious, exhausting and hot. Especially when moving in Texas. In May-July.
This summer, I moved in three different ways- I moved out, I moved around, and I moved up.
I will start with the saddest parts of moving- when you leave. I spent the last couple days helping one of my best friends move out of their home and away from College Station. It hurts to see people we love leave, and at the same time, we are excited for their new journey. There is a mix of emotions that adds to the normal stress of moving out. When we moved out of our old home, I felt some of this- we were leaving where memories were made, experiences shared, and dreams birthed. But we where not leaving our town. Our friends are not just moving out, they are moving on (super secret 4th type of move coming up later).
Our students and fellow teachers move out as well. They leave their rooms yet sometimes stay in the same building. Things are mostly the same, but still different. We see them less, relationships change, and there is excitement yet sorrow at the loss of what once was.
As educational practice goes, we have to move out of doing things a certain way. We have to leave behind well developed lessons when standards change. We have to finally acknowledge that overhead projectors are NOT dynamic presentations. We have to accept that the way we learned it is not how our students learned it. So at the very least, we have to move around.
For the last two years, I have been in the basement of my school with limited interaction with other teachers.
This was not punishment.
I got the chance to move up to the second floor for next year which means some changes. Most notably for me- my Vitamin D levels should go back up as I will get some sunlight. It also means I need to alter my coffeehouse classroom design somewhat. Not a total overhaul, but adjust must be made. The first was the coffeebar lost the bookshelf backing. Mostly because there was no way I was taking a massive solid wood bookshelf up essentially three floors. Now it will be a window seat for students.
As educators, we sometimes move around. We teach new content areas, we try new things, but we are essentially rearranging the furniture a bit. We do not leave our school, maybe not even our room, but things are a bit different. This can be an exciting move, one that we choose to pursue to keep things fresh. Or, it may be mandated- in which case you still need to try to find a way to make the changes your own. Moving Around is a great way to take ownership of your educational career.
The final move I experienced was also the first move I did this summer. Or rather, moves. We moved into storage, then into a new house.
This is not recommended.
Moving Up is awesome. You move into something you define as better- perhaps bigger or newer or with something you never had before. For us, it was a spot to put the trashcan in the cabinets.
We have been using our pantry for ten years. My wife and I still go to the pantry at least once a day to throw out trash because one of the toughest parts about moving up is that you have to learn a new role.
That is true in education. I hope to move up to administration someday- and if I do, I cannot do some things the way I do them now. As a classroom teacher, my "trashcan" is in the "pantry" but as an admin, it is in the "cabinet." For me, this will be how I handle discipline. It will evolve somewhat- become more intensive and have more weight behind it, but it must still hold onto the soul of how I do it now- by focusing on relationship. See, I still put the trash in the trashcan, I do not change that key part of life when I moved up.
Finally, Moving On
I am not moving on. But someday, I might. To a new campus, a new district, a new state- even a new career. When I move on, it will not be sans all the things I have collected over time. I will take the things that matter with me.
When we Move On in education, remember to take the things that matter. The notes from parents and students, the relationships built, the memories made.
Take the things that have made you who you are- and they will move on with you.
This will be the first in a series of blogs on things I learned from life and how they apply to life.
In early April, while ACTIVELY monitoring during the STAAR EOC test, I planted my left knee and turned, immediately feeling a pop and some pain. My knees pop a lot despite my relative youth of 38- so I just thought I had sprained it. I carried on as normal for about a day, then realized it impacted my normal exercise routine that is essentially a sort of HIIT workout. So, I scaled back the workout.
By the last week of school, the knee was no better, so I went to the doctor. He did an x-ray and found nothing broken, and suggested that I get an MRI to confirm if it was a tear. We were moving over the summer, and would be on the road for two weeks before we moved into our new house, so I asked to wait. He gave me some meds, which helped a bit, but in the course of moving into storage then into the new house, the pain increased. I got the MRI and discovered I have a torn meniscus and will have surgery on July 30.
This all relates to our classrooms and campuses like this: our class/campus is our body. On any given day, a part of our body gets injured. Gets torn. A student has a bad day, gets in a fight, fails a test, gets bullied. A teacher feels alone, rejected, dejected, or gets bullied. (Yeah, it happens.) As an educator, we may feel it, recognize the pain of the injured party, but we have things to do. Lessons to prep, observations to do, paperwork, paperwork, paperwork. We think the injury will go away if we just modify (or mollify) it for a bit. Give it space and time to heal. Rub the ointment of kind words on the hurt party, but do nothing to actually treat the injury.
I do not know if the tear got worse from the first injury or not. But I do know that my knee has been hurting for over three months, and ignoring it and thinking positively has not made it better. Here are the steps that have made (or will make) it better- be it my knew or your class/campus injury.
1. Got to a doctor
A doctor knows their stuff, yes, but they are primarily a different perspective. They lean on their knowledge and skill to assess your medical needs. As educators, our "doctors" are those we can go to with a different perspective than our own. Peers, friends of the teacher, even fellow students can provide a sort of expert insight into the pain in your school body. So when a teacher seems to be hurting, ask their teacher friends what is up- and when it is a student, ask their friends.
2. Get an MRI
An MRI gives a deeper picture of an injury. A school injury MRI is deeper diving into what the pain is. Asking hard questions of the one who is hurt is the best way to do this. And yes, it will hurt you. That MRI bill sure does not feel great right now. But it is needed to get to the heart of the injury.
3. Treat it
For me, it will be surgery to repair. For an EDU injury, it will- like a surgery- have risks. You will have to dig into the injury, whatever it is, and seek to repair it. Continue conversations, address wrongs and slight and actually make them right. Discipline and correction may be necessary. Change to your plan and approach may be needed. And even if it is repaired- if the rejected teacher is accepted, the bullied student gets relief- you are not done.
When my surgery is done, I will not be right back at my HIIT training and mud runs. I will be on crutches for week, then I will have to rehab. I will have to rebuild lost muscle and flexibility. When a teacher or student in our school body is injured, then repaired, they too need rehab. Broken trust or instilled fears cannot be corrected with one action. That person needs to be rehabbed- reinforced regularly- until they are strong enough to return to "activities as normal."
I am not exactly looking forward to surgery and rehab. I don't think anyone does. But I am looking forward to eventually returning to "activities as normal." If there is an injury that occurred your students or teachers over the summer, they may come back with an emotional limp. Do not wait to see if it will go away- treat it.
Do new things.
Try to find the things that have not been done and do them. Find the things that have not been done well, and do them better. Know that you will face resistance- from those who do things the old way and those you beat to the punch, but do those things anyway. You will be told "you cannot do that" and "it will never work." Respond with a kind, respectful-but firm-
"Don't tell me what I can't do."
See, the doers of new things are not followers, and they may not be the leader. But they are creators. And we need creators.
Even if they are not always valued right away.
People who try to do new things are the most valuable- and misunderstood- resource we have. See, they do not just complain and point out the flaws of the status quo. No, they do what others fear or resist or simply do not understand. They do not take the road less traveled- they make a new road where once there was nothing.
Make Your Mark
But if you are to be a doer of things not done, you have to map your journey. It will give you integrity- integrity like a building or a bridge needs integrity. You have to make sure that what you do is sound, secure, and as scientists know- it must be replicable.
Tell your story so others can follow it. Use social media for more than selfies and Snapchat streaks- tell a story worth hearing. Not just one that has structural integrity but also possesses moral integrity. Blog, podcast, vlog, write a book, make a movie, paint a picture, keep a journal, tell a friend over coffee.
But never forget that character will out. What you have skimped on, and taken the shortcut with up until know has brought success, and it might for a bit longer. But in the end, the person with moral integrity, sound character, and strong qualities will have more than just catchy slogans and motivational posters and team mantras to stand on.
They that have integrity will live as an open book because will have a life that does not lie or hide the truth of who they are.
And this is where it will all bring you.
The real you.
The you you have spent your whole life seeking is revealed when you take risks, when you try a new thing, and when you honestly reflect and what you have experienced. There is a hard truth about this elusive "you." It will always remain just a little ahead of where things are now, it will tease you forward, daring you to never be satisfied because the truth of "you" is that "you" are revealed in the journey, not the destination.
Never Stop Learning.
To the parents- this goes for you as well. You too are the Class of Every Year. So where your parents, and theirs and theirs. So will be your grandchildren and theirs and theirs. The hard lesson for us in this is that our journey is ours, and our children's journey is theirs. You will have to learn to let them take chances, to risk, to learn how to handle rejection and success. As parents, the new thing we become doers of is letting go, the mark we make is our children, and we will know ourselves when we look at our journey in conjunction with our children.
We will learn from our children if we let them teach us. And if we believe, truly believe that the next generation is capable of leading us now- not when they graduate, or when they graduate again, or again, or when they finally arrive- they lead now.
So let us, our generation, do the new thing today, and let the little children lead us.
In their journey lies my hope- and yours.
My family and I are moving across town to a new house. That means one thing:
In the course of packing, I am taking stock of the things we have accumulated. The things we needed, the things we wanted, and the gifts we gave.
That last one is what has me typing this out these thoughts.
A few years ago, we got my oldest daughter (Leslie) the Harry Potter series. She had never read them- heck, I had never read them- but she was interested and her friends were talking about it. So, we bought the whole series. We would all read the books and have shared experience as a family. And aside from Kenna having no interest in Harry Potter whatsoever, it has worked.
Leslie and Kenna have both always liked reading, but when we gave Leslie the Potter series, something powerful happened. Her reading comprehension increased, her analysis of text increased, and her excitement- really her JOY- of reading exploded. But something more important happened.
It changed our relationship as father and daughter.
We had a great relationship to begin with, but now we had deep discussions of literature. And when we both finished Potter, we moved on to other series. Percy Jackson, the Divergent series, now we are reading the Heroes of OIympus (and she is way ahead of me). Some have been mutually well-received, others not as much. But each page, each chapter has given us a chance to connect.
I did not just give my daughter the gift of reading, I gave the gift of relationship.
It struck me, looking at the collection of books growing on my daughters' shelves (both are avid readers now) that reading is relationship. You connect with characters and stories, and then you connect with others who love those same fictional people and events. You discuss and debate and dissect the prose, you share theories and predictions, and you learn more about the real people around you. Leslie is a Hermione, I am a strange Lupin/Snape hybrid. And we connect there.
When we as educators give our kids something to read, we are giving them a chance at a relationship- with literature and with each other and with us.
Next year, if I am a classroom teacher, I will have a library of books and graphic novels that relate to my subject matter for students and I to share and discuss. If I am able to become an administrator- I will have a library of books and graphic novels that relate to my subject matter for students and I to share and discuss. I want to create an environment that is conducive to building academic relationships around shared interests. I want to foster connections between myself and my students, and my students and literacy.
Things have come full circle: the gift I gave my daughter has now become a gift to me to now give to my students. I have learned a valuable lesson:
Reading is Relationship.
Think for a second about your favorite hero or heroine. Chances are, they are not perfect, they are not infallible, and they are very human. Even if they are not human, they display vulnerability and compassion and hope and resilience and very normal, everyday human emotions. They succeed. And they fail.
If a hero is unwavering, never questioning their mission, then they can become unrelatable. The great heroes look at their challenge and sometimes ask themselves, "Can this be done?" Aragorn, Frodo, Gandalf, and all the rest look at their mission and doubt that it can be accomplished. In the movies, Gandalf goes so far to say that their mission was a "fool's hope."
But that is what makes them heroes.
In the face of doubt, which they freely express, they have a hope. Even if it is small.
When our heroes never bleed, they become unrelatable. What is it that makes John McClane so heroic in the Die Hard movies? He gets banged up. A lot. Harry Potter cannot save Cedric, and this becomes the true turning point in the series because his failure both haunts and drives him to end Voldemort's threat. Tris loses her mom and dad in Divergent. John Keating gets fired in Dead Poets Society. William Wallace dies.
Our heroes need to fail to demonstrate why their actions are so heroic. If it were easy to win, everyone would. The important thing is these heroes either eventually overcome, or they create a legacy that drives others to take up their mission.
If a hero starts at the top, where do they go?
We need our heroes to come from obscurity. Bruce Wayne returns to Gotham City after years missing to become Batman. Arthur pulls the sword from the stone and becomes a king. Frodo is just a hobbit. Mary Poppins literally comes from out of nowhere.
Heroes need a moment to rise, an opportunity to shine. and they cannot be afraid of the spotlight in that moment. They must realize they are a light to others. A beacon of hope that will inspire other heroes. As Theodore Roosevelt says,
It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.
Ultimately, that is the key to heroes. They make new heroes. People take up the cause, continue the journey, finish the quest. People become heroes, who inspire other people who become heroes. And so on it goes.
What does this have to do with education?
Go back and read this passage. Everywhere you see the words hero, heroine, or heroes- replace it with teacher or teachers.
That is what makes a teacher.
In my first year of teaching, I tried to speak to every student that walked by my room, even if they were not my own. Nothing more than a "hi" or "good morning," but it was an impactful thing.
I have begun to realize that somewhere along the way, I stopped doing that. And, applying full correlation DOES equal causation, I think that has an affect on my mood. I tend to be grumpier and more negative when I do not cordially greet as many people as I can.
This morning, I went up from my basement classroom to the third floor to talk with a teacher who turned out to be out today. I was a bit frustrated that I walked all that way, with a knee that was hurt doing STAAR testing (seriously, that is not a joke).
But on the way down, I started saying "good morning" to everyone I encountered.
I found my mood improving with each interaction. I was smiling more, even when the recipient ignored it or did not hear it.
So here is a challenge- say "good morning" or some sort of greeting to as many people as you can today. (Or tomorrow, if you read this later.)
It not only makes a difference to the one you say it to, it makes a difference to you.
I have learned so much from efforts to end open defecation.
Let me explain. I am reading The Power of Moments by Chip and Dan Heath, and they devote the second major section of their book to how to create opportunities for people to "trip over the truth." In other words, to discover what is right in front of them.
The centerpiece of this concept is a story about efforts to help people see the importance of using sanitation devices like latrines instead of just going, well, wherever. The story features copious amounts of the s-word, but there is a reason- the scientists trying to change behavior did want to sugar coat the truth. They needed a visceral response to effect change. I HIGHLY recommend you get this book, because I will never be able to effectively tell this story. But the big takeaway for me was that we do not really need to tell people the truth, we need to create opportunities for them to recognize the truth they never knew they were looking right at.
People where stepping in and walking through feces everywhere.
And in this story, feces was the "truth."
In education, I see it working like this. We have a practice we do. We do it all the time. We assume it is working great. So we continue it. What we do not do is really look into it. Ask others how the practice impacts them.
In my second year of teaching, a really bad set of test scores made me evaluate my practices. I could assume I was doing everything right and blame lazy students (let's be honest, we have all had that temptation). But instead, I asked students what I could do better. I was able to learn from the people I was there to teach.
I think one area educators always feel they are good at is listening to their students. Educators think they know what students think or feel.
Unless you have talked to them, really listened-
Watching them in the hallways is not listening. When you tell them to be quite when the lesson needs to start, pay attention to what conversations are going on. When you greet them, pay attention to their mood, their face, their posture. That tells a bigger truth than their words.
I am not immune to this.
A former student of mine posted a message on Facebook recently. This student is a graduate, and they posted an article about a new state law in Texas that required schools to give students a full lunch even if they had insufficient funds. The article stated that our district did not have that policy in place. The former student said essentially "Of course the district doesn't do this. Why would they do something that shows they care about students."
First, I recognize that there is way more in the reasoning behind district policy than many of know. I am NOT judging the district policy. This is about the fact that at least one student felt their school district did not care about students. A student who passed through MY classroom felt this way. It means I could have done more.
If you think that is just one opinion, you have not been listening to your students.
Yes, students are dramatic at times.
Yes, students overreact.
Yes, they do not have all the facts.
Yes, they have social media and they WILL share their opinions.
Back to open defecation. (That may be the most disgusting transition I have ever made.) The people who practiced that knew they were defecating everywhere, they just did not see why it was a problem until a worker helped them see things from a different perspective.
Educators, we are walking, talking, and living in a lot of crap and we are totally not aware. We are focused on a lot of important things, but we are also missing a lot of important things. We need to open our eyes and be INTENTIONAL about listening to and engaging with our students. What does that mean?
-You have a student that is tardy daily? Ask why. Are they walking from the farthest point possible from your classroom? Take a chance to to walk that distance during your conference, see if you can see why it is difficult.
-You have a student that is always sleeping? Find out what is going on. Are they working late hours? Maybe go visit their place of business to say hi.
-You have a student that is always hungry? Hand them a snack.
-A student complains about unfairness being displayed by a fellow educator? Listen, encourage them to talk with the teacher, and do not stab your colleague in the back.
-Students complaining about dress code? Find out their complaints, and see if you can discover the "why" behind it being a rule. I have found 'why' is the biggest reason students complain- they do not understand the reasoning. They may still disagree with it, but at least we show them respect enough to help them try to make sense of things.
-You have a fellow teacher that you never see? Take a walk to visit them.
-Your administrators overwhelmed with discipline issues AND regular daily responsibilities? Offer some help from time to time.
Our district had the opportunity for some administrators and few teachers to spend a day as a student last year. Though my opportunity fell through, my friends who did it were truly inspired. They came away with a new understanding of what students experience everyday. I wish we could have every teacher spend a day as a student.
The empathy that would create!
But here is the thing- I can make all sorts of suggestions about what we could do better, but you need to discover for yourself what your campus, your district, or your classroom's issue is. In the same way a student's disciplinary action has greater power because of their involvement in the process, our development as educators needs our personal touch.
Chip and Dan Heath say it this way in The Power of Moments:
"You can't appreciate the solution until you appreciate the problem. So when we talk about "tripping over the truth," we mean the truth about the problem or harm. That's what sparks sudden insight." (pg 106)
That leads us to the final point. We must APPRECIATE the problem. The problem must be given attention and it's due respect. Far too often, our students express a problem, and we do not take it seriously. We dismiss it as one opinion or struggle.
But it is real to that student.
We may not be able to solve the problem- there may not even be a problem to us- but we need to appreciate the problem that that student feels. That means listening and connecting. That means asking questions of those involved in the problem. It means thinking with the student on ways to address it.
How can I get you to "trip over your truth?"
Talk a walk around your school. Look for how your students are acting- not for disciplinary reasons, but to gauge their morale, their emotional state. Look for equity- is treatment of students fair. Look for smiles and frowns, then ask them why they smile or frown. Try to put yourself back in your school days- how would you want to be treated, how would you hope every day went?
And watch your step. There is truth all over the place.
For the last two years, I have been championing student voice. I believe that our students have something to say, and we need to be listening to them.
So, with March for Our Lives, a student voice movement has gone big-time. And I am excited to see adults hearing what students are saying.
But I am also soberly reminded of how far the student voice process still has to go.
For too long, teachers have felt they were talking to a brick wall of students, and for too long students have felt they were talking to a brick wall of adults.
Unfortunately, it seems it took a tragic school shooting to break down those walls and open communication. The students behind the March for Our Lives movement have seen more progress that many other student movements. Already, Florida has begun rolling out responses to their concerns- but therein lies the first issue.
Student Voice is Impatient
Florida is requiring clear backpacks and IDs for all students and the governor broke with the NRA in a first step. Instead of celebrating a first victory, many in the student movement immediately complained it wasn't enough.
Of course it isn't. Massive changes to how we address mental health, gun laws, and even the way schools are run takes time. But many students may not quite grasp the intricacies of this- so instead of dismissing their frustration as immaturity, we need to make it a teachable moment. Explain that it will take time, and that the victories (which they may not see as victories) are in fact important steps. Student voice must learn persistence. And patience.
Support is Not Necessarily Total Agreement
I watched some of the student leaders on Meet the Press this morning. What I heard were some great things, but I also heard an assumption in their interviews and in their rhetoric that indicated that the marchers completely agreed with all of their ideas. One, that is simply not plausible. But two, assuming total support is risky. Hearing the students assume that everyone who wants to do something about school shootings wants more gun control equates to every supporter of the 2nd Amendment assuming that those who agree with them want NO gun control.
This is dangerous because you ignore elements of your movement that have differing- and perhaps valid- ideas. Ideas that when incorporated and compromised with can make the movement stronger, and the voice louder. There is also a rush that comes from a huge day like yesterday. It was a tremendous victory for awareness, but yes, not everyone there was there in passionate support. I saw one interview with some marchers that had a very different understanding of what the march was. Numbers get attention, but numbers also mean a message is in danger of being diluted and misrepresented. The students who want their voice heard on this need to engage in conversations with different viewpoints, and look for ways they can find common ground. Which leads to...
Marches Get Attention, Conversations Make Changes
There is no doubt the march got people talking. The student leaders deserve tremendous credit for keeping the message alive. But marches will fade from memory unless there are conversations that follow.
The best example of this is Martin Luther King Jr and John F. Kennedy. Following the March on Washington- the march all other marches strive to be- King met with Kennedy. It was a conversation that built on the moment of the March.
I hope that these students continue to seek conversations with leaders. More importantly, I hope our leaders listen. This is key- not just hear, LISTEN.
Listening is more than acknowledging a viewpoint, it is engaging with it. It is hearing the pain and passion and hope and strength- and it is hearing the things that need to be course corrected.
I will have students tomorrow who want to talk about the March. You might as well. They may agree or disagree with it, they may share views that only half-formed, or that are in direct contradiction to your own.
Then, engage. Not to prove wrong or right, but to understand, and to support. Not necessarily their view, but their right to explore their opinions, fears, and hopes.
Students and adults can learn from the March for Our Lives. We can learn about more than just ending gun violence, we can learn about how to have a tough conversation. What to say, what not to say, what to do, what not to do.
My view of the March for Our Lives is this- it is a chance to start some tough, but necessary discussions.
That means the plants are blooming, the sun is shining, and senioritis is in full epidemic mode.
We are in the backstretch of the year, half a semester left. The students and teachers can smell summer break. Standing in the way is about nine weeks of school that include state testing, end of year conferences, and students asking what they can do to salvage their grade.
At this point in the year, it becomes easy to give in to the mundane and mediocre. To enter survival mode. But I want to challenge you:
Don't be that teacher.
Remember why you chose this calling- and why, perhaps, it chose you.
It has been an...interesting year in education. Teachers have had a lot to deal with outside the classroom in this election cycle. Remember that as difficult as some new laws or budget constraints from the state are, you chose this calling because you wanted to reach students, to make a difference. It can be straining and scary to have so little control over your career- believe me, I know- but you chose this serve others. Remember them.
I have seen advertisements for several television shows that are about teachers- all of them have the stereotypical "teacher behaving badly for comedic purposes." Remember that teaching is a noble calling. That we have an impact on the next generation that is potentially greater than any other influencer in their life. Be that teacher that makes them love learning by being present and patient and by TRULY LISTENING to them. Choose to focus on the positives each day- celebrate the amazing things your students and your peers are doing everyday and don't choose to air petty complaints or humorous (but demeaning) teacher memes. I am not saying to share legitimate concerns and struggles- transparency is important- but do not neglect to remember why we believe educators accept a calling, not just a contract.
Remember that there is a student that needs a kind word.
Remember that there is a fellow educator who needs a pat on the back.
Remember that EOCs and STAARS are not the measure of our students' value- or our own.
Remember that as our time with our students draws to a close, we still have time to make a difference.
Remember that you started this year with hope for things to come- it would be best to end with hope for the seeds you've planted.
Remember that you are the story of your school that your non-educator friends hear.
Remember that as long as there is breath in your lungs and days on the calendar, you can still reach THAT kid.
Remember that as much as we chose to teach, education chose us, too.
Remember why you do what you do.
I teach Psychology, Sociology, Communication Applications and Debate at College Station High School, as well as coach the debate team and co-sponsor Student Council. I am an aspiring administrator.