Image by Krissy Venosdale
Be me, that is a message I heard loud and clear in Pernille Ripp's blog post Try To Be You. As I read through the post I realized that the past two years I have lost who I am as an educator when transitioning from a classroom teacher to a curriculum coordinator. The past few months I have begun to return to my roots or center as an educator and find my way as my "students" have shifted from kiddos to adults. As I think about the beginning of a new school year, I am ready to use my foundation of beliefs about learners to support my teachers as we embark on a year of newness, challenges, fears, failures, struggles, successes, collaborations, celebrations and unknowns.
I've always been all about building relationships with my students and my community (parents, colleagues, district leadership, support staff, professional learning network, etc...). That is my "Center" (Rise of the Guardians - What's Your Center?) my foundation - because it allows me to build trust and push my learners to take risks and FAIL so that they can learn and move forward. The past two years I've felt lost (like Jack Frost) not knowing what my center/foundation is. And like Jack, it was right in front of my nose so obvious, yet NOT. Because it was part of the core of my being, I did not realize it was the key to my transition from the classroom to leadership.
One of the activities I started with my math students, I will use with my teachers this year as we embark on a new school year:
The Dot by Peter Reynolds
International Dot Day
Why I read "The Dot" to my middle school math students and why I will be sharing it with my teachers (watch the video or read the book please):
- You have to start (even if it is ugly and awkward)
- You have to experiment and try new things
- Face your fear (whatever it is) and work through it (I'll support and help you!)
- One more step, small improvements over time constitute large gains overall
- Track your growth and reflect on what's working or NOT
In my math classes I used "The Dot" as an opportunity to let students know that if they have struggled in math or if they have failed math their year with me will be different. I acknowledge that no student comes to school the first day and thinks "I can't wait to fail math, (or any other subject) this year." "The Dot" is my first attempt at building trust with my students. It allows me to let them know that I expect them to start and make an attempt in learning difficult material. They need to face their fear of mathematics and opting out is not an option. One step at a time is growth and reflection will drive the next steps.
With my teachers I expect the same. As we implement LEGO robotics, Google Apps for Education, Maker Labs, and Chromebooks into our instruction this coming school year, we are starting from ground zero. The relationships I started building two years ago will now provide the foundation for the trust required for risk-taking, failing forward and going all in. It will be important for the teachers to use the lessons learned from "The Dot" to allow them to be messy learners this coming school year. My job is to support them and model failing forward on a daily basis for them. Ultimately the goal is to support our students as they become makers, thinkers, coders, collaborators, creators, and digital citizens.