June 6, 2015

What is going right?

I don't know about y'all, but sometimes I get angsty.
My computer is telling me that "angsty" isn't a word, but I can't think of a solid replacement.  I look at the developmentally inappropriate standards, the random assessments promising to chip away at instructional time a little earlier each year, leaving less and less room for students to master the daunting curriculum, and the mounting pressure to ensure that they succeed. 
As teachers we serve as a shield every year. We take all of this pressure in stride. We read the crazy standards, and we turn around, smile, and promise our students that they are smart. They can get this. We just need to work a little harder.

And then I think about their home lives. I think about the food that may not be in their bellies, the sleep they didn't get, the care they haven't received for that cough that I have noticed, which keeps getting worse. 
Selfishly, I'll admit, sometimes I think about my crumbling social life. About all of the people I haven't called. About the events I've avoided because I just have too much to do. I think about the people I do make time for who have to listen to me complain. And I wonder how much longer they will want to put up with me. 
And then I get resentful. I feel that angst creeping in. I know it's ugly, and I shouldn't sit around wallowing in my own stress, but it's hard when it's avoidable stress that you didn't create. I'm weak. I let myself get angry at policy makers, superintendents, principals, fellow teachers, parents...all of the people who buy in to the system that we have today. And I start to actually believe that it's too big of a mess to fix.
I start to believe that everything is going all wrong.

I shared on Instagram this week that I am going to be making the move from 4th to 2nd grade this coming school year. This is a change that I practically begged for. I loved 4th grade a whole lot. I connected with my students, and I genuinely loved coming to work everyday, but I really feel that my heart is in K-2. I am really excited!
In the spirt of summer, I have been seeking out some professional development. I am nerdy, and I actually love to see what PD books are big hits right now, and I read them at the pool. I also catch up on teacher blogs that I haven't looked at in a while. In my search, I came across Angela Watson's podcast Truth for Teachers. (You can check her out on thecornerstoneforteachers.com...I highly recommend it!!) I came across episode 17, which is titled "How to reconnect daily with the reasons why you teach", and I may have to listen to it multiple times this coming school year to refresh my memory. :)
The main message that I pulled from this episode is to take what you believe is going wrong, and focus on how it is going right, instead.
For example:
On an average school day, you may say, "A parent just sent me a really ugly email because she believed that the consequences her son faced at school today were unfair". You can totally focus on this situation as a negative experience. In fact, it's hard not to! But, you can also choose to see how it created something positive. You could instead say, "I was given the opportunity today to point out a very difficult truth to a parent about her son's behavior. This may have planted a seed that will benefit this child in the future". 
Angela gave a couple of examples that stuck with me. You can view a standard as developmentally inappropriate that barely anyone in your class could grasp, or you could celebrate the handful of students who did grasp it as a huge success, because it was really hard for them.
You can view a data team meeting as a huge waste of your planning, or you can view them as a time to sit back and share your hard work with your team, and collaborate with others about ways to achieve even more in the next quarter. 
It's all about perspective. I have been given the gift of a fresh start in a new grade. I will choose to focus more on what is going right this school year. And, yes, this can apply to what is going right with education in general. Because, if we let ourselves, there is a lot to celebrate when it comes to teachers. We have created much of what is going right, and I think it deserves more attention. 
Click on the picture to link directly to Angela Watson's podcast. :)

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