Building Bridges / Strengthening Infrastructure

a) I only post when I have something to say.                                                                                   b) My urge to write is triggered by what I see, what I hear, what I experience, and especially by what I seemingly stumble over in other blogs or news outlets.                           c) I regularly follow a number of blogs related to education and Internet delivery services from education sources like Ed Week and ASCD.                                                                          d) Consequently, I have a lot to work with.

The educator work week begins next week in many Delaware public schools. Teachers and paras come in for several days of meetings, professional development, training, and to get their work spaces ready for the opening of school the following Monday. It is a busy time and can be quite stressful.

There can be lots of pressure to focus on different and possibly conflicting (but obviously related) issues and topics. There’s the time crunch between administrators’ plans & intentions and the need & desire to get into that classroom and get things organized & arranged; getting everything cranked up, all systems go, planned & prepped, ready to hit the proverbial ground running when those kiddoes hit the doors. Then there is the usual anxiety that accompanies most experiences in which one meets a new group of colleagues in order to undertake a project or a new year of work—even if they are only eight years old. Trust me, educators do not sleep well on the night before school starts.

It isn’t dread, for goodness sakes. It’s a mix of anxiety, anticipation, and quite honestly, a bit of stage fright. You haven’t really sweated until you have flopped in front of thirty-two hyper-critical 6th graders! Hey—I would know,…

It is also a time for reflection. Once again, Diane Ravitch’s blog gives interested readers—and there are thousands like me who follow her every word and deed—the chance to be inspired and provoked by others. I read this early this morning under the banner Good Advice for Teachers.

“This teacher explains how she will deal with the new school year:”

“I have been practicing mindfulness as a way of combating much of the stress I anticipate for the coming year.
I’m not going to overthink the coming year. It will unfold itself. No point in stressing over what hasn’t happened yet.
One doesn’t know what’s coming. I’m starting my 13th year in pre-k in the same school. No one is going to push me out before I’m ready to go.
What I noticed at the end of the school year last year and over the summer is that the suits have no clue what they are supposed to do. They are working in the dark almost as much as we are. I will insist that they provide guidance for every initiative they want me to do and ask them to model for me. I will document every discussion we have. I intend to have a long paper trail.
And I will teach my students as though we are at Sidwell Friends”

A valuable reflection and commentary from an experienced teacher on how one might deal with the stresses of NoChildLeftBehind, RTT, edreform, CommonCore, testing, teacher evaluation, and whatever other initiatives are decided and handed down to staff. Plus, a worthwhile goal to offer instruction, opportunities, and support for incoming students just like those one might expect at a prestigious private school located in the nation’s capital.

Later in the day, Ravitch posted another teacher’s response to the suggestion expressed above. It is titled A Word to Fellow Teachers.

I LOVE IT. I love what one teacher’s small, succinct words of wisdom brought out in others. I love the way the writer ends this second message of hope and wisdom: “Thank you, dear colleague. I will think of you as I welcome my middle-school children into my classroom, knowing you are bringing the same spirit to your younger, lucky students.”

kippdawson says:   August 19, 2012 at 7:59 am

“Dear teacher sister/brother, as I read and absorb your advice, and wish you well for all of it, may I respectfully add one more idea for your consideration? It’s a big part of my school year:

“I will be mindful that next door, down the street, and across the country thousands and thousands of teachers like me are trying to do the same thing, for the same reason. Because children are our focus. Because we love and care about them and their families and our communities. Because we have to protect them from the suits, who are trying to spread darkness over the areas where we are devoted to bringing light. And since there are far more of us than of them, despite their billions and their government support, when we join together, we can turn around the darkness and take back our profession and build our schools. So I pledge to build bridges to my colleagues and to the parents and communities that care, so that we can become a mighty force on behalf of our children. For example, I will embrace the courage and determination of the Chicago teachers as they prepare to do battle for all of us. I know this year will present challenges, but I am not alone. And I know in my heart that right is on my side, on our side, and because we do this for children, we must and will prevail.”

Thank you, dear colleague. I will think of you as I welcome my middle-school children into my classroom, knowing you are bringing the same spirit to your younger, lucky students.”

This is a meaningful and moving message. It is what we at the Delaware State Education Association call “a union moment.” Collective action feels alive and well—even if it is just the actions of the teachers in one hallway, one school, one district, or one state. Kipp Dawson, whoever he or she is, has pledged to build bridges to education colleagues, to parents, and to the wider community “so that we may become a mighty force on behalf of our children.” What a strong infrastructure this could build. What a powerful underpinning for the future of public education this could become.

[I will add that some of the suits I know are good guys on the side of right, and are just as amazed and disheartentened as we are to find ourselves on the wrong side of the edreform slings and arrows.]

Teaching can be a lonely and solitary endeavor. The urge to shut one’s door and just teach is strong. Let’s agree to stick with the teaching part; but, at the same time, let’s pledge to reach out to, join with, and empower colleagues, parents and other community members, and thereby ourselves.

Whenever there is post of great interest or import, I make sure to read the responses. They are illuminating and informative. Be sure to look at the responses to both of these teachers’ messages. If you are not following the Diane Ravitch blog, I recommend it. One caveat. She is a prolific writer. She produces prodigious numbers of posts each day. I used to feel like I needed to read them all. However, I could never keep up, so now I just visit and poke around, scan the day’s posts, read a few in depth, and move on. If I miss a day? Meh,…

One of the respondents today states: “This is a wise and compassionate teacher. May the force be with her!”

And with each and every one of you as you start a new school year, with a new crop of kiddoes; with new worries and new expectations; with new vigor and commitment.

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This entry was posted in Accountability, Blogs and Blogging, Education Professionals, Education Reform, Interesting Bits, Teachers and Teaching. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Building Bridges / Strengthening Infrastructure

  1. Eva Peterson says:

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