While walking my dog one morning, I bumped into a fellow teacher who lives in my neighborhood. She happened to be my student teacher four years ago, and when we worked together, she was full of hopes and dreams of how to be a vital part of education. I loved her creativity in lessons and inspiring ideas of forming deeper, lasting relationships with students and families. This recent morning conversation was sadly a complete 180* from her former mindset and attitude about being a teacher. She was frustrated with the lack of administrative support concerning discipline issues, exhausted from having 35 fifth graders in a run-down portable, and ashamed about being admonished for lower-than-expected AZMerit scores. We walked a few blocks together and I heard the familiar phrase come from her, “Why bother continuing?” I couldn’t answer back.
Later in the day I went out to lunch with an old friend. We were discussing our summer plans, and she was going over possible new jobs that she would pursue in the fall. Then she nonchalantly said, “I think I’m going to become a substitute teacher. This state is so desperate for teachers, I’m sure I could teach anywhere.” It was like a sucker punch in my gut, leaving me speechless with disbelief and horror. How does she think she can swoop down and save the day? My 19 years of teaching, of remaining in the trenches when I see everyone else jumping ship, my badge of honor… just withered up and died a little with that comment. Is that all we are? The remnants of desperation? I had no reply to her announcement.
Thinking long and hard about these two different yet similar experiences, I tried to formulate an answer to each… we MUST continue teaching, and we MUST create a state that values education. The only answer is within US. Teachers must tap into our passion, creativity, mindset, and persevere through this era of uninformed, disillusioned political control of education. We can only do this when we create a purposeful and positive network of educators within society, professionally bond through organic Professional Learning Communities, and develop a solid growth mindset as educators. No one puts State 48 in the corner!!
I was inspired to create “A Teacher’s Summer Menu” to help us do this. Obviously teachers need the next month for decompressing and rejuvenation, but it’s also a great time to complete some items on the personal bucket list, create new professional contacts, and build up the growth mindset. These nine items to choose from are realistic yet help us wiggle out from our comfort zone!!
I’ve made a list of mine, and hopefully I get to at least 6 of the 9 items:
- I want to experience… a new hike in Flagstaff.
- I want to achieve… writing a collection of short stories
- I want to complete… reading books for young adults
- Attend a Professional Development- TBD
- Create a Pedagogical Book Study- “Peer Feedback in the Classroom: Empowering Students to Be the Experts” by Starr Sackstein
- Join a network of educators- join the educator community in “Write About”
- I want to complete… the Chronicles of Narnia series
- Something I will try again after failing… knitting projects
- Something I am scared to try… swimming
How are you going to make yourself proud as an educator this summer? What stories of perseverance and triumph will you gain to share with your students and colleagues after the summer ends? Who will you connect and create a bond with this summer to help support you next year?
Educators need to create, confirm, and communicate that we are a community of excellence and perseverance, and not let them put State 48 in the corner!!