This morning, I read a blog post by Doug Peterson that really got me thinking. Doug spoke about the meme that Scott McLeod started: what we have to stop pretending. In consultation with his writing partner (also known as his beautiful dog, Jaimie), Doug mentioned a really important point that I never considered before: these “stop pretending” posts would be fairly easy to write, as we’re all speaking as the royal “we,” and not as “I.” It’s the second last paragraph in his post (as Doug looks at Jaimie and does some thinking of his own) …
that I questioned a bit in my comment …
And so now, I’m going to do something that fits with my one word goal for this year and makes me a bit uncomfortable: I’m going to share the top five things that I have to stop pretending.
1. I have to stop pretending that I always consider the self-regulation needs of my students. I really want to! I read Stuart Shanker‘s book last year, Calm, Alert, and Learning, and it changed my teaching practices in multiple ways. But then something like yesterday happened. Overall, it was a fantastic day, but as the students were creating their three-dimensional dinosaurs, I watched a student really struggle. He kept spinning around. He needed a lot of refocusing. Finally, I spoke to him and I asked if he wanted to help another student or move to a quiet area by the door to work. He chose the door area. And it was as he moved away from the noise and the mess of the newspaper and tape, that his behaviour totally changed. Maybe he was too “up regulated.” Maybe there was too much visual noise. Maybe there was too much talking. I wish that I recognized this before. Maybe doing so could have avoided the problem in the first place. I wish I could go back and start again.
2. I have to stop pretending that I know how to engage all of my students, all of the time. I think a lot about engagement. I believe strongly in student choice. The other day, after one of my guided reading groups, I gave a student a choice for a follow-up activity. She chose one, and she started working well on her own. But then she started getting silly with the materials, and asked to try something else. I told her that she had to finish this first: it was her “choice” after all. I ended up spending the last 10 minutes “policing” her in getting her work done, and upon reflection, maybe I should have asked what she wanted for her other choice. Maybe I should have asked how this other choice would have helped her meet her writing goal. As a teacher, sometimes I like to make changes mid-way through the process; maybe my students do as well.
3. I have to stop pretending that I don’t worry about what people think of me and my program. Yes, in many ways, I feel confident in what I do. I know that there are always reasons behind my choices. But when a visitor comes in, a teacher or administrator looks inside, a parent appears, or a volunteer walks by, I still wonder: what will he/she see? What will he/she think? Am I doing a “good job?” What could I do better? Are my students getting what they need? Could I do more for them? I try to convince myself not to, but I worry.
4. I have to stop pretending that my “winter parking tweets” are just about parking … they’re not. They’re about my own insecurities. They’re about my concern with disappointing others or making others angry. They’re about my hope that if I can make people laugh, they’ll be forgiving if I park in their spot or park over the line. They’re about helping me take some things in life a little less seriously — something I often find hard to do — because in the end, it is just a parking spot.
5. I have to stop pretending that I believe that a loud classroom is a productive one. I worry when my class gets too loud. I wonder if students can really think and learn in an environment that is too noisy. I believe in the benefits of talk, and I want students to feel comfortable sharing ideas with me and with each other. But can’t this be done in whisper voices? Can we advocate for a “quiet buzz” in the room instead of a “loud scream?” I know that all teachers have their own noise threshold. But maybe noise isn’t about us: it’s about our students. Can all students learn when it’s too loud, and if not, how can we make it quieter? I don’t want to discourage conversation, but I do want to think about what else I can do to make “noise” good for all.
If we want to do more than mention what to “stop pretending” and actually make changes, then maybe we need to show each other that we all have areas for growth. I know that blogging my ideas will make me think about them more, and hopefully, start working past some of my problems and insecurities. What are your “I’s?” I hope others will join me in sharing theirs!