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Monday, July 15, 2013

Not Suprising

I read this post by Lee Kolbert (@Teachakidd) while watching the Bastille Day Stage 15 of this year's Tour de France. I tweeted out the post and stated "that I couldn't wait to read the comments" she had asked for in the conclusion. I like Lee's writing and despite her encouragement to not "wait for the others, Lead", Mont Ventoux held my attention. Thank her for her post and for fighting against the nonsense that lead to the graphic.

I liked her post because it fired me up and got me thinking. It reminds me that aside from our peers, parents of my students, my students, and my wife & son, that teachers are not valued very highly. 

I hated this post, because it reminded me of the same thing. Like I've said before, 

"Teachers are like cops. You don't know how valuable they are until you need one"

We (the profession) have a very serious perception problem in regards to what teachers actually do. I certainly don't speak for the entire profession, but most teachers I know and work with are fairly humble by nature. They do great things in their classroom and are often times the only ones who know about it. The default position is not one of self promotion, but of nurturing. There still exists a wariness, within some school buildings, of someone who broadcasts what they are doing in the classroom. Someone who is blowing their 'own horn', in other words. 

I've take the position that we don't share what we are doing for our kids, who will? I'm going to share what I'm doing and what I've found I like. If that is not your thing, I'm okay with that. 

However, if we don't drive the conversation, someone else gets the microphone. Teachers, administrators, and other educators should have control of the conversation about what they do. If you are not communicating what's going on in the classroom, who is? 

My class and I are certainly not perfect (read this by @Michellek107), but I'm not going to let someone else confiscate what is going on in our classroom.

I take opportunities to make sure people within my reach know that I just don't work 9-3 and  August-September. I hope that at some point, perceptions will change. It's hard though, because the feeling that teachers are less than professionals is so entrenched. I almost always feel defensive and somewhat whiny when making my case. Even to friends.

What are some of the things I do in my classroom that people would find surprising? If you are not surprised, you're probably an educator.
  • I rarely sit down when kids are around. 
  • I spend about ten minutes in the morning on the playground where our grade lines up to try understand where each kid 'is at' that day. Getting a gauge on the room, if you will, so that I have an idea of their mood as they come in to learn.Chatting about what's going on in their lives, outside of school, while we're outside of the school. 
  • People might find it surprising that for a number of my kids, the time they are in our class is the safest they feel all day. Many live in chaos. You cannot learn in chaos, which is why even-though we may be noisy sometimes and a little messy, we're focused on exploring and learning. 
  • I help give them a voice, because they are so often ignored, shut-out, or out shouted at home.
  • I already know most of my incoming student's names, because I spend time talking, high-five'ng, and interacting with every student in the building. Because you never know.
  • I give them a snack when they are hungry.
  • My wife has bought my students clothes and shoes.
  • I sacrifice time with my wife and son sometimes, because I volunteer coach for basketball, track, science fair, etc. I'm a volleyball booster, choir concert/play videographer, and open house tour guide among other things.
  • I teach my kids how to talk to each other and express ourselves without trying to tear someone else down. 
  • I've taught blogging, digital citizenship, and keyboarding skills to 1st graders.
  • I meet them as strangers on the first day, but cry when they leave me at the end of the year.
  • At the end of the year I send a handwritten  note to every student who spent time in my class over the last ten month to remind them that someone is rooting for them. 
  • I send birthday cards to former students.
  • I listen to them.  
  • I read, research, write, present, and try to contribute to a community of my fellow educators, because they inspire me to get better at this thing that I do.
  • I make my kids feel they are part of our Room 216 family. Always.
What do I do that the public would find surprising? Almost everything.

Thanks for reading.

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