All too often, I find myself focusing on what I’ve done wrong or how I could have done something better. Rather than objectively reflecting on my teaching and learning, I tend to fixate on what I’m NOT doing/saying/reading/writing. As a result, more things get left undone. I encourage my students to find balance, and ironically, I help them develop a plan to better manage their time. Yet, I place myself (e.g. my writing, my physical health, my hobbies, etc.) as the very last priority of an ever-growing list.
My inspiration to begin anew comes from several places. This was my 14th summer as an educator, but it was the first time in a LONG time where I didn’t have several long-term obligations (i.e. recertification, conferences, graduate classes, extensive travel, or family events). As a result, I feel more refreshed, creative, and excited to start year 15. In addition to more time – which in and of itself is HUGE – I read two books and a blog post that challenged me to grow.
Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers: The story of success (2008) reinforced my belief that teaching and learning is a communal experience. The anecdotes and examples he provides made me think about how I can arrange my classroom, group my students, and tailor my teaching. Simon Sinek’s Start with why: How great leaders inspire everyone to take action (2009) made me realize that I’m more of a WHY person who needs to seek more feedback and guidance when I start to plan HOW to get things done. I’ve taken on some new roles without dropping old ones, and I have to continue to reflect and seek guidance from my colleagues and administration to help me find balance for things to run smoothly. I also need to learn to let things go. Finally, Susan Barber’s blog post about her 2017-18 teaching manifesto convinced me to make some commitments to myself, my family, my students, and my profession this year. (I feel rather happy about the fact that I’ve just put my goals in that order to start!)
- I will enjoy time to sew, making at least three new items per semester.
- I will select my reading based on my whims, rather than my guilt that I’m not getting enough of the canon or “right” kind of reading.
- I will seek out new recipes to cook and bake more at home.
- I will make my physical health a priority to model healthy habits for me, not just for my sons and my students.
For my family
- I will treat them to new recipes they’ll enjoy and surprise them with their favorites.
- I will play games, unplug, and encourage them to spend more time outside.
- I will smile more often and pray before I respond – especially when I’m hungry and/or tired.
- I will laugh more, at myself and just to be silly.
For my students
- I will intentionally find ways to develop our classroom community as a positive, respectful, and trustworthy learning environment.
- I will encourage students to reflect and revise by delaying the grade and calling attention to the feedback.
- I will support student choice in reading, focusing on universally applicable skills and setting aside in-class reading time without worrying about loss of instruction.
- I will incorporate more journals for student choice in development and submission of writing.
For my profession
- I will journal and reflect on my teaching practices, sharing thoughts with colleagues and administration to be more transparent and intentional about my teaching philosophies and practice.
- I will embrace my new role as a mentor teacher, coaching and supporting my charge while learning with and from her.
- I will welcome the messiness and chaos of co-sponsoring our school’s first student-led writing lab to better support all content areas with instruction and enhance a positive culture for quality student writing.
- I will print and post this manifesto in my classroom to seek continued feedback from students, colleagues, and administration about my progress.