One could argue that it is always a good time to watch and channel the movie “Frozen”, but the month of December seems like an obvious choice for teachers. As we guide our students through the closing up of fall semester, our minds are full of reflection on what needs to be different in the spring: what do we need to let go?
As a new teacher, my reflections zeroed in on specific classroom procedures and outcomes I needed to revamp so that I was working smarter in my context.
My first year, I let go of the one-page weekly bell ringer worksheet I’d taken from a veteran teacher because–while it served the purpose–I didn’t have time or print quota to have 150 sheets done weekly for just a few minutes of class. Kids were often doing them on paper in their binders anyway, so we switched it up. By this time in my second year, I realized the need to let go of my binder system completely, opting for composition journals that held all student’s work.
It wasn’t until my third year, however, that I realized I was limiting my own reflection, and stalling my own progress when I focused on a few procedures at a time. What I truly needed to let go, what really propelled my classroom forward, was the suffocating narratives I told myself about my work:
- I had to let go of the idea that a “perfect” teacher existed and accept that when I could honestly say I was doing my best, that was enough.
- I had to let go of the idea that admin and parents weren’t there to support me and force myself to do the intimidating work of asking for help, advice, and clarity. I gained partners in the work I was doing for my students, not in all parents and admin, but from more than I’d expected and more than enough.
- I had to let go of the idea that my students couldn’t handle sharing responsibility in their learning, tracking of growth, and behavior. They took their work home to finish and brought it back so that I could keep the class on schedule. They filled in the class tracker with their growth on the writing rubric so I didn’t have to. They learned how to communicate what they needed so that conflicts could be avoided.
I challenge you this December to reflect on what needs to be let go. You’ll hear from a couple other staff members on what they have already let go or plan on letting go in future. So often it’s not that we can’t do something, but that we need to do it differently.