We often instruct teachers to create a persona that is authentic to them, one that both holds high expectations for students and sees the fullness of their humanity. This is often easier said than done. The advice we sometimes forget to give, which makes the task of creating your teacher persona infinitely easier, is to know yourself.
Know who you are as an individual and an educator. Why are you here? What do you value? What makes you happy, sad, proud, scared? What energizes you? What is distracting for you? Taking the time to answer these questions helps you to ground yourself in what needs to be true for your classroom. It can inform everything from the physical space, to your management plan and the content you teach.
In our first regional workshop you viewed a video clip from my classroom. You may have noticed the superhero posters on the wall. They were part of our class decoration because our theme for the year was “becoming our own superheroes”. They were also there as a visual reminder for me that I saw teaching as a way of fighting for justice.
In my classroom I carried a clipboard full of encouraging notes other teaches and students had left me over the years. They were a reminder on the tough days that I had successful days and years before and would have more. On the easel where I kept my behavior slips, I had some painters tape with the word “goosefraba” written on it, a reference to the movie “Anger Management” and my reminder to take a breath before I wrote any referral. To think about what the core of the behavior issue was beyond my being frustrated or embarrassed as a teacher.
The systems I used in my classroom were as much a part of my identity as the physical space. On my instructional slides, I put systems into place that helped keep me organized and accountable. I had to think about my physical, mental, and emotional capacity when thinking about things like pacing for assignments, class rewards systems, and consistent parent communications. When I was feeling overwhelmed or extremely frustrated I took a day off to sit and figure out why.
I imagine that this calendar year has changed a lot of you. You may find your capacity has shifted in different ways as you try to find balance in a chaotic year. You may find that your values have shifted; maybe what mattered when you were planning your curriculum last year doesn’t seem to matter so much now. You may find your locus of control looks different as schools work to figure out new systems, technology, and structures.
You won’t be able to fine tune everything to your preference. You will, however, be able to better engage with that which you can’t control when you are more aware of yourself and your needs. I’m encouraging you to take a moment today and reflect on what has felt good/productive/energizing recently and what has felt hard/unhelpful/depressing. Pull out trends and patterns. Find what you can replicate for more good days
I’m out of the classroom and working from home at the moment, but what this has looked like for me is planning for flexibility. I try as best I can to plan meetings during my children’s “rest time” when I should be most free and flexible. I make self-paced Nearpod versions of my PD sessions so that fellows who miss the workshop can get caught up. These are minor adjustments in my control when it feels like so much of what is affecting my work is out of my control.
My hope is that each of you is able to find the little things that may make a big difference in your day to day. Maybe you find them through conversation with each other and your coach. Maybe through some quiet reflection.But definitely do the work and share what you find! You’ll be surprised how helpful the idea may be to others.
You got this,