Wednesday, September 3, 2014

What Makes YOU Fabulous?

For the last few years (minus those periods of time when I dropped out of the blogosphere to, you know, have babies and all), I have not been shy about naming what makes a teacher fabulous.  Okay, if I'm really honest with you and myself, I have not exactly been shy about naming what makes myself fabulous in the classroom. 

We all have days where we feel like fabulous teachers.  We walk into our organized classrooms, greet our students with a smile and then proceed to teach several hours of kick a$$ lessons in which all students are engaged and make progress as learners.  There are no major behavioral issues.  There are no complaints about not having a pencil.  There are no interruptions over the intercom.  The photocopier stands free, without a line, and works flawlessly.  Not a paper jam for miles.  It is a good day.  You return to your classroom at the end of the day, smiling to yourself and wishing you had your own theme music because the day was Just. That. Good.

If you enjoy nerding out as much as I do, there are wonderful research based best practices out there for us to hang our hat on and I believe that teachers can, should and do keep up with those.   It is critical that we share our fabulous.  However, there are also all sorts of studies and papers and articles pontificating about what it means to be a good teacher, who is effective, who is not effective and why the so-called demise of the public education system is all our fault.  It is a lot of fire and brimstone and most of it is largely not helpful. 

Listen, we know how to be fabulous.  We need to harness our fabulous for those days that don't go as planned, are filled with interruptions or leave you wondering how you are going to reach several struggling friends.  Those days exist too.  And while I try my hardest to turn those days into funny stories, they often bring me down and make my fabulous feel further away like it's locked up in a box in a room full of mandates, meeting agendas and old piles of data. 

I think it's time we define what makes us fabulous for ourselves. My lovely friends over at the International Reading Association agree with me and want to help me share our collective fabulousness.  Clearly, there are many rockstar teachers out there; you can nominate a fabulous Super Colleague and help share his or her fabulous.  Leave a comment on the IRA's Facebook page or email them at social@reading.org with the subject line, "I know a fabulous teacher!"  Do it.  Think about how fabulous you can make another teacher feel and the importance of contributing to the conversation about what makes teachers...there isn't another word for it...fabulous!

Oh...and PS, check out MY NEW BOOK!   It is part hilarious, part research-based, and all practical.  (I promise to stop being such a Me Monster but it keeps staring at me from the corner of my desk and shouting, "What about me?!") 

Monday, September 1, 2014

Changing the Conversation

A phone call I had with a friend after finishing the school year last summer:

Her: You know, you sound better.  Happier.  You just sound happier now that the year is over.
Me:  That sucks.  I sound miserable for most of the year and then there are a few weeks where I actually sound happy?
Her: Uh, kind of. 
Me: But I love my job.  Most of the time it makes me feel happy.
Her: Well you certainly don't sound that way...

And you know what?  She's right.  I don't sound that way most of the time.  Most of the time I'm complaining about a new mandate, or my schedule, or not having enough time or the ten million other little things that actually are annoying but really?  Are they worth sounding perpetually unhappy?  Don't get me wrong, I love to drag out the old soapbox and a cocktail and get-my-complain-on with the best of them (Hi, have you met my blog?), but perhpas my complaining and negativity had taken over a bit too much.  Yes, there is a lot to be unhappy about in education at times, but if someone asked me if I would like to have any other career, the answer would be "no."  (Okay, maybe it would be a resounding "YES!" if someone called and asked me to name nail polish colors because for some reason I think that job sounds amaaaaazing, but the lovely people at Essie have yet to offer me anything.)  

During my deeply nerdy days as a doctoral student, I interviewed teachers about their lives as educators.  While my dissertation did not focus on the issue of teacher happiness exactly, I did discover that many teachers, great teachers, were hugely unhappy with a number of aspects of our career.  Relationships with colleagues, relationships with administrators, relationships with data, the clock and curriculum all ranked as high on the These Things Have The Potential to Suck scale.  

The thing is, none of these aspects of teaching are going to go away.  Some of them may continue to get worse.  Others may improve.  But none of them are going to disappear off the plate of the teacher.  (Things rarely do....)  So what do we do?  Do we continue to complain and sound perpetually unhappy (or even worse feel perpetually unhappy)?  

This conversation, my nerdy research and my work with teachers inspired me to write Be Fabulous.  And while I think we need to continue to raise hell about the education issues we feel passionate about, we also need to be able to smile as we face our classrooms and ourselves.  (Am I getting too self-helpy?  Just let me know...for reals.  A little smack or something.)  I hope that it helps you refocus your energy and take back some of the control of not only your classroom, but your teaching career.  At the very least, I hope it's an entertaining read that leaves you with a few ideas and a lot of laughs.


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