New job, new school, new co-workers, new grade, new life- still wrapping my head around it all and so much more...but 8 am- the bell rings and it's on. What has happened over the last 9 school days has been an utter whirlwind and more learning on my part than the students. For me, it has been the school of "#failforward" moments.
You hear that when you leave the classroom, you become disconnected. I knew this and I felt this and I really, really tried my hardest to be in on the ground floor as much as possible. But it's not the same. AT ALL. I tried to be empathetic to those in which I served, but this is a HUGE #knowbetterdobetter moment. I apologize to ANY teacher to whom I may have said the wrong things, assumed incorrectly or offended in my hopes to support you over the last four years. I believe this is one of the main reasons that I am back in the classroom- this was a lesson that I needed to learn.
On day 1, I was just proud that I remembered to put in the attendance (BUT there were three days I didn't). I was happy to see 28 adorable 7 and 8 year olds- knowing we would soon be family. Things were rolling- but definitely bumpy. *One of my students tried to color our Board Member's Suit (thank goodness he authentically laughed it off). Somehow, we made it to lunch! I looked at the white board where I wrote down the bell schedule (for myself) and we were right on track. We walk out and all of my students start grumbling. They are looking at the first and second graders eating on the lawn and are trying to convince me that this was NOT their lunch time. Well- I didn't have the schedule electronically, so we turned around and went back in the classroom. I searched through my emails for the schedule that was sent to me- Phew- I did have the correct time. They just aren't used to it as we are the only third grade class- it was changed. So- I apologized for second guessing and making them a tad late for lunch. We talked about #failforward (quickly) and we headed out to lunch. I heard "It's ok, Ms. Orlando- you are a new teacher.". And just like that- he was right.
Although I had taught 14 years- these four years out of the classroom have reverted me back to a new teacher.
This is a "reset"- and this is difficult. I feel like I am armed with so much more than before, yet I also feel like I somewhat knew what I was doing before. But today- after 9 days with my third grades- I am as wobbly and unsure as ever. My ideas and philosophies on education are being challenged daily, by me.
What I know now, after spending this time with my class- I went too far, too fast. Think about it:
-They have been out of school for a few months
-This is the first time they have all been together (as I am the only third grade)
-They are only 7/8/9 year olds
-They have NEVER seen me before- that's scary
-From their feedback (both observational and actual) I am doing things differently than they are used to- scary
-I don't have a "punishment/consequence" system (purposefully)- they are having to make hard choices
-We have ONE rule (thank you Jon Corippo) - and it has been working!
And my personality, I have learned, is to just "cannon ball in" like my friend Tara Martin says. But that is not fair to these kiddos. That is a lot of shock to their system.
Within all of this, I am having this terrible inner struggle with the fact that I present on all of these different pedagogical ideas, culture building strategies and even administrative concepts but I feel I am failing with my own students. THEN- I struggle with the fact that I also "preach" #riskforward and #failforward.
THAT is why I haven't written. THAT is why I have been more quiet. THAT is why I have done a ton of introspection and I keep coming back to the same thing.
It's not about me...it can't be about me...it is about the kids...always.
And it's about finding those small wins. It's about connecting to the boys that gave you the biggest run for your money on week 1. It is the random hug and thank you from these guys that act so "cool" in front of their peers. It's the look of "I CAN do it" when you hand a student some counters and show how to make different equations for the same number. It's the student who comes running back in, after school is out- to ask if he can take one of your books home. THESE are the things I need to reflect on. THESE are the things to hold on to. THESE are the things to build up from. I talk all about #cultureovercurriculum and I am need to stay true to it.
So this weekend is a time to reflect, reconsider, replan and reset. These kiddos deserve the best of me and I can't in my heart bring anything less.
I am about to embark on a fresh new adventure. It probably shouldn't seem new, yet it is. As I have been out of the classroom for four years...going back in is an all new ball game. So there are many unknowns, but one thing I know for sure is this...
So here we are...crunch time. I will be in front of approximately 30 third graders in a few short days. And although I have spent a lot of time with students in other teachers' classrooms (playing "eduauntie")- It has been many years since I have had the awesome responsibility of my own class. I know it will be very different than the role I have played in the last four years. No more coming in like a tornado, trying new things, getting students all excited and then passing them back to their teacher = "eduauntie". NOW, I get to do that and keep them, full time!
As I scramble to get a new room ready for opening day, there is a lot of reflection (shocking). Most of it is wrapped around culture. I believe that how we set this up, is the single most important thing we can do for our students. It is a great responsibility, one that I do not take lightly.
We set the tone, we set the stage, we make or break how a student feels- while in our care and beyond. We often don't realize our impact or our reach, but we have it and we must act accordingly.
At this time of year, classroom posts are flying all over social media. There was one particular post that I just couldn't shake. When I sent a picture of this to a few of my edu-friends, I didn't even need to write anything, they knew my intent. I decided to take to social media with this same idea. The picture on the left is the one that haunted me, so I chose to parallel it to another picture that I had seen floating around. Both had similar attributes, but to me, they had totally different meanings.
I was incredibly surprised by the traffic that this post received. 208 "likes" (for me, that's unheard of). But beyond the likes, it was the reactions that really had me perplexed. People continuously commented about how great THESE were. How they wanted to replicate them. Every time someone said that, I responded the same way. "Which one?"- not many responses were received. It appeared that my intent was not as clear as when I had sent it to my friends. This just reminded me that not everyone believes the way I do. It was an interesting, unintended experiment. So I took to social media again, and tried to explain my intent...but as you will see, the number of likes, reactions and responses were lacking. This was interesting to me...
But what was happening behind the scenes was amazing! I was receiving texts and direct messages from others who were really disturbed by the same thing that I was. Great conversations were happening about intent, culture and KIDS. THAT is what I was hoping to spark. THAT is why I am choosing to write about this today. I would like to explain the reason behind my posts.
I wanted us to have a chance to reflect (pun intended) on the message that we are sending to our students. I believe that our job as teachers, is to support, encourage and help kids grow. I don't believe that education should be a "gotcha" game- where blame is placed on the students. Yes, they absolutely have some responsibility in their learning (NOT about the grade)- but as the adults, the trained leaders in the room, I believe we have a larger responsibility TO them. THAT is why the picture on the left bothered me so.
My hope was to stir conversation, stir reflection and stir some action.
When students enter my room on Wednesday, it is going to look pretty "bare bones". One of the reasons is because I literally donated all of my classroom things a month before I knew I would be back in the classroom. BUT, the more important reason is - this is intentional. I want our classroom to be just that - OUR classroom - and I will explain this to both students and their families.
I am taking a note from my pal, Brent Coley's book- I intend on sending a video tour of the classroom to families the night before the first day of school (IF I have emails- or maybe a QR code at my door the night class lists are posted - still unknown). But I want to take it one step further, since we have the capabilities. I plan on sending the video via Flipgrid. This way students and families can respond back. I can get to know them, before they enter OUR room the next morning. I recorded a "practice" video this morning and wanted to share it, in case anyone would like to do similar. *And anyone that knows me, knows how much I don't like being on camera- so I am taking a risk for you all :). The real video will be filmed from inside the room and will include a tour- showing my blank bulletin boards - prepped for student creation.
My call to action is this: Try to put yourself in your students' shoes as they enter their classroom. What do you want them to see? How do you want them to feel? What is the culture you wish to create? #intentmatters
Have a great 2018-2019 doing great things for kids!!
Two weeks ago, I interviewed for a job that I would have loved. One where I could use my skills and my passions to support others. I loved the people, I loved the vision and I actually got my hopes up that this could be IT. But then, it wasn't. They moved two on to the second interviews, and I was number three. This seems to be the story of my life. "Always a "bridesmaid" never a bride.".
Because of this, I went on a brief trip down the rabbit hole. When I dug myself out, I had to decide if I was going to attend a conference for which I was not presenting NOR was I even registered. My gut instinct was to just stay home - I didn't want to be around people, people didn't need to be around me. I honestly hadn't decided to go until about an hour before I hopped in the car.
I went with the intent to just stay to myself and learn from others. The reality finally set in that I was going back into the classroom, and I decided to be a learner with that lens. Well... here is the reflection I wrote upon my return...
Yes - I am now armed with some amazing activities and ideas to use with students and adults, but there was so much more. I realized that I was meant to crash this party, there was a reason that I was there. And I didn't realize it until I had time on the beach to reflect. And I just can't shake it...
I believe that there were two reasons that I ended up where I was:
1) To be a support to someone that I had yet to know.
2) To meet someone who I had unknowingly supported.
These two instances still have my mind spinning as I think about the impact we all have. We go though life, just doing the best we can, and may not even realize that what we do, who we are, how we are - affects others. I talk about this "ripple effect" that occurs, that we will probably never even know the lives in which we touch. I see this in others, I share their reach and impact with them- but I never think about it for myself. Why? Because to me that seems selfish- but is it? This is one of my biggest struggles. When I reflect -it is about me- in my mind - focusing on me is selfish. But if we aren't reflecting and assessing ourselves, how can we grow and support others? I will just leave that one out there, as I don't have the answer.
So upon that above reflection, I am also coming to terms with the fact that the path that I wanted to be on, is not the one that I am meant to be on. I had no intention, no plans, no idea that I would be heading back into the classroom. Because this was not even on my radar, not even in my scope- it has been a difficult few months of transition. I'm not going to lie, there has been plenty of denial.
Many have offered words of comfort, shared their own stories of paths detoured and reassurances that this bend in the road was for a reason. I have to believe in that. Just like I now believe I was meant to roll into that conference this week- I have to believe that I am exactly where I am meant to be.
Many have said that there are 30 (or whatever number I get) students who need ME. They share, that is the reason I am being placed in front of them. But then, by wise friend, Jon Eick said this to me, and it rocked my world: "I don't believe that you are being placed there because 30 kids need you. Most of those kids would be just fine without you. But I believe that there is ONE kid that needs you. You are there for THAT kid" And with that, through my tears- it clicked.
I need to get over myself. I need to get out of myself. I need to get refocused on my purpose. I am not in any of this for me-- that no matter my job -- my work is always the same- it is my "why"- I wrote it out 5 years ago and it still holds true today "One who inspires and encourages others". I have to stay true to that, no matter if I'm working with adults or children- that is my mission.
I was talking to my friend, Brandon Blom, as I was working though this and he quoted something back that I didn't even realize I said...but I need to keep this quote somewhere that I can see it, daily:
So time for me to "suck it up, buttercup" and put all of my focus and energy into being that for my students- being that for my colleagues, my friends and strangers alike. It doesn't matter the platform, the "stage"- it is about others.
So my call to action is this: As we move into the new school year- find your purpose, find your why. Reflect often and reflect hard. Always come back to it and realign, readjust- but stay true to you.