Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The Big Move

Year 1: Quiet Reading Outside
When I first moved to teaching elementary students, everyone asked, with hopeful anticipation, “How’s it going!?!” I barely told anyone how I was really feeling. I hated it. I worried what others would think about everything I did, I wondered if I was doing it “right”, and I wished that there was some way I could get the students to stop calling me Mrs. Strasser all the time. First of all, I was completely overwhelmed by hearing my name so many times in one hour and also, didn’t they know it’s Ms. not Mrs.? I was certain everyone could see my uncertainty in my eyes, but no one ever let on to knowing of my secret struggle. I soldiered on in the hopes that things would improve. October came and went, November too, and sometime in December I began to see a tiny gleam of light. Soon after we returned in the New Year, I began to feel truly bonded with my little group. I finally got them. Interesting thing is, they had gotten me all along.

I know change isn’t for everyone, but having taught high school for over 15 years, I was ready to try something new. My teaching goals over the previous 3 or 4 years had become centered on building community, teaching across the curriculum, and implementing a full inquiry-based model of teaching and learning. These things were happening in my high school classroom, but took ages to accomplish.

Now in my third year of teaching Grade 6/7 in a K-7 elementary school, I feel (mostly) at home. I love seeing the same students every day and I love the openness of the schedule we share.

There are still things I miss about teaching teenagers - the challenge of getting them to buy-in, the elevated level of discussion, and the sarcasm. I can see myself going back someday; but for now, I love the new challenges of preparing students for those high school years free of the self-consciousness of the teen years. We are free to be ourselves growing and learning in the in-between.

Finally

“How do I know what I think until I see what I say?”  ~ E.M. Forster


In September 2013, I made the move from teaching secondary, to grade 6. I knew it would be a big change, but I had NO idea.

Journaling, and discussing my experiences with my collegues have always been the only two things that help me when this profession gets tough. That September, crying in the car on the way home for the third time in a week, I knew I had to do one or the other, or both, and FAST.

Fortunately, I had (have) some beloved friends, who are also colleagues, who had recently made The Move as well. They were happy to meet, to listen, to commiserate, to share, and to encourage. We decided to start a group blog to do two things we love to do: writing and sharing, with the hope of encouraging others who might be in the same boat.

Just because we are a year and a half late getting around to it, doesn't mean we aren't still passionate about the idea!!

For me, writing has always worked like a magic wand in my professional life. When I hit a wall, I "wave the wand*:" I take some minutes to reflect/free write, on paper. I consciously enter into a dialogue with myself, asking questions (ie: exactly what am I upset about? what do I want? what is going on with x in the classroom? what am I seeing? what am I afraid of?), and offering possible answers. In this way, I can name my fears and goals rather than just letting worry swirl around in my head when I'm trying to sleep. Writing changes stress and "self-laceration," as Stephen Brookfield calls it, into invaluable Reflection. It may be PDP 101, but for me, it's empowering. The only problem is, I don't do it often enough.

So, my interest in this blog comes from a place of selfishness; I want a space where I can figure things out through the process of writing. I am hoping that working on it in collaboration with  colleagues I admire will make me accountable for making journaling a more regular part of my practice. The online/public aspect is all about vulnerability, but that's a whole other post! I'm excited to give this a shot...finally!

Becky


*this metaphor is making me laugh... our cat's name is Wanda, regularly referred to as The Wand, and I am picturing picking her up and moving her back and forth through the air in the living room, after a bad day, hoping for some kind of inspiration.