Speakers' Corner

Every year about this time friends/colleagues start sharing their new school year nightmares and anxieties. Mine come in the form of “new” every year: new admin, new expectations, new district requirements, new ideas, new colleagues, new coaches and structures. I have sat in my little world creating masterpieces of curriculum and ideas to find that they’ve shrunk over the summer. I am feeling overwhelmed and bombarded by other’s opinions and structures on how to build a year right now. It’s all I can do to remind myself I too, know a few things, have a few tricks up my sleeves, and have expertise and knowledge about my school and students that no one else has. But that’s not the message I’m hearing, and I realize it’s up to me to change the filters, get some clarity, and open up my mind.

It’s the time before the school year when I need to take a deep breath and calm down. What exactly is the issue right now? 

Same thing that always causes me anxiety: people assume things about me, my students, or my school and then I feel like they’re coming to ‘fix it’ without a diagnosis. It’s threatening, and it doesn’t need to be this way. Simple fixes: ask questions. Listen. Ask more questions. Listen again. And note to self: calm down. Power pose, woman!


Rick DuFour shared his cancer journey with the auditorium during the PLC Summit. He shared his story not because he sought pity, but because he genuinely wanted us to know the power of professional collaboration. He talked about the teams of medical professionals who, along the way, discussed, conferred and collaborated to try to save his life. And unfortunately, since what they thought was a collapsed lung turned out to be lung cancer, it spread, and is now in his liver, he’s sharing his life with us now, educators who need to hear his calm strength tell us what is right by our students.

And that we can’t do it alone.

But just how do we share, so we truly learn to let go of the personal agendas, yet keep what is important to our personalities and characters? We can and should teach the same standards and give common assessments, so where does the threat of loss of autonomy bloom? I’m feeling like this “your choice of style/materials” is still greatly misunderstood and bordering on disingenuous.

When we get a document from another teacher or professional of ‘how things might be done’ perhaps we interpret that as “how it must be done.” And we balk. We lose our motivation, our agency. But how do we clear the fog and smoke and see things with clarity?

It’s really difficult to get something from another source, for me, without changing, blending, moving, or creating something new. It’s in my nature. I am a writer and artist. One cardinal rule is that you never take the paint brush out of someone’s hands and paint over their masterpiece. Or their sketch. Or crappy doodle.

But here is my new and reminded knowledge of life, self, and teaching:

label stuff

  • Keep my sense of humor –we’re all trying to be awesome, and we are…even when we’re not
  • Room at the table for everyone
  • Everything is a work in progress: what works for one moment, one group of students, may not work again. If teaching was exactly like replicable science we wouldn’t need human teachers anymore and could be robots. Blip. Bleep. Blorp. We keep our humanity in our professions by discovering new things, and using big meta data/research to keep grounded. (Thanks, Hattie!)

And I love this idea of the Speakers’ Corner — a soapbox, where we can all stand up and say our piece. 

This blog is my processing place — if something resonates with you, too, let me know.