Since my last blogpost about Changing Results, we have had three sessions: two full days and one after school session.
In our full day session in late October, we began by reading an amazing anthology written by Richmond Primary educators called "What If?" This collaborative resource details the learning journey of several Kindergarten teachers who asked important questions that were reflective and responsive. We felt this was similar to our work, with the exception that our inquiry questions were focused on one child.
Inspired by the teachers in Richmond, we decided to take time to ask ourselves, "What do we believe about children and learning? We began by writing our thoughts on sticky notes and then categorizing these. Next we came together in small groups to with our notes and worked collaboratively to formalize our thoughts. It took time and few iterations but as you can see/read below, this was important work. We hope to continually revisit these beliefs and let them guide our work this year.
Connected to this, we spent some time thinking about the language we use to describe our students. Sometimes when describing our case study students or during classroom visits I have heard students referred to as "low, struggling, or at-risk". We've all done it, myself included. These deficit based terms stand in stark contrast to the aim of Changing Results. The Changing Results initiative is about honouring our students and believing in their abilities. Our goal is to accept children as they are - to discover and celebrate their strengths - to find out what they know and take action to help move them forward. Janice Novakowski wrote a thoughtful blogpost on "What does it mean to be a 'low' math student?" She asks teachers some important, challenging questions. We used some of Janice's thoughtful questions, in combination with some other quotes and dictionary definitions, as provocations for a deep discussion about the importance of our professional language.
My colleague Ginny Tambre, who is the Changing Results for Young Readers Advocate, serendipitously was reading Charlotte's Web just before our session and came across the following passage. She wondered if Charlotte knew something we, as teachers, could learn from. What power lies in the words? Do we live up to what others believe about us?
Perhaps, we could try to be more like Charlotte and with our strength-based words we could develop children who believed in themselves. Together we committed to making a change in the language we use and seeing where that takes us. Below is a copy of what we created:
When we reconnected again this past week, we continued to talk about the power of our language as teachers, and how what we say matters. Two of our teachers led us through an activity for our book club. We are reading Tracy Zager's Becoming the Math Teacher You Wish You'd Had. They asked us to read and sort several statements teachers often use into piles that would or would not encourage student risk taking.
Some phrases were easier to sort than others. We discussed that our tone and intonation matter, as well as our knowledge of our students. For example, the phrase "I have a great challenge for us today" may cause some confident students to feel excitement; whereas, a student with a diminished belief in their mathematical abilities, may be intimidated by this statement.
It was another reminder that what we say matters. As teachers, we hold a great deal of responsibility in setting the tone of our classrooms. If we want to create safe spaces where our students believe in themselves, take risks, see mistakes as learning opportunities, then we must intentionally develop this. We do through our daily interactions with our students, the learning opportunities we design for them, and through taking the time to reflect on our actions to ensure they match our core belief and intentions.
And with the blink of an eye, another year has passed! The recent winter holiday was wonderful. We had two weeks off after Christmas which allowed time for much reflection on the year, a renewal of energy and spirit, and time to think about my 2018 One Word. Choosing a single word to guide my year has been a tradition I have been doing since 2012. I've written previous blogposts here and here. I've never been a big fan of New Year's Resolutions, as they felt a bit like a pass/fail test; whereas, choosing a profound word to inspire and create intention in your life sounded far more inviting!
Placing emphasis on "hygee" helped me to move beyond a year of sadness (the loss of mom) and into a place where I could take comfort in the sanctuary of life. Simply being home with my family, or time spent alone, or through togetherness with others, I felt love, joy and a general sense of well-being. Small things like nightly walks with the dog and Scott, a cozy pair of socks, lit candles, new jammies, and hearing "I love you" from either M & M - all of these things brought me gratitude, serenity and inner peace. This was much needed.
In September, I started a new position in my school district. I went from multiple roles to a district position where I support teachers and students in Numeracy in a broader sense. With any change, there is a ton of learning and challenges. There are also many positives, like developing relationships with 'new to me' colleagues. My learning curve has been steep and my pace has been insane (a result of not knowing what I don't know, wanting to do well, and the high expectations I place on myself). A pace like this doesn't leave important time for reflection and causes the work-life balance to tilt. My colleagues shared their wisdom with me, but as we know, learning needs to be experienced. And I needed to learn from my own experience.
Having four months in the new role, and understanding the power of a word to make a positive impact, this year my 2018 word is CULTIVATE. I truly believe that we create the life we want. Joel Osteen, speaks of the power of "I AM" in his book, The Power of I Am. He says "whatever words follow the words 'I am' will determine what your experience will be. You can either speak defeat or power into your life".
Generally speaking, I consider myself a fairly optimistic, positive person, but these past few months professionally, self-doubt has crept in. Similar to a first year teacher, I have felt overwhelmed, compared myself to others, and felt an overall a lack of confidence. Herein lies how my One Word 2018 originated. Brene Brown, talks about WholeHearted Living in her book Daring Greatly which I read this past summer. She refers to ten guideposts.
Professionally, her ten guideposts struck a chord with me this holiday when I picked up her book again. I saw myself and a need to cultivate. If I want to create a life where the words that follow "I am" include "enough and happy" I needed to stop speaking defeat into my life. Things need to change; I need to cultivate.
Moving forward professionally, I will:
What word will guide you this year? #oneword2018
I am a Numeracy Helping Teacher with the Surrey Schools District. Each day I am thankful for being able to work with amazing students and teachers in an area I am passionate about ~ Mathematics!
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