Saturday, April 11, 2015


There is SO much political news plastering the country these days.  If you're not aware of all this stuff, I'm envious.   I'm happy to read about all the educators telling their stories, stepping out of the classroom, if only for 750 words, and sharing the reality of teaching, instead of the politically poisoned version.  And one thing has become very clear- there is a lot of fear in education.


I am very familiar with the concept of fear, believe me.  I'm afraid of my own shadow at times.  I'm afraid of getting lost in unfamiliar areas.  I'm afraid of eating foods that may trigger an allergic reaction to something I didn't know I was allergic to.  I'm afraid of disappointing those I care about.  I'm afraid of letting people down.  I'm afraid of losing the important things in my world.  Sometimes, I'm even still afraid of merging on to the expressway.

This is not mine! It's from
Post Secret, November 2014
I'm afraid of the fact that I have to make my third graders sit in front of a computer for nearly 10 hours over a three week period for mandatory standardized testing.  I'm afraid that I might miss a clue that'll help me better reach a student.  I'm afraid that one of my students - past, present, or future - will feel unsuccessful in my room.  I'm afraid I'll somehow fail my students.  I'm afraid the system is going to fail my students, and all students in the public schools.  This fear can keep me up at night.  This fear can make me ill.


I'm not afraid of teacher evaluations.  Not any more.  I know that I'm good at what I do.  I'm constantly learning, striving to find new ways to inspire my students.  I am not afraid to try new things in the classroom.  I love telling my class "I just learned about this, and I'm not sure how it's going to go, but we're going to give it a try anyway!"  I'm not afraid to take risks.  Sometimes the most powerful learning experiences come from the back forty.  I'm not afraid of feedback - that's often a catalyst for growth.  I'm not afraid to ask for help.  No one is an expert on everything, and while I might be fantastic in some areas, I will take all the help I can get in others.  No shame in asking for help at all.


I'm not afraid to let my students teach me.  Sometimes I learn more from them than I think they learn from me.  I'm not afraid to let my kids get messy.  Learning is messy.  Sometimes that means paper scraps and glue, other times that means conversations that make no sense, until they do.  I'm not afraid to hold my students accountable, even if it means spending some recess time with me reviewing whatever they need the bonus time on.  I'm not afraid to share.  If something new and engaging works, and someone else wants to give it a go?  Go for it, and let me know if you'd like some help.    I'm not afraid to go out on a limb for a student.  They need that extra opportunity to help peers?  Need a boost of confidence?  Go read with the kindergarteners.  Go help our second grade buddies.  I'm not afraid to fail.  There's a lot to learn from failures, no matter how scary they may seem.

In the classroom, I'm not afraid to be different.  Taking risks, thinking outside the box, trying new things, getting messy, being willing to fail??  All of those things bother me not one little bit in the classroom where 20 some pairs of eyes watch my every move.  I know that I'm doing right by those pairs of eyes.  I may make mistakes, and when I do, I admit it.  To my students.  I'm human.  They usually like to know that.


It lives in all of us.  Educators don't want to be judged on standardized test scores that measure only a momentary snapshot of a skill, which, by the way, only around 40% of students are expected to pass.  We don't want to be judged by evaluation systems where the elusive "highly effective" is so far out of reach it's comical.  We don't want to be judged by critics who haven't spent more than two hours in the classroom, and if left with a (small) class of 24 kids for an hour, wouldn't know which end was up.


We aren't fear-less.  I don't think anyone on the planet is truly fear-less.  You could say, in my classroom, I am quite fear-less.  But I've learned that in the classroom, I can live with less fears if I keep my heart on the goal - helping my students prepare to become citizens in the world they create - and less on those who are trying their hardest to prevent me, and all the other educators, from doing our jobs.

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