There were several moments in 2017 when I questioned if education was the right field for me. I wondered if I could make any tangible impact on a field that is so large and wrought with complex challenges. Some days I left my school building feeling entirely beat, discouraged and angry. Other days, luckily, were much more gratifying.
Over the break, I took some time to reflect on my experience working in a middle school thus far. It's important to pause and take stock of the moments that offer insight into ourselves as educators, school leaders or students still studying the field.
Here are my top three lessons learned from 2017 and actionable steps for the 2018 school year:
Lesson #1: It is vital that staff members exemplify the values and behaviors they want their students to embody -- adults in a school are always being closely watched and mirrored by students.
Actionable step: Embody the values and behaviors that I want my students to learn. This means:
- Keeping my work area clean to show students that taking care of space is important.
- Arriving on time and ready to work each day to show that preparation is the foundation of a successful day.
- Celebrating student and staff achievement to show that supporting one another lifts us all up as a community.
Lesson #2: Working with students can be very frustrating and emotionally draining.
Actionable step: Instead of reacting when classroom behavior grows out of hand, step back and assess the situation in real time. Then, calmly talk to the students about what I’ve observed and explain why it’s not productive to the environment and needs to be stopped. Additionally, confide in trusted colleagues and veteran teachers who can offer a reaffirming ear and helpful advice.
Lesson #3: Planning and organization requires ample time and forethought.
Actionable step: Take time at the end of each day to create a to-do list for tomorrow and keep up with my inbox!!
When we take time to reflect upon the abundant experiences we’ve encountered with students, colleagues and parents, we can brainstorm ways to improve upon our practice to create stronger schools. Though my ideas may not prove as effective as I hope, staying in tune with my own learning will keep my mind open to changes that I need to make to better serve students. Something I need to remember is that working in education will always be frustrating and discouraging on certain days, but with a focus in improving rather than perfecting, I can find joy and tremendous growth in the journey of building a better school, one day at a time.