We are doing a book study. We’re using Onward by Elena Aguilar and the accompanying workbook. I bought it on Audible when we started and the downside to doing so is that you lose a part of the intentional reflection. It’s something about the feeling of the pages between your fingers and seeing the actual words on the page and the ability to go back and skim for information that makes for more meaningful reflection.
This month’s focus in the book is “Be a Learner.” It’s pretty timely because February is traditionally the month in which educators across the country are seriously considering whether or not being a barista would be a better career move than remaining in teaching. We are frustrated. We are angry. We are quick to snark. And we are once again, tired. Naps shortly after arriving home are the norm, and sometimes the couch = bed because we’re so drained. February is a reminder that yes, we still have miles to go before we sleep (in June…)
Aguilar asks the reader to consider his or her experiences through the lens of curiosity and makes a challenge, of sorts, to see coaching and colleague feedback as an opportunity to learn and grow. She posted this video on the website for the book and I thought it was a good tie-in:
This time of year, much of the feedback we get is viewed as criticism and because our own criticality is high, both about our practice AND about the behaviors we’re seeing in the kids we serve, we take offense, looking for all the ways our coaches, administrators, colleagues, parents, and kids are failing us…how WE are failing ourselves and our own expectations.
She also challenges the reader to revisit the idea of time management. For many of us, Sunday is the worst day of the week. We drag through the day, putting off planning and prepping, and tackling the most mundane tasks in order to further procrastinate doing the things we need to get done to ensure we’re ready for the upcoming week, practically as well as emotionally and mentally. No other profession really has this issue. Lots of people don’t look forward to going back to work on Monday, but I think that teachers during February dread it with a special level of apprehension. Some of this stems from the eternal search for more time in the day…it’s like the Holy Grail and impossible to find. Between planning and prepping, making copies, sending reminder emails and updates to families, as well as checking in with teammates, finding more time to do the rest of it seems overwhelming.
Sometimes it seems that we begin focusing on the wrong things this time of year. We focus on “they ought to know by now,” the behaviors that drive us nuts that we are pretty sure we’ve addressed eleventy-billion times a day since August, the eternal search for more time in the day, and all the ways we feel like we’re failing when we meet with our coach or team. Why not reframe these feelings in ways that are more productive and focus on learning from them?
Instead of “they ought to know by now,” why not ask the question “What have I missed–it’s evident they DON’T know, so how can I support their learning so they can know and apply it?
Instead of focusing on the behaviors that drive us nuts, why not remember that behavior sends a message and be curious about it. Why does Joey continue to make that noise when he works? Does he even know he does it? Why is Serena avoiding a particular type of work? What is Mia getting out of the snarky comments back when I ask her to do something? Why is Jeremy incapable of keeping his hands to himself in any situation? What is it that he’s trying to get by touching other kids and things? What is this behavior telling me?
Instead of listing all the things we have to get done, why not take a hard look at how our time IS being spent? Am I putting out fires when I should be letting someone else handle it? Am I allowing (and even encouraging) interruptions in my day without thinking? Am I tackling the things that need doing in an order that makes the most sense? Am I procrastinating? I find that I have to reassess my time particularly when I feel overwhelmed and determine where I am losing time so that I can refocus my priorities, reblock time, and reschedule my day so that the most important things still get done–it might not be in the timeframe I planned, but it can get done. I have to remember too that my priorities have to change because the needs of the people I serve change. I’m still very much learning how to do my job…it’s not static and that’s part of why I enjoy it.
Instead of focusing on feelings of failure, how can we take feedback and learn from it? What questions do I have that need clarification after I’ve had a chance to think? How can feedback help me grow in my practice? What IS my Why and if I’ve lost it, how can I find it again?
I really enjoyed this particular chapter–there are lots of other good nuggets in it, but these are the ones I really wanted to reflect upon. I get to lead a conversation with our staff tomorrow about it, and I thought it was pretty important that I take time to do my own reflection…much like I would think about a lesson before I planned it out.
Some food for thought before I close. What thoughts do you have on generalizations about a big idea? I loved sharing these with kids as we begin a new unit or as we’re working through one, coming back to them to see if what we said at the beginning was still true now that we’ve learned more about a concept or topic. It made for very rich discussion and a way to come back to a guidepost as we learned together. As I think about this particular time of year, I agree with Aguilar’s big idea of “learning.” The thing about generalizations is that they are true or applicable in multiple situations. So if the big idea for this month is “learning,” do you think that these generalizations work?
- Learning generates both additional learning and additional questions.
- Learning can be either positive or negative.
- Learning is necessary for growth.
- Learning occurs over time.
- Learning can take many forms.
How will you reframe your challenges this month to be more curious and see yourself as a learner? Are the generalizations I proposed above true for you?