The focus on this month's newsletter is about who we are as teachers. Not what we teach (English or math), or the instructional practices we use to do so (i.e. project based learning or direct instruction; we can call that the how) or even the whys (perhaps to create solid citizens or nurture the unique potential in children). What I want to focus on is the "who." Who are we in the classroom? As Parker Palmer says, "Who is the self who teaches?" I paraphrase Abraham Joshua Heschel with this line, "We don't need more texts, we need more text people." Who are you in the classroom? What do you teach through who you are? When students and colleagues read you; your actions, your language, your choices, who do they see? This question is a rare one seldom asked in professional development workshops and I had the pleasure of discussing this question and others with an amazing, committed and spirited group of teacher leaders in Palo Alto Unified School District this past week. It was a conversation worth having. This newsletter will touch upon a few of the key concepts we discussed in our time together this past Friday. Join us in the discussion by reading the ideas below and respond to me with your thoughts if you so choose.
If you have any questions, comments or topic suggestions, please feel free to email me at [email protected]. I look forward to hearing from you!
We Don't Need More Texts, We Need More Text People
Students Don't Take 1st period English.
They Take 1st period Mr. or Ms. You
In his workshop on differentiation my colleague from Mountain View High School, Steven Kahl, says something that for me really hits home and I reiterated it again on Friday. We ‘think' we are teaching our content, or our grade level, but we are really teaching ourselves. Who we are, what we value, what we emphasize and care about.
It comes out consciously and unconsciously through how we accommodate and for which students, through how we grade and on what criteria, through how we praise (or not) and how we give feedback and in what forms. We teach who we are through where we stand, what we say, and how we sit with silence. Students are learning how to be human beings by looking at us. They read us as a text. It isn't indulgent to reflect for a bit on the ‘who-ness' of ourselves in our classrooms. We need to spend some time bringing to the surface what we might not see we are doing in our teaching and affirm and examine more thoughtfully the teacher we want ourselves to be.
Asking, "How Are You?"
William James wrote, "No more fiendish punishment can be devised than that one should be turned loose in society and remain unnoticed by everyone." This insight resonated for me last week as I was waiting for a friend at a restaurant and a woman walked in the door. She came up to the hostess stand and started her interaction with the hostess by saying, "Hi, how are you?" The hostess was taken aback and responded by saying, "No one ever asks me that.' She smiled, said she was fine, asked the woman how many there were in her party and took the family to the table. I sat there watching the 20 second interaction and was chagrined to think of how many times in my rush I pass others by everywhere without acknowledging them with a simple, "Hi. How are you?" The dignity of being seen, the blessing of being witnessed. The kindness we offer by thanking someone for his or her assistance. The short, but most important connections. I am finding them more important than ever. As George Eliot, author of Middlemarch, writes, "The growing good in the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts; and things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been, is half owing to the number of who lived faithfully a hidden life."
I wish you a month of deeper bonds with yourself, and with others; more "How are you?" and more "Thank you," and more communities in which to live and work that support you in this work.
For further information on the concepts described above, check out the following two resources:
The tag line is, "Courageous leading requires a dramatically different conception of the role of the leader." If you have a membership, it is free. If not, see who gets the magazine at your site, or you can buy the article as well.
Each month I will share with you information about a few of my upcoming trainings.
If I am going to be in your area, contact me so we can say hello, hopefully in person!
Principal Meetings Facilitation
High School Professional Development Best Practices Discussion
Benchmark Consortium Fall Meeting
New Trier Township High School District, Host
Skokie Doubletree and Conference Center
Being Generationally Savvy
Association of Independent Michigan Schools Fall Conference
Bloomfield Hills, MI
Having Hard Conversations
All Faculty Meeting
Katherine Delmar Burke School
San Francisco, CA
Being Generationally Savvy
Health Care Provider Speakers Series Session
Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula
For additional upcoming events, please visit my Web site.
Until next time,
Feel free to forward this newsletter to friends and colleague. You may reprint this newsletter in whole or quote with attribution to Jennifer Abrams and a link to www.jenniferabrams.com