Saturday, November 26, 2016

I forgot to trust myself.

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I was the best teacher when I knew nothing about teaching. No, seriously. I had yet to be indoctrinated in theory, confined to district mandates, and criticized by my peers, I drew from what I knew to be true and that came directly from the heart. I taught from a place of authenticity, of meaning, of a belief in children and their creative processes and desire to learn. Somehow, along the way, I lost sight of these driving forces. It's not that I don't hold those beliefs anymore, I just got overwhelmed and I forgot to trust myself.

I've always been a good student, traditional schooling was something that came naturally to me. I liked assignments with clear directions and expectations and it was even better if the teacher gave me an exemplar I could follow...ahem...copy. I have also always been a pretty good reader of people, so I could easily decipher what the teacher wanted to hear, what he or she was passionate about, or what the "most important" ideas were. So, I just created my work product in the image of the exemplar in a manner that catered to my teacher's priorities. I made it seem like we were kindred spirits and that I was, too, passionate about the topic at hand. And, I usually got an "A."

That all sounds great, right? Report cards looked good. Parents were happy. But, the thing about it, was that I didn't learn. I missed the opportunities to really take in the information, process it in my own way, test it against my own beliefs and feelings, and allow the learning process to shape me. As a result, at 44, I'm still figuring out who I am and what I believe because I've spent a lifetime telling others what they want to hear.

This cycle has carried over to my teaching. I no longer trust my instincts when it comes to my students. I have spent a fortune on books seeking the perfect system, or lesson, or unit plan, or classroom management scheme. I have looked to more "seasoned" peers and copied whatever it is they are doing. But, despite all of my efforts at achieving "best practice," I've neglected my students. I've failed to see the faces in front of me and use my core beliefs to guide my practices. I've failed to listen to their interests, their pondering, their worries and met them with curriculum that enables them to flourish and thrive.I've worried too much about my test scores and not enough about making sure that each child is reading a book they love and has an opportunity to talk about it.

It's time to find that new teacher inside me again, the one who saw a system that was broken and vowed to devote her life to making it just a little bit better. It's time to return to teaching from the heart and trusting what I know to be true. Children are inherently curious, passionate, creative and eager to learn and they can be trusted to do so. They just need someone to believe in them and to provide them with rich provocations and support. I'm willing to be a bit lonely if it means that I can be proud of my work and truly teach. 

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