Welcome to my Blog
Welcome to my blog!!
Disclaimer #1: This blog may have a few well-placed swear words. Sorry, Mom and Dad. Sorry, kids. Mommy told you how we don’t say damnit, and that rule still stands. The reason for the swear words is because almost every teacher I’ve ever known, and especially the ones I’ve liked, have cussed at least once in my presence. Maybe it was under their breath, but they’ve all done it. So I promise you that I’ve only used such words when only no other word will do. They will include, in addition to “hell” and “damn,” “bada$$,” “dumba$$,” and “who gives a sh*%.” You may think it doesn’t count if I use symbols instead of letters, but I feel that it still does count and ameliorates the situation in some small way. Sorry also to my grandparents in heaven.
Disclaimer #2: Rhetorical questions, multiple adjectives, and run-on sentences are my writing style, and I’m not giving them up. #DealWithIt. With that said, the previous sentence (not the hashtag) contained two independent clauses that needed to be separated by a comma and a coordinating conjunction, and this is a simple grammar rule that I feel more people should follow.
Disclaimer #3: This blog is NOT going to tell you how to teach. There are already a gargantuan amount of blogs out there telling you how to teach better: how to design classroom environments to optimize student learning, how to organize your files to reduce your workload and the number of hours you spend at work, how to manage your classes so you don’t have to take a mental health leave of absence, how to utilize technology and collaborate with colleagues so you can have every single learning resource that’s possibly out there available to you (as if that’s not going to make you feel even more stressed and indecisive), and/or how to communicate with parents and apply feedback from administrators so you can continue trying to please them and make them happy and approve of you…oh yeah, and impact students’ learning and growth, which is supposed to kinda be the whole point.
There are tons of blogs like this out there. I’ve read and regularly read many of them, and you should, too, if you feel like it. Many of them are excellent. Many of them are absolutely helpful. I’ll recommend many of them on this blog
But this is not one of those blogs.
Imagine me saying this in the way Robin Williams told his students to rip out the J.Evans Pritchard Introduction in their Poetry textbooks.
It feel rather blasphemous, but here it is: I hereby grant you permission to be a teacher and read a blog that has absolutely nothing (or at least hardly anything) to do with teaching. And yet it has absolutely everything to do with teaching because (drum roll, please) this blog is all about YOU. Think that’s too selfish?
Well, that might just be part of your problem.
(It’s okay, all of us teachers have that same problem to some extent.)
I’m a teacher. I don’t want to leave the classroom. I’m in this with you.
But I’m not jaded. I like my school, my colleagues, my students, my administrators. I don’t want to leave teaching. Have I considered it? Oh heck yeah. But there’s just this inconvenient way that students do or say some little thing day after day and year after year that lights up the “I encouraged and helped someone learn something today and it felt great and this is the best freakin’ job in the whole freakin’ world and why would I ever want to leave? I’m never leaving EVER!” button in my brain, and it keeps me coming back. But that’s just me. Also, I take pretty good care of myself. Which is what this blog is about. More on this in a bit.
Anyway, here’s the point: the best teachers are STILL leaving the profession in droves each year. And that’s really not cool. That’s really not what we need in a time of climate change and the threat of nuclear war. Because we need talented professionals to teach critical thinking 21st century problem solvers how to think critically and problem solve.
So this blog isn’t about how you, a teacher who is most likely quite excellent already and most likely knows darn well what you’re doing in this job already, and is most likely your own worst critic already and striving to continually learn and improve already, can be still even better, even more efficient and even more productive for your students or your classroom or your colleagues or your administrators or your files.
This blog is not about your files. In fact, if there’s any file we’re going to talk about, it’s going to be about the “Who gives a sh*&?” file that I welcome us all to use right now. In this file, I’d like for you to go ahead and put some mindsets, worldviews and limiting beliefs that need to be kicked to the curb, some thoughts and mindsets and energy drainers that are just unworthy of you.
Our whole culture is wired to make you feel like if you JUST tried harder, if you just increased your focus, if you just put in more hours, then you could change it all. You could make that impact. You could change that pie chart that you see…I forget where…oh, yeah, EVERYwhere, over and over again— you know the one…the one that shows our country behind all the other countries. And YOU are supposed to fix it, they say.
To heck with that! No, to hell with that! This blog is about how you can be better for you because you freaking deserve it. This blog is about YOU. Because teachers change the world, whether they’re happy or not. Whether they’re “good” or not. Whether they post a “Feet Up Friday” picture on Instagram or get all the cutest classroom supplies from the Target Dollar bin or not. Whether they’re “effective” or not. (But you kinda have to still be effective. I mean, you don’t have permission to be a slacker and surf eBay during class time. If you’re looking for permission to do that, this blog isn’t for you.)
But seriously, this blog ain’t gonna tell you jack sh%^ about lesson plans, curriculum design, pedagogy, and the like. In my last book, I wrote that I didn’t have the authoritative qualifications to write one. Well, I should have realized what a bunch of malarkey that statement was. I’ve been teaching for 14 years. Of course I’m an authority on pedagogy. You are, too, of course, in one way or many others. The difference is that now I’m learning how to own my power. And that has nothing to do with wanting to go higher in “the system.” The “system” doesn’t want us to, anyway. Doesn’t want us to own our power, I mean. I’m not just talking about our school systems when I use the word “system” -- because it’s so much bigger than that. The system includes it all: the politicians, the media, the current events, the culture we live in, the way some parents size us up at Open House Night, the way in the documentary Waiting For Superman, Michelle Rhee whispered conspiratorially to that student in the back of the class, “Is he a good teacher?” And the student shrugged, “He’s okay.” It’s the rise of anti-teacher organizations charter schools in a futile effort to “treat” a “crisis.” It’s, as of this writing, having a National Secretary of Education who wouldn’t know a PDP from an IEP if it hit her in the face (and I mean that with no due respect.)
Oh, sure, the system is sure to cheer us on when we win a grant or when we go on a cool summer educational trip that will benefit the system, or when we use some cool new technology that will benefit the system. At mandated conferences, the system will give us bowls of candy and free highlighters. It’ll even give us a segment on “The Today Show” about what a hero (more often, shero) we are for the special impact we made on a student. Such news segments highlight us as anomalies, as if we’re one of the few “good ones” left. But after those accolades, we’re expected to go back inside our little squirrel nests and not make too big a fuss, at least not too disruptive of one. We’re supposed to be selfless and give till it hurts because--well, that’s just what we’re supposed to do. And if we don’t? We’re “selfish.” We’re not “dedicated.” We’re not committed to “getting results.”
The system wants to continually feed us more pointless programs and technology tools that we are “required” to do, but only because the budget money had to be spent somehow, and even though the budget money should be spent to increase our salaries, it goes to big wigs who don’t work nearly as hard as we do. So let’s just stop pretending and stop drinking the Kool-Aid on that one, shall we? So let’s not nod and smile anymore. Let’s just smile. At each other-- knowing that we friggin’ rock, knowing how much joy we’re finding in beginning to own our power, knowing how much we are fearfully and wonderfully made, and knowing the power of our voices. They’re going to hear us. In some states, they already have.
Does that mean we go through our jobs with bitterness and resentment? Does that mean the “system” is going to break us so that we’ll continue acting like sad,helpless hamsters on a rusty, rackety, wheel? Heck no! That would take out way too much of the fun. No, when we know that we’re getting treated like we’re not professional (read: treated like crap) and given salaries that don’t reflect the hours we put into our job (read: money that is crap) it just means that we know what’s up. As MC Hammer would put it, we “know the time.” And what time is it? It’s the time of magic. It’s the time of edupreneurship, of Teachers Pay Teachers, of Twitter, of collaboration, of inspiration. It’s the time of #teachersofinstagram and #teachersfollowteachers. It’s the time of heart-stopping beauty. It’s the time of horror. It’s the time of lockdowns and pretending to be surprised when another school shooting occurs. It’s the time of leaders and lawmakers who grab the organs that birthed them and then get away with bragging about it. It’s the time of knowing we’re not immune to the insanity, which becomes the time of knowing we’ve got to give it all today because it can be taken from us in the click of an assault rifle. It’s the time when watching the morning news can be alternately more gag-inducing than an episode of “Jerry Springer” and as inspiring as your child’s first steps. It’s the time of precariousness, of having no choice but to act. It’s the time to rescue.
Nope, not our students.
We’ve been trained for a good century now on how to strive to do that, and we’ll never stop trying.
And nope, not our planet. We’ve got some fantastic lesson plans and ways of engaging our students in creative ways but even that is outside of our control. And nope, not our country. (Unless you’re Jahana Hayes and running for Congress. You go, girl.)
In this era of uncertainty, of groundlessness, of infinite possibility. It is the perfect time to rescue YOU.
Your right to take care of yourself, to nurture your amazing, gorgeous, brilliant, fabulous Teaching Spirit. It’s the perfect time to prioritize your own well-being… because nobody else has plans to anytime soon.
It’s the perfect time to CHOOSE to THRIVE.