In Response to Pernille Ripp's Post: "What Did You Want to Be This Year?"
What Has 2018-2019 Given Me?
Pernille Ripp asked her readers in her post “What Did You Want to Be This Year?”: “Did you accomplish the goals you set out to reach or did you realize that your life needed something else?” Pernille Ripp’s blog is one of my favorites because she makes me think and reflect on who I am as a teacher. I love any situation that puts me in student-mode because I am ever learning. Ever since I saw her speak in March at the Michigan Reading Association Conference, I often remind myself of her words: “It is time to be reading warriors” and “for too long we have been too nice.” As I doodled these phrases in my journal during the conference, I nodded my head, I scrunched my nose, I squinted my eyes, and I did some reflecting on my own work. Now, as I close out the 2018-2019 year, I want to focus on what I wanted for myself in my classroom, in my writing lab, and in my teaching life this past year.
And to answer her main question, I accomplished some goals and I realized my teaching life needed something else.
I wanted to be a reading warrior. This phrase resonated with me because I had set out this year to be a woman about books. I wanted to engage with books in my classroom, carve out space for reading, and show my students that reading is THE most important goal. As a person who has named their blog “writing mindset,” I am also a person who recognizes we can’t be writers without reading. I also wanted to show my students that I am a reader. I have never had a year where I have read more books alongside children. I feed off of good middle-grade literature. While I have fed my reading beast this year, I have also noticed that my colleagues don’t always share the same hunger. Reminding myself to be an advocate for reading in my classroom, in my hallway, and in my building has been a driving force to be present in the fight for literacy for our children and our adults. We are all striving to be readers.
I wanted to explore mentor texts. This was my main goal for the year. I changed how I did business because I wanted to take the books I was reading and show my students that they are authors, too. They can write just like an author. I have read a lot of research and learned a lot along the way, but this work has truly mattered to my classroom. As I enter year 10 in the fall, I have found something that will guide my instruction in the years to come. I blogged about this experience, but I also created a project that was contagious to other teachers in my building and in my district. Looking closely at my writer’s workshop has examined the role of reading in my students’ writing lives and my own writing life.
I wanted to figure out my paper problem. This is the ever elusive problem that seemingly makes me want to give up sometimes and buckle down to figure out solutions. This was a continuation of an identifying problems year. It was not a solutions year per se. I was still taking the strategies that I put into place and realized something radical: I can figure out how to do this job and not take as much work home. Let’s be crazy. This has fueled my summer 2019 mission, and it has given me my next project to put my heart into and figure out. I think teachers can be rigorous and impactful without sacrificing every waking hour outside of school. I really wanted to find answers during the course of this school year, but now I feel a renewed interest in figuring out a huge problem.
I wanted to be physically healthy. This year was a rollercoaster. Starting the year off with the death of a former student, being overly connected to conversations about data, feeling pulled in many directions, and just being tired...I wasn’t as diligent about my physical health as I needed to be. I found myself paying attention to sleep and hydration and trying to refocus on mindfulness, but I felt less physically strong than what I did in the year’s past. I want to readjust this during the summer and get back into a routine of taking care of my body with diet and exercise. Sometimes, I feel like I am always saying “I want to get back to this.” But, this is what matters, reminding ourselves to constantly get back to the good when we have lost our focus. Sometimes I feel like it is easier to focus on the lack of doing something or the negative, when the real power is focusing on our resilience to never stop trying to come back to the good.
I wanted to be more connected. I attended all the conferences this year! I realized how strong a presence teacher conferences have in the world of teaching. I realized how much we need other. I had such a good time at the Michigan Council for Teachers of English Fall Conference, and it was a joy to attend the Michigan Reading Association Conference in the Spring. I completed my masters degree in English Teaching in 2014, and conferences reminded me what it was like to be a student. I love choosing sessions, and I love having my notebook open in my lap. This drive to be connected to my colleagues is also influencing my work on my blog as well. I like reflecting with other teachers in ways that helps all of us to grow and look hard at the work we are doing with kids. Now, I find myself wanting to attend more conferences, wanting to write proposals, and wanted to put my own voice out there more.
I wanted to write. I wrote 20 blog posts from September until June. While I would like to write more than 2 a month on average, I got a chance to see what mattered to me during course of the year. I loved mentor texts. I loved sharing my work. I also wrote about the stress of being a teacher and teacher anxiety throughout the year. I think being more open about these issues puts the strain of teachers on the table, and it helps to confront the the worries that all teachers have in their minds and on their hearts. I want to get more comfortable with the uncomfortable in 2019-2020. I want to put more of my writing out there that deals with issues in teaching that are big and also small.
I wanted to fix big problems. I took on leading the facilitation process for the School Improvement Team this year because I did not like how the meetings were going. As a facilitator for adults, I really enjoyed stepping outside of my comfort zone to lead conversations about things that matter in our building. This year my SIT team talked about:
Catch-up growth strategies in the building (What we are doing to help our lower 30%)
Brainstorm ideas for the identified special education deficiency gap in our building
Building positive culture and climate for staff and students
Attendance intervention at the interdisciplinary team level and building level
I used Adaptive Schools collaborative strategies because we can’t forget that teaching needs to happen with adults in meetings as well. All too often, I see educational meetings that aren’t run like classrooms. I wanted to run these meetings with the same heart and intention that I run my classroom. Because these adults deserve the planning and commitment.
After a rollercoaster of a year with clear ups and defined lows, I appreciated doing this exercise to bring my year to a close. We can never forget that rough years teach us just as much as better years. The elements of being a rollercoaster almost always have nothing to do with the actual children that are in our rooms. I would never replace the joy that I have for working with students in my classroom. How lucky am I to have a job that focuses on problem-solving, is connected to a greater learning community, and allows me to continue to grow after years of being in the classroom? 2018-2019 has left me feeling pretty tired, but also pretty fortunate to be able to walk away with clear wins and clear goals in the quest of figuring out who I want to be as a teacher.