Sunday, November 30, 2014

Trust us! Experience Counts.

Overheard in the staffroom this week during inservice day lunch break:  “Why don’t they trust us? It’s always something new, it’s like they think my twenty-something years of experience mean nothing!”

She is feeling overwhelmed with new initiatives and curriculum, with directives from the district office. Me, I completely enjoy these training days, these opportunities to gather with my grade level colleagues from across the district.  I love the chance to align our practice, to hear new ideas, to learn and to grow.  But, I get it.  I know what she is talking about: the pendulum, the theories that come and go, the energy required to keep up when it’s likely to come back to a basic idea we thought was innovative 20 years ago. We live in a culture of bright and shiny, youth and vitality, rapid change and constant pressure to keep up.  Yes, it’s always something new.

Let me just pause.  Take a break.  

A blog challenge breather.  I made it to daily reflection number 17, but it is the 30th today.  November is done and the list remains, another item in my pile of things to do.  Maybe the moment has passed.  The 17th of November has come and gone.  Gratitude however, is never ending.  

Let’s stop for a minute to appreciate the years, the experience, the tried and true.

I am thankful for my twenty-something years in education.  I am also thankful for the wisdom of my friends and colleagues who have spent their careers developing this craft.  Teaching is an art, and it is refined, practiced and improved over time.  Though the artist’s genre may change (grade level, subject, school) he will certainly bring his tools, techniques and depth of understanding to each new initiative or adventure.

The Teacher’s Bag of Tricks:  We’ve got ‘em!  Give us new curriculum and we can adapt it with ease.  I can apply the cooperative learning structures to any content area:  we go to 4 corners to chat about geometry, use the inside-outside-circle to discuss community, and select talking-heads to present ideas about magnetism.  I can set up literacy centers where kids work on words from any spelling list. I can present graphic organizers to clarify any vocabulary.  The learning games, the sorting mats, the routines and rituals; I’ve got my bag of tricks.  Remember what it was like when everything was new?  I’m very grateful for my years.  And thankful for the friendly face across the hall who is willing to share hers with me.  And still, I want a bigger bag!

Patience:  Close your eyes for a minute and picture the perfect kindergarten teacher.  Is her hair grey? Is she wearing an apron and a flowery skirt?  Glasses on the end of her nose? Wrinkles on those hands that are tying a shoe? Somewhere this archetype still exists.  Grandmotherly understanding.  Love and care and patience.  The kindly smile that knows, Young Mom, that your baby will stop crying when you say goodbye and shut the door.  The knowledge that tantrums will end, fears will be relieved, help will arrive, learning will come.  We know.  We’ve been here before.  And with this knowledge comes a certain calm, and a knowing patient smile.

Perspective:  I think that experienced teachers are able to take a step back.  We can see this child with a view to the future.  I know it’s a cliche, but it’s so true: You will let your youngest do all of those things you didn’t let the oldest do.  I was the mom who pureed veggies to make my own baby food, protecting him from preservatives!  I sprinkled wheat germ on his baby cereal and banned ice-cream until the age of 20.  NO weapons whatsoever… spitting dolphins not squirt guns.  But now I know.  In spite of my protection boys turn sticks into swords, and the game of tag is no fun without the story of good guys and bad guys to give it a context.  And they will be ok.  I’m not going to worry anymore about imposing a rule, instead I will enforce the big ideas - be kind, be forgiving, take care of each other.  Let them play.  Let them go.  And, I will nurture curiosity and creativity.  Let kids be kids, because love of learning comes naturally!