Monday, April 27, 2015

To Be Enthusiastic....#sol15

When I was a sophomore in high school, I was one of the nominees to attend the Hugh O'Brien Youth Leadership Retreat (HOBY).  Several of us were nominated and we were interviewed by our principal and teachers.  I remember nervously waiting outside the conference room for my interview, pretty shocked that I was a candidate.  7 students were nominated and I remember the others bantering about who they thought would ultimately be selected.  No one thought it would be me.  I think I was the most surprised when it was announced that I was selected to attend the HOBY Leadership Retreat at Marymount College.  

At 15, I was not someone who left home often, never did the sleep away camp thing and didn't really go to sleepovers either.  This was a weekend away at a college with complete strangers.  I was petrified but also exhilarated that I had been selected and that my high school teachers saw so much leadership potential in me.  Even then, I tried to learn the lesson that Eleanor Roosevelt said:"You must do the things that you think you cannot do."  I was frightened, but knew I should push through and attend the weekend.  

It was an awesome experience.  20 years later, I don't remember everything about HOBY but certain things live strongly in my memory.  The atmosphere was electric and joyful and something emphasized again and again through chants and cheers was, "To be enthusiastic, you must act enthusiastic."  

Recently I reread Dave Burgess' book, Teach Like a Pirate,  for a book discussion with my LIWP friends. The HOBY experience came to mind as Burgess describes how "mediocrity doesn't motivate."  He writes, "Mediocrity is incapable of motivating. You just can't be on fire about mediocrity. There's no energy, no juice, and no fuel to ignite action.  How could anyone be fired up about creating a lukewarm classroom environment..."  Burgess further states, "You have to be on fire with passion and enthusiasm." To be enthusiastic, you must act enthusiastic.  

Being enthusiastic isn't always popular.  It can be more socially acceptable to dread Monday than to be happy about coming to work.  For a long time, I worried that seeming too enthusiastic or excited about teaching would make me seem different, not part of the group. Becoming a more "connected" educator has helped me gain confidence and find community with other teachers who are filled with passion and enthusiasm.  It's given me more confidence to be willing to share my ideas with others and display my enthusiasm for being a teacher. 

As I typed this, serendipity happened.  A new Twitter friend and fellow third grade teacher, Aliza Werner sent me an email.  Earlier in the day, I had sent her a message, asking for some book recommendations for an order I need to place. Her reading workshop sounds so engaging and incredible and we've been communicating about reading strategies.  Aliza is one of those teachers who is passionate and enthusiastic about reading and learning and also completely generous.  She has already sent me files and documents and tonight, she wrote, "It really is empowering to find like-minded educators who try their best with their students.  It's one of those professions where you feel like you are always aspiring to do better and more, so you never really feel like an expert...Nice to have a community to lean on and share with in this crazy teaching world!"  Her next lines made me laugh- "Honestly, I think I should shoot a video to walk you through my Reader's Notebook.  It would help to tie everything together."  

THAT is enthusiasm and shared enthusiasm.  A teacher who would video her reader's notebook to be able to explain it all and a teacher, me, who can't wait to see that! This passion and enthusiasm hurts no one but helps many.  Aliza is inspiring me and helping me learn.  Her passion and enthusiasm will now make me a wiser, more skilled teacher, benefiting my students and my school.  

To be enthusiastic, you must act enthusiastic.