Monday, October 26, 2015

Recovering from a Gold Star Addiction #SOL15



"But it's alright now.
 I learned my lesson well.  
See you can't please everyone, 
so you got to please yourself."
-Ricky Nelson, "Garden Party"

My class has been reading Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt.  On Friday, we watched the video Lynda created where she read aloud Chapter 17 and then answered questions about the book and her process.  At one point, Lynda spoke about praise and how we all want it, but we have to be careful not to rely too much on it.  To stop looking for validation outside ourselves and find it within. 

Gretchen Rubin described her need for "gold stars" in The Happiness Project.  I'm a gold-star-loving-gal myself.  Nothing makes me happier than the warm, fuzzy, kind, encouraging words about something I've done right.  I've saved notes and letters from former teachers and now former administrators, parents, and students.  On the hard days, these words help fill up my deflated sails and allow me to journey on through the murky, troubled waters of mistakes, regrets, and complaints about things I've done or failed to do. 

But for the last year, I feel like I've been reawakening- transforming as a teacher. By admitting there are things I don't know and actively seeking communities of professionals to learn and grow, I've become more sure of what I DO know, more confident in my beliefs, more grounded in why I teach and the approach I take. I worry far less about test scores and my evaluation and I think more about the life lessons my students are learning along with their reading, writing, math, science and social studies.  I'm teaching from my heart.  And it feels so much more right than following a script or a pacing chart. 

I was observed today teaching a reading lesson.  For the last several years, I have struggled to show my best teaching self during an observation lesson.  At the end of the observation, I've always felt regretful of things I should have done differently. There were lessons that I knew, flat out, went horribly wrong. It always felt like I was trying to please someone, and the way I taught the lesson was how I imagined someone wanted me to do it. Like I was pretending. It never felt authentic. Today marked a change.  I felt really comfortable in my own skin, really believed in the lesson I was teaching.  I loved the conversation about books and genres and setting goals to grow as a reader.  I was able to do a small group lesson while the students read and then a one on one conference with a student before we came back to share as a group.  At the end of the observation, there was a sense of peace and satisfaction that frankly surprised me! 

I'm not sure where I will fall on the Danielson rubric.  I'm not sure if there will be gold stars for me. But what I know for sure is I'll be all right either way because in my heart, what I taught was grounded firmly in my beliefs.  Esme Raji Codell wrote so beautifully about this in Educating Esme: Diary of a First Year Teacher.  She wrote, "I am operating from a position where I am personally vested in my approach, which any teacher will tell you is a privileged place to be.  Does being personally vested make a teacher successful? Not necessarily. Does it make a teacher accountable? Absolutely. Education's best-kept secret."