Today I had a very exciting day of Professional Development. — I’m not even being sarcastic. I really had a great day in a PD workshop. I’ll admit, part of that goodness is the fact that I had a “kid-free” day. Now, I don’t mean to sound like I don’t like being with my kids. That’s not the case at all. But being with my kids every single day, good and bad, can be wearisome. When I am running around like a crazy person, finishing plans, writing PEPs, entering grades, attending PLC meetings, grade level meetings, parent-teacher meetings, intervention meetings, IB meetings, and PD workshops – it is easy to get run down. When I am getting up at the crack of freakin dawn to work over-12-hour days with literally no breaks (nope, not even lunch breaks), and then you throw in thirty adolescent girls and boys with language and ability challenges, motivational issues, family and home life crises, social dramas and mood swings, it is easy to forget what I like about teaching. And that is a whole lot of effort to put in to something I’m not really caring for. At that point, we’ve reached a real problem.
So, the point is, it is nice to have a day away–to recharge, to remember what I like about teaching, and to see someone else doing it. Aside from the “recharge” value of the day off, it was really nice to hear from other teachers who are facing the same challenges I am. It was a relief to know that it’s not just me, that I don’t just suck at teaching (seriously, that was a real concern). It was also great to spend some time in someone else’s classroom, to see what other teachers are doing and how they are doing it. The “Master Teacher” we observed to day was so impressive. The way she interacted with students and the way students behaved in her classroom–it was so quiet and calm and orderly. I dream of having a class like that!!! But like she said, they didn’t come to her that way. She had to teach that behavior and it took time and practice. Thus–there is hope for us all!
Something I found quite interesting: Several of the teachers at this workshop were from my own school. They teach a different grade level, but their rooms are just down the hall from me. I was shocked as I listened to them recount their experiences so far this year. They said they felt “alone,” “abandoned,” were “drowning.” They felt like the administration was not providing them support, was overly critical, was even disrespectful in the way they addressed the teachers. Seriously, I was shocked as I listened. I had been telling my family, my friends, etc. how lucky I felt to be in a school that was providing me so much support. Between my Assistant Principal, the Literacy Facilitator, and the few veteran teachers on my content PLCs, I always had someone to turn to–and someone who really knew what they were doing. While I had once felt like those teachers at the workshop (just a few weeks ago), my experience has really turned around. I mean, I’m not going to argue–my classes definitely need fine-tuning. A lot of it. That said, I am able to teach now, and I don’t leave work frustrated and tired with a headache and sore throat. Having come so far as a result of the support I have received, it is crazy to me that someone just a few doors down is having such a different experience. It definitely has made me appreciate what I have, and I’ll be sending several thank-you notes tomorrow!
Additionally, listening to these concerns many teachers are having with their administrators has been a big reminder that “honey attracts more flies than vinegar.” (Is that the correct saying? You know what I mean.) Encouragement and praise are much better motivators than criticism–not just for kids but also for adults. I know when I receive praise, I find myself working harder just to make sure I am deserving of it. Criticism, on the other hand, can just break you down. Considering the nightmare of my first student teaching experience, I of all people should remember that (by the time I finished student teaching, I had decided I never wanted to teach again–and this was not at all the result of the students I taught but rather the teacher I worked with). Anyhoo, it was a good reminder, and all in all, a very worthwhile PD Day!