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Friday, March 6, 2020

There is no I in Teach(ing)

Okay, you got me. There is an "i" in teaching. I also thought about titling this post "Teaching is a Team Sport," although it isn't really a sport either. But I think you get the idea...so let's get started.

First, hello there! It's that time of year when it feels like there is so much to do and so little time left in the school year! I'm looking at data and evaluating my interventions (again) to see what else I can try to reach the littles who haven't quite made the progress I hoped for. I'm preparing for Literacy Night...super excited to try a theme this year and hoping to really promote family engagement. More on that in another post. I've been helping with a huge grant application that would help us start an awesome after-school program (among other things). I've also been attending meetings, workshops, and all the other "stuff" that seems to happen this time of year. 

Okay, enough about me. Back to the main idea of this post. ;-)

Part of my master's program as a reading specialist included classes in instructional coaching, school leadership, and providing professional development. It sparked an interest in me on how to inspire, encourage, and motivate teachers so I can often be found reading, searching, or in this case, listening to things geared toward administrators. 

Tammy at Forever in First posted on her Facebook about an interview with Joe Sanfelippo (2019 Superintendent of the Year). She summarized his district's professional development growth plan which allows teachers to choose a personal goal and then gives them 4 PD days a year to work on that goal. My interest was piqued, and then I saw this quote: "We make decisions based on our best people, and that's what our best people want to do." 

Silent cheering ensued. Yes! Amen! 

I had to listen to this interview (and then promptly shared with a couple of administrators I know).

The professional development growth plan sounded just as amazing as I expected, and I certainly hope that it catches fire in my district. However, I don't make the professional development decisions in my district, so...there was something else that stuck with me even more.

Recognize, Acknowledge, and Extend.

Dr. Sanfelippo encourages those three words among the teachers and staff in his district. He wants everyone--not just administrators--to recognize when others are doing a good job. Teachers recognizing teachers. Notice what their colleagues are doing well. Then acknowledge it. Let them know you see them. Encourage them. And then, go tell someone else about it. Extend it by sharing it with others.

Can you imagine the atmosphere in those schools? Can you imagine the inspiration to be the best teacher you can be?

As I thought about this, I realized that I have tried to start this in my buildings in a way. I implemented some ideas from a pack of Staff Morale Boosters this year. We have a jar where people can write in "shout outs" for staff members to be read at the monthly staff meeting. I leave little notes and "gifts" around the building. I was trying to do that part anonymously, but I was found out pretty quickly. It's a great pack if you're looking for some ideas to boost morale--which it seems is often needed this time of year. 

Also, let me add here that I think it would be amazing to practice Recognize, Acknowledge, Extend all the time without having to use a "shout out" jar. And I plan to do better at this myself.

A tale of two buildings...

I work in two different buildings and have set up these "positivity jars" in both locations. 

Location A is completely into it. By the end of the month, the jar is overflowing. As soon as the shout outs are read, the jar has more in it the following day. No reminders needed. They are just "on it." 

Location B's jar sits empty for much of the month...until I send out a reminder to "spread the positivity." 

It is...interesting. I love the teachers and staff at both buildings. Both buildings are doing great things and would have plenty to "shout out" about. I don't want to speculate about why Building A seems to enjoy this more than Building B, but instead I want to think more generally when I look back over my 12 years of teaching in 2 different schools and districts. 

Some teachers are "team" players. 
Some teachers are not.
Some teachers are competitive.
Some teachers are "lone wolves."
Some teachers are resistant to change.
Some teachers are introverts.
Some teachers are extroverts.
Some teachers are confident.
Some teachers lack confidence.
Some teachers are overwhelmed.
Some teachers are busy (okay--that is all teachers--ha!).

I think we could probably keep adding to that list. 

The truth is that we are all different, and we bring different qualities to the profession. We all struggle. We all could improve an area of our instruction. But we are all also doing something well. I guarantee that. 

So take time to look around you. Who do you see? What are they doing well? It's too easy to focus on the negative or identify someone's faults. It's more difficult to look for the positive. 

Recognize, Acknowledge, Extend.

Be a team player. Spark inspiration in your building. 

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