Saturday, January 21, 2012

One Word

In an email conversation with a parent this week, she asked me when I sleep. I responded "in class." I hope she appreciated my humor as much as I appreciated her respect for all the ways in which I am available to students. These days, I don't lack "sleep" as I used to. Part of that is probably because I am no longer parenting school-age children; that (or elder-care or a second job) is extraordinarily time-consuming and stress-inducing. But conversely, when I was parenting my daughters, there wasn't NCLB or RTTT or SRBI or CCSS. And we all know how time-consuming and stress-producing these AAEs (Annoying Acronyms of Expectations) can be. So why, or how, is it somehow easier now?

The uncomplicated answer is one word: perspective. In all that I do, in everything I teach, at every meeting, in all my planning, my mantra is, always, perspective. Personally and professionally, perspective has saved me from spiraling into panic. Perspective has halted any implosion from heaped-on responsibility. Perspective has urged me to seek the smooth, the calm, the sensible, and yes, the easy. In what other profession would the expectation not be to find easier ways to approach tasks? Yet in teaching, we nearly set ourselves up to take the difficult path, we often create more, or harder, work for ourselves, and sometimes we even forget that we are humans, not superheroes.

This week, I repeated my mantra frequently. Perspective. While revising midterm exams to fit the new schedule (shortened, these will be easier to grade), while writing modified exams (how much is enough to show mastery?), while correcting said exams (average scores are higher than my 4-year average). While creating interventions (this is about student needs, not mine). While tutoring (progress). While setting up parent video conferences (I don't like the telephone). While speaking to the faculty about our upcoming accreditation (be quick, precise, and thorough). While attending a Board of Education meeting (proactive collaboration is always better than reactive contention), while attending a regional union meeting (it's not about the politics for me), while registering for an on-going book club on ELLs at my RESC (an interesting way to acquire more knowledge and strategies).

Perspective allows me the freedom to adapt. In our rapidly changing educational world, adaptation is key. If  we cannot, or will not, address changes in curricula, standards, responsibilities, requirements, or roles, we cannot expect to be recognized as the professionals we are. Don't misunderstand me; I mean not to imply that we should be pushovers or doormats. I mean that, given our rights and within the bounds of what is right and good in education, we mustn't remain stagnant, we mustn't be inflexible. We must adapt. And we should, for our own sakes, adapt with grace and good humor and perspective, knowing that what we do in the classroom, ultimately and always, is the most important work. 

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