Saturday, February 25, 2012

My Constellation of Stars

My favorite constellation is the Corona Borealis, a gorgeous crown that I wear on my right ankle, actually. Mostly I love the arc of this gathering of seven stars, but I also love the story behind its name. And lately, I've been thinking of some other stars, another constellation that surrounds me and gives me the same sense of comfort every time I think of it.

My other constellation is made up, of course (if you know me and metaphors), of people in my work. Sure, I could write about my own personal constellations (there are many stars, rest assured), but this blog is about teaching, and this constellation of which I write is comprised of the brightest with whom I interact on a daily basis, in my classroom, in my hallway, and in my school. And sure, I could write about my students, whom I value as creative, diligent, ambitious, and filled-to-the-brim with potential. But this blog is about inspiration, and these are the people who inspire me professionally.

My brightest star and I begin every school year by trading funny, upbeat greeting cards with encouraging words about how great it is to be back at work. Somewhere around January or February, those cards become tongue-in-cheek jaded reminders of the hard work we do and how we just might not make it to the end. By June, we exchange notes of gratitude for the year gone by and for each other. If I could only pick one colleague with whom to work, she would be it. She is the first I ask for advice about rubrics, expectations, and new assessment ideas. She is the first I complain to, the first I share news with, and the last I would question as to her judgment or decisions. Together we are superbly collaborative; in many ways, she is the academic yin to my yang.

My union yin I could not do without either, though. This star's brain works in tandem with mine and yet, often provides the opposing side, the other considerations, the whys to my why nots. To say I bounce ideas off of her is an understatement. What I really do is bounce them off her, bat them back at her, catch them, hold them, and then probably throw them back for another round of bouncing. It's a complex process, but with her input, I most definitely do a better job as a leader.

The special ed stars are, indeed, special. What a gift, to be able to work with the varied skill sets and abilities that present themselves in our classrooms and in the Learning Center. Yesterday, I sat with one at the beginning of the day and then at the end to hash out an assessment for a student based on several issues: the difficulty of the original assignment, the modifications I thought might work, the modifications she thought might work, the parents' needs, and of course, the student's needs. Whew.

Two stars are in the guidance suite way down at the other end of the building. One has been burning brightly for so many years in my constellation. She is my go-to for all things not academic. Calm in a crisis, and smart as hell. The other is a new addition, but one who gives me confidence in the next generation of education professionals. Great with students, great with parents, and defers to teachers about classroom issues. Brilliant.

And then there are all the rest. My administrator, who, as a curricular guide, is tops. The custodial staff, especially the morning guys, who care about the building, care about teachers, care about students, and care about education. The cafeteria worker who tells me all about her adventures with the local ARC program - this week it was a trip to the theater, where she saw a play. The ESP in my classroom whose foremost thought is how best to help a student demonstrate mastery and always balances student need with educational (and often, societal) expectations. My after-lunch mates, who make me laugh and make me smarter, frequently at the very same time. And frankly, everyone else, too: secretaries, teachers, paras, subs, staff members. I am grateful for their light always.

Perhaps, instead, my teaching world is a galaxy.

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