If you have been following the #D100bloggerPD hashtag this summer, you noticed that we have been very busy with our latest blog book study- a close look at Taylor Mali's What Teachers Make- In Praise of the Greatest Job in the World. This blogging experience started way back in the end of June when, on June 28, we held a special edition of #D100chat and featured Taylor Mali as our special guest. In case, although I'm not sure how it would be possible, you are wondering right now who is this Taylor guy I keep talking about- better watch this amazing video before we go any further.
Here's the thing- I've seen that video at least 20 times- nothing in comparison to the millions of views it has- but the point is- every single time this video pops up on my Facebook newsfeed, I must watch it. And let's be honest, around back to school time, this video probably does pop up more often, making a strong comeback into the limelight.
Now that you know who Taylor Mali is (and no doubt love him as much as I do!), let me make sure you are caught up with this edition of #D100bloggerPD. If you are reading my post as the first in the #WhatTeachersMake series, here's what you missed- and let me tell you- some really amazing teachers/administrators/instructional coaches came together for this edition and Colleen (my #teachertwin and co-founder of #D100bloggerPD- PLUS the brains over at Literacy Loving Gals) and I are so proud and thankful for them all!
Literacy Loving Gals: Kickoff plus the Introduction and Chapter 1
Teaching and Learning Redefined: Chapters 2 and 3
Miss Kaczmarek's Classroom: Chapters 4, 5, and 6
BigTime Literacy: Chapters 7, 8, and 9
Learn Teach Grow: Chapters 10, 11, and 12
The Bazz Blog: Chapters 13, 14, and 15
Miss G Does 5th: Chapters 16, 17, and 18
Responsive Literacy: Chapters 19, 20, and 21
Grammar Mamma: Chapters 22, 23, and 24
*Which brings you to me for Chapters 25, 26, and the Epilogue!*
It's almost the middle of August as I type this, and teachers have been on summer vacation at this point for about 2 months, give or take. Which, to teachers and those who love them, are married to them, or simply try to keep up with them know that "summer vacation" is really just code for 'work from home while maybe getting to go out to breakfast on a weekday' sometimes. Sure- I've enjoyed my summer vacation- but rarely a day goes by where I wasn't thinking about school, actually working on school things, shopping for my classroom, writing and rewriting my curriculum, or pinning ideas on how to make this coming school year the very best. Being a teacher is not a 'pick up and put down' kind of job- it's always on your mind.
I feel like I owe it to my readers to fess up to something right now. I wrote, rewrote, and erased that paragraph about ten times. Because in those deleted words, I allowed myself to fall into, by trying to defend, the negativity surrounding teachers (and I know I don't even have to get into examples for you to understand) but then it occurred to me that I am not that person and I won't let them steal my joy. In case you haven't heard of #edujoy, it is a shortened term for educational joy and if you are ever feeling 'down' about education, go look it up on twitter. It's positively motivational. It reminds me about my core values as a human and as an educator- many of which are the exact same.
Here's a few:
I believe in good and in always trying to see/bring out the good in others.
I believe in the people who go to work everyday and give the best they can.
I believe that there is power in being positive.
I believe in students. All of them.
Not just the ones who can sit politely in a class and play school.
I believe, in place sometimes of their own ability to believe, in the students who struggle.
The ones who's biggest concern in life is FAR GREATER than my latest homework assignment.
I believe that together, we are better. After all, a rising tide lifts all boats.
I believe in second, third, and fourth chances for those who are eagerly and honestly trying to improve. That mistakes are signs of growth and not failure.
I believe that being a teacher is a challenging, rewarding, emotional, and high-stakes job-
but that if I go into school everyday with
a smile on my face, determination on my mind, kindness in my heart, and guts in my belly- then
I believe that I really can change the world.
I believe, as Taylor Mali says, that I make a difference.
Phew! Sorry (#notsorry) for that rant, but I'm telling you, every time I watch that Taylor Mali YouTube video, I get so pumped up and I just had to get that out! Ok, now onto my reflection!
I had two very short chapters and one epilogue to read- all of which were the perfect end cap to this amazing book. The first of those chapters, The Quest for One Thousand Teachers is a great little piece about how Taylor Mali realized that his words and works were impacting and imploring others to become educators.Finding this neat (of course!), he figured he would try and keep a tally how many people actually became teachers because of him- and to top it off- he set a goal of inspiring one thousand teachers in six years. Spoiler alert: he didn't meet this goal. Not even close. Instead of just giving up and throwing in the towel, he decided to take a closer look at this quest and how he was approaching it. He made some tweaks and got some help, and finally about a year later, he was making steady progress toward that goal. Like all good teachers, he reflected on his practices and realized that, partly, this new growth was because, as he says, "I was finally ready for it to do so." (What Teachers Make, Page 180). If you open yourself to opportunity, it will likely come, If you remained closed and believe it won't happen, it probably won't. I really appreciate how Taylor Mali was able to admit that his original path didn't work and that he had to rethink and revise it before he achieved success.
My next section, and the last 'chapter' of the book, is called There Can Never Be a "Lost" Generation. While quite possibly the shortest of all the sections in the book, it gives me two of my most favorite quotes from the entire book. The first:
I feel like it goes without saying (although I guess I kind of already said it during my I believe rant up there...) but we can't give up on kids. We just can't. There's simply too much at stake. Yet somehow, even the most positive and hardworking people feel beaten down sometimes. Wait, I take that back. It's not somehow. I know exactly how. Back up to my rant- being a teacher is challenging! It's downright hard and some days, it's wholeheartedly exhausting. So yes, people get beaten down. People get lost on their path. But in the end, we must never, ever take that out on students. We must always believe in them and their successes.
The next of my favorite quotes from that section comes immediately after the one above. Here it is:
I just love it. This is the goal. This is why we are here. So whether or not you are a new teacher, a "middle" teacher (like me, hello 9th year!) or a veteran teacher- remember that promise. Remember why you became a teacher in the first place. I highly doubt it was for summer's off, discounts at the local coffee shop, or even your love of school supplies (though I suspect those may have played a role!), it's the kids. It's always been about the kids. Don't ever forget that.
I want to make sure that I thank Taylor Mali one last time for being so amazing during this entire process. He was kind enough to participate in a Twitter chat with us as well as offer his help in any way we needed. All of us at #D100bloggerPD truly appreciate you and everything you have done for us and, of course, the field of education. Keep fighting the good fight!
P.S. Speaking of kids, I'm following my passion for teaching middle schoolers back to the middle school classroom. This will be my 9th year of teaching- the first 6 of which I spent at Freedom Middle School before moving (within district) to Pershing Elementary School. I loved that position and am taking everything I learned about the literacy set-up of our wonderful district and bringing it back to Freedom as the new Strategic Reading teacher. This is a position that is going to be challenging and exciting all at the same time. I am more than ready to work tirelessly to improve the reading of my students and instill a passion for reading in their hearts at the same time. I can't wait to get back in front of full classes and (shockingly) I even can't wait to get back to the complicated and imperfectly perfect lives of middle school students. My heart is happy and my mind is racing.
It's going to be a fantastic year.
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As always, I love reading your comments or thoughts- so please feel free to leave some responses!