The #everydaycourage of being seen
Take the iconic back-to-school prompt for students — what I did on my summer vacation — and give it a twist. Imagine how students might respond to the prompt What I think my teacher did on summer vacation.
A lot of us wish other folks knew how hard we work during summer: the workshops, the team planning time, the reflection, the resource-gathering. So a lot of us should share out all the work we’re doing.
Let’s look at four ways Vermont educators are sharing their practice.
Conversations begin at home. And at the bus stop. Also the market. And–
So much of the change we need to see right now can be kicked off by starting conversations with members of your community.
It takes a certain amount of courage to address issues that affect your whole community — such as bullying, hate speech and equity — with people who you may never have spoken with before.
But it’s effective. And the more you do it, the easier it gets. Let’s look at 4 ways to start a difficult conversation in your community.
How will your students prepare for active engagement in democracy?
Last spring Christie Nold, a 6th grade teacher at Frederick H. Tuttle Middle School, was at Burlington’s Jazz Fest listening to student musicians when she got some disturbing news: someone had spray-painted racist hate speech on her school’s campus.
Overwhelmed by her own emotions, Nold also knew that she had to find a way to help her students deal with their own understandings and emotions about the graffiti. Like Christie, many teachers are wondering how to address a recent rise in racism and white supremacy.
3 ways to de-privatize our practice
My first teaching job was in the library at a large, open-concept elementary school in Howard County, Maryland. The library was the hub of the school. During my classes teachers, administrators, and para-professionals walked freely in and out of the library, occasionally stopping to watch our progress.
And it was terrifying.
I felt scrutinized! But, after many months of these informal observations, I began to relax, and then having all of those eyes on my teaching was hugely helpful.
My mindset shifted from helpless vulnerability to hopeful vulnerability; this was an opportunity to learn from experts.
The birth of a YA teacher’s book club
“Sometimes you can do everything right and things will still go wrong. You’ve just got to keep doing right.”
–Starr’s mom, in The Hate U Give by Angela Thomas
“It really is nice being able to teach others. I know that I had an effect on them.”
The Essex STEM Academy, at Essex High School, lets students pursue their passion for tech and science with support from the Vermont STEM community. They also let the students teach.
We spoke with Ian, an Essex STEM Academy student who taught arduino programming, for an episode of our podcast. Find out what it’s like when students are given the freedom, support and authority to step into a teaching role.
School leadership in turbulent times
As schools prepare to welcome students through their doors, many educators are researching how to talk with their students about the attacks in Charlottesville or Barcelona. Or how to respond to student concerns about diversity, tolerance and equity. Or, ulp, how to address this recent article by Wired, revealing that the state with the highest percentage of online trolls is… Vermont.
Starting these conversations, and addressing our current crisis of digital citizenship takes courage and can often feel uncomfortable, but they all begin with one small step, then another, and another after that. They’re acts in which extraordinary courage soon becomes #everydaycourage, and we’re fortunate to have some leaders in the #vted ecosphere — administrators, educators and students — showing us the way.
It takes a courageous village
In order for student centered learning to happen, we have to invest in explicitly teaching (and reteaching) routines, expectations, and behaviors for learning. The beginning of the year is an ideal time to first establish a culture and community for learning.
But it takes time to learn and practice these routines.
Often, we feel the pressure of time urging us to jump right into our first units, yet without this foundation in place we can find ourselves spending valuable time redirecting student behavior, rather than focusing on content-specific learning.
It takes courage to acknowledge that we need to model, teach behaviors, and establish routines before we can ask students to learn. #everydaycourage.
Using technology to help build relationships
Remember when you were in middle school? How awkward did you feel, asking a teacher for help with everyone else watching?
Well #everydaycourage is a two-way street.
Laura Botte, 6th grade math educator at Edmunds Middle School, in Burlington VT, shared with us how she’s been using Google Docs to encourage her students to open up about what’s going on in their lives, and how that affects their ability to be present in the classroom. This is how you can use Google Docs so students talk to you.
Or, What to Bring to the First Staff Potluck
Opening up to fellow educators can be hard. We all know we’re doing the best we can, but many of us also feel like we could be doing better for our students. We want to do the best we can and sometimes we get terrified that it’s not enough. What if none of the other teachers feel this way?
Except: they do.
And that’s why it’s important to be brave enough to connect with the other teachers on your team, to really get to know them as people — and to let them get to know you in return. They can be some of your most important resources during the school year.