Cape Cod is the perfect place to spend the summer after a long school year. Generally it takes about two weeks before I can start to relax. I love it when I am truly present. So, if I'm weeding, I'm thinking about the damn weeds or if I'm paddle boarding I'm thinking about sharks and if I'm painting a piece of furniture, I'm thinking about brush strokes and dry time. Too often, I'm riding my bike or walking the dog or doing any of the above-mentioned activities and I'm thinking about teaching. Don't get me wrong. I love teaching and pride myself on being reflective. I have this notion that time away from teaching, time when we refresh and recharge, makes us better teachers. I wonder, when I can't shut my brain off, if it is really considered time away.
I had the pleasure of spending the day at the beach with a colleague today. We're a lot alike and pretty different too. Last school year was marked by many successes and accomplishments that I'm proud of. The students certainly made great gains. BUT. It just wasn't my best year. I have too many regrets and too many of my instructional approaches need rethinking. Actually, I'm gearing up for a complete makeover. I've been teaching for well over two decades. You'd think I'd have more of this figured out. I know what I don't want to see unfold in my classroom next year. I have some pretty good ideas of what I need to see change. My very real struggle is in deciding what parts of my practice I need to abandon and what I need to hold firm to. Add to the mix three purchased curriculums that I do not adore and the situation gets complicated. These are materials that, if used with fidelity, would not, I'm certain, produce the results my students deserve. (I get it...my opinion.) The messaging from my district around how much fidelity is expected has been fuzzy at best. I always worry about my choices. In the end, despite the sideways looks from some colleagues when I'm honest about my practice and despite the fear of my results not being on par with the results of those who use the purchased materials with more fidelity, I make daily decisions that I feel are in the best interests of my students. They come first. I try to set the worry aside. But here it is, the middle of summer, and I'm trying to construct some approach, that takes full advantage of all that is good in the purchased curriculum materials, while respecting my students, all the while focusing on the goal of producing better results. (I DON"T MEAN TEST SCORES!) And it is summer.
I digress. My friend came to the beach today and she patiently answered the hundreds of questions I asked about her instruction. One of the things I hate about teaching is that we are fairly isolated. It is hard to learn about how other teachers teach without interviewing them. I fear that my poor friend felt like she was in some kind of awful inquisition and worse, that she was being judged. She signed up for a beach day for crying out loud! Looking back at our day together, I have a few thoughts: