Grateful for Family… and Colleagues

By Senior Staff Developer Nancy Meredith

Amidst the wonderful aromas of roasting turkey, dressing, and the ‘family’ scalloped corn (a Midwest favorite), amidst tripping over each other in the kitchen, amidst the calling of “Grandma” while building cities of magnatiles and Legos, amidst the creation of chalk paintings on the driveway with Grandpa… and amidst our best efforts to get that ‘perfect’ family photo, from the smiles, laughter, and conversation, the high level of gratitude was apparent at our table for our early Thanksgiving. 

This leads me to my thoughts today…

Thinking about this month’s blog and it’s connection of moving toward the learner-centered classroom with gratitude and Thanksgiving, I came across this quote by John F. Kennedy: “As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.”

Thus my ‘grateful’s for November 2019….

Gratitude #1: Teacher’s who speak their heart.

Having facilitated two TSI lab classrooms this past week, I’m compelled to share a story from one of the participants from the first day. We had had a beautiful observation in Ashley’s room and were reaching that moment of sharing our ‘take-away’s.’  After everyone had shared, one young man hung back, then hesitantly stood to read his take-away…and with tears in his eyes, a shaky voice, and a heavy sigh, he divulged that he had been contemplating leaving the profession after 10 years until that morning when he ‘saw what teaching could be for him.’  Until that moment, he was not sure if he could continue. 

The room silenced itself to absorb his heartfelt words…

At that moment, my gratitude for teachers whom I’m so blessed to work,  swelled. This is such a tough profession at so many levels. When I hear teachers speak their heart in a room full of colleagues barely known, I witness first hand the courage and vulnerability we all feel. And I think as we begin to make those first moves from a teacher-centered to learner-centered classroom, we must appreciate those difficult conversations with our inner self as well as with others. 

Gratitude #2: Teachers who choose to move their practice forward.

Throughout the two lab days and beyond, I heard teachers asking hard questions, and I heard teachers subtly moving from teacher-centered to learner-centered through use of words like ‘intentionality’ and ‘mindful’ and ‘purposeful.’ These seem like small steps when really they are huge leaps in practice. To become metacognitve about one’s  teacher moves is a first step in changing how you view instruction. 

One TSI participant actually counted the number of times she heard the teacher use the word ‘thinking’ with kids during the 90 minute block.  Another noted that the teacher noticed and named 5 thinking strategies for students to ensure they knew the kind of thinking being done. Others mentioned the amount of choice students had encouraging ownership of learning. These are noticings I hear continually from my work with all teachers…these things move instructional practice forward.  

Again, a flame has been fueled for my grategulness in working with teachers who choose to move themselves forward in their practice. 

Gratitude #3: Teachers who feel empowered in their practice. 

Setting intentions, by teachers during our TSI lab debriefs truly filled me with gratitude for our profession.  Hearing synthesis statements like ‘but now I think students can be taught to be self-directed to think more deeply’ and ‘but now I think students can be given more freedom to process their thinking’ provides evidence that teachers are feeling empowered to have students take more ownership of their learning. But more importantly, teachers are feeling empowered in their practice. And I’m very optimistic that each of these teachers will live out their take-aways. 

This work happens with all teachers where ‘letting go’ of control  and moving to learner-centered classrooms is becoming a growing norm.  Supporting teachers in creating structures for that journey becomes our mission. 

“At times, our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.”    Albert Schweitzer

Happy Thanksgiving…see you in December.