Into the Arena

Tomorrow is one of the three big staff development development days that my team of five people has planned for this year. Heading into this day creates a lot of anxiety because we are presenting to our entire staff. I want it to be useful. I want it to help teachers empower themselves. I want it to be something they refer back to a year from now. I also don’t want to put my team in front of the staff if it’s not going to empower them.

I have spent the last month working on Brene Brown’s Living Brave Semester where we are examining vulnerability, and ways to sit in¬†vulnerability which will allow us to move through barriers and live wholeheartedly. Living wholeheartedly to me implies that we live fully. In order to live fully, we have to be able to take risks. We have to take what we believe to be right and true and live by that: vulnerability and all.

It is a scary place to stand. But here’s the thing: we NEVER do this alone. We always have a team in the arena with us, to not only fight the good fight with us, but to help us up when we fall. We have to ask for help. In my context, I have five people who creates and prods and questions and pushes until we get it right. I have five people who will tell me when I am on target and when I have completely missed the mark.

Here’s my point: today standing at the door of the arena we will face tomorrow, I am grateful I have a team with me that I trust, that does amazing work, and who we each can rely on to do top-notch work. Without this team, this wholehearted living thing would be scarier.

Playing with Language

The last three weeks I have had the privilege to work with our incredibly dedicated World Language Department at Cherokee Trail. They are looking at ways to elevate literacy skills their classrooms. They have illuminated how second language can illuminate issues with a child’s first language. Many of our discoveries over the last three weeks are struggles students have with English as well.

The first day we met we used a protocol to examine student writing from the finals they gave in December. We read student work¬†the teachers characterized as average to their classes. As they passed their papers around their vertically teamed circles, they wrote down the students’ strengths and what the next teaching moves might be. Then I had them fill out a google form after reflecting in their groups where they answered the strengths, the areas of struggle, and the next teaching moves.

I compiled this list on to a page where I simply listed each of their answers. This lead us into the second week we worked together. The first thing I had them do was look at the sheet I made with their answers. I had them look for patterns and outliers by themselves, and then I had them talk in their vertical teams about what they noticed. This is where it got really interesting.

The teachers pointed out that no matter what level students were struggling their language, our students struggle with subject verb agreement and adjective-noun gender. In their discussions, they discussed their surprise that students struggle with these at all levels.

Teachers then discussed how they teach these two things. This was the most powerful part of this particular time together. They shared their teaching and swapped ideas. It was in this space they made plans together and set agreements about what they would teach.

It is in this space we create for ourselves to talk and to figure out our next steps that we become better at our craft.