Holidays give me a lot of time to think. After my last post about disobedient thinking I have been reflecting further. I am lucky enough to have an amazing best friend...she is an incredible teacher, and traveled the play-based path far earlier than I. Unfortunately for her, she is not in the privileged position I am in, she is not lucky enough to be a teaching principal like I am, so has to make change in different ways than I am able to.
I am incredibly aware that some of you work in situations where enacting change is difficult. Very sadly you make not have any say in how things go at your school. I have been thinking about what disobedience may look like for you.
I have experienced being in this position. I found my first year teaching to be the hardest year of my life, I considered leaving I was constricted and confined to teaching a way that was not necessarily me and often felt bullied It wasn't that I didn't have amazing colleagues around me, it was that management was heavy handed and very narrow minded. I was lucky enough to fall on my feet in a lovely school where I felt at home and then even luckier to later get a job at a 2-3 teacher school where I was allowed to be the master of my own room. I grew so much in this situation. I had time to develop my own thinking and trial new ideas. I bloomed and could not be more thankful for this experience. I simply had permission to learn who I am as a teacher. We should never underestimate the absolute power of honest professional reflection.
This experience not only allowed me to see how powerful reflection was, but it also allowed me to understand the importance of having colleagues, working in a small school is different, and without good working relationships with your colleagues, almost impossible without going completely mad. 😀
Reflection on my experience and what applying disobedient thinking could look like in a situation where you may not have power to make change school wide, has led me back to finding the one most important part in learning, and that is you, the teacher! The quote below by Dorothy Delay is vital to my reflection, but I simply want you for a moment to change the word Children, to Teachers. I believe this is true, so let me tell you what you are.
You are the singularly most important thing for a child in the learning process. You are the difference. How you choose to interact with a child on that day, in that moment makes the difference. You have the power.
Children will not remember the expensive resources brought by a school to deliver maths or other curriculum areas, they will not remember that learning intention they had to write down, they will not remember a lot of what they did day to day. But they will remember you. The relationship they have with you makes the difference to how engaged they will be in learning, very simply the relationship they have with you will change how they see themselves as a learner and will transform how they see learning. This is true across all levels.
Believe me, I am not perfect, I have days where I go home and reflect on how I could have handled things differently, but that is ok. Sometimes my class of little lovelies drive me barmy. But we should never underplay our importance, ever. As a parent I know how much difference a teacher makes. My children would do absolutely anything for a teacher who obviously likes them, that sees them, that takes time to understand them. The relationship they have with their teacher defines how they see themselves and absolutely affects how 'good' at certain subjects they believe themselves to be.
This works both ways and as my children have travelled through the levels they have encountered teachers they believe do not like children. Teachers who berate them. Teachers who according to my children don't even know who they are, or their name. Now admittedly one of my children is quite hard to get to know...but this shouldn't mean that a teacher wouldn't bother, because this child has a lot to offer and ultimately just wants to be seen.
My advice to these teachers, who no longer want to be there, who think it is ok to berate a child, to yell at them, to set work way out of their ability level, to provide no support, to not really care...leave, go and do something else, teachers matter too much for you to be given this responsibility!
And now for the rest of us. For those that are thinking, I cannot apply disobedient thinking because I do not have the position of power to make change. You can!
For me disobedient thinking in your classroom means building in time to make and build relationships, allowing time for children to be children, to get to know them, to discard anything that is taking up time, but serving no value for you. If modelling books, learning intentions etc work for you and are valuable for the children, keep them. If not, why are you doing it? Apply this thinking to everything. Where is the child in this, where is the relationship, how is this helping me to see them, to truly know them?
I just want you to understand how important you are. We have huge power. We have huge power to make a difference for those children in our classroom, no matter the age. For those children you may be the most positive relationship they have. Yes we need to spend time building and growing positive dispositions in our children, but it will be you they remember, you they mimic.
You are doing the most important job in the world, I want you to go back into your classroom in Term 3 believing you can make change.
Number Agents was born out of this awareness. It is not about maths, it is about engaging children, creating self-belief and learning esteem (the belief I can learn, the belief in my personal learning power.) You don't need to buy expensive resources to make a difference, you don't need to write strict 'lesson plans' or follow guidelines to teach, you just need to know your stuff and go with your gut. Put the children at the center of everything you do and you cannot go wrong.
And a lesson from Finland. In Finland they have frequent short breaks throughout the day. It is expected that teachers will go to the staffroom and chat during these times. To chat to your colleagues is viewed as an important tool for reflection in Finland. Don't forget this, you are not an island, you need your team. Bounce ideas off each other, work together where possible.
I love this ted talk....a must watch for us all. Every kid needs a champion!
And a little montage of quotes that I absolutely love and I hope can inspire us all as we move into Term 3.
Dedicated to my lovely best friend - you can be the change you want to be :)