To kick off our month-long webinar series for the new school year, Heinemann is featuring a ”Classroom Essentials for Right Now” back to school blog series written by Heinemann author Christopher Lehman and his colleagues from The Educator Collaborative. Each blog offers practical, heartfelt advice on how to start the year off right. From being a thoughtful, reflective practitioner to creating a joyful community of learners, honoring student voice and choice. How do I choose the right books? How do I help my students become better writers? What do I do about grades? Join us starting this week as Chris and his colleagues share their “Classroom Essentials for Right Now.”
Educator Self-Reflection as a Political Act
Part One: Reflecting on Our Mission
Written by Christopher Lehman
We are so lucky to be educators.
There are so few professions that allow you to live inside of your full heart and full mind all at once. As Sonia Nieto writes in the first chapter of Why We Teach Now, “Teaching is doing: It takes reflection, planning nurturing, dreaming, scheduling, imagining, effecting, judging, succeeding, failing, improving, and then figuring it out all over again. ...Teaching is not for the faint of heart”(2014, 9).
We get to challenge our intellect on a daily basis with the mammoth question: “how best do I help this child learn?” All the while, living within our deepest missions: do good in the world, lift children up, and change the future.
Sure, there are times in the year where it is hard to remember these things. Though, under it all, always remains the deepest reason you came to this profession: our children.
The first reflection I’ll invite you to take up is this: “what drives you? What is your mission?”
In the start of the year spiral of assessments, schedules and planning, we can get buried in the minutia of this work. It helps to stop and reflect. To ask yourself why you came to this amazing profession and what, despite the heartaches, keeps you here.
In my column called “New Voices” in NCTE’s refresh of their Voices from the Middle journal, I get to interview educators in the early years of teaching middle school. If you are a Voices from the Middle subscriber (or ask your school librarian kindly to help you access it via a database), you can access each quarterly issue here: http://www.ncte.org/journals/vm.
Each interview, each quote, each reflection reminds me of what a gift—what a challenging, yet challenge-worthy gift—we share. In the September issue, for example, one teacher, Dustin Gooch, came to teaching by following his grandmother’s example, a 30-year educator. Once he arrived as a pre-service teacher and worked with young men who looked like him, came from where he came from, lived childhoods similar to his own, he said he knew he not only wanted to, but needed to teach.
Dustin’s mission is partly one of representation. In the column he concludes, “I believe that I give them hope because they see someone who shares the same race, gender, or culture as them in a professional setting, outside of professional musicians and athletes.”
So take a moment today to reaffirm for yourself: “What is my mission? What drives me?”
♦ ♦ ♦ ♦
For more information, and to join Chris and his colleagues form The Educator Collaborative in a live online PD series this month, click here (and read here for part two in Chris' blog series):
♦ ♦ ♦ ♦
Christopher Lehman is the Founding Director of The Educator Collaborative. He is the author of several popular Heinemann titles, including Falling in Love With Close Reading. He is an international speaker, consultant, and New York Times best-selling author. He holds degrees from UW-Madison, NYU and Teachers College, Columbia University. Chris has been a middle-school teacher; a high-school teacher; a literacy coach; and a Senior Staff Developer with the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project at Columbia University. Now with The Educator Collaborative, he is working to innovate the ways educators learn in-person and online, providing opportunities for teachers, coaches, and administrators to share their expertise so students can hold their brightest futures. Chris can be reached at TheEducatorCollaborative.com or on Twitter at @iChrisLehman.