Monday, April 29, 2019

Commit to the Go

Post-swim Halewia Sprint Tri 2013
I vividly remember the moment I realized I am capable of more than my mind or my body thinks I am.

I was a swimmer for forever. For years before high school on a year round team, and then once I got to high school I swam for my year round team until swim season, then I switched over to the high school team. It was in high school that I became a stroke specialist, because in high school the coach needs to place swimmers in specific races. Due to my experience I could have swum just about anything (though putting me in the breaststroke or backstroke would have been pushing it), but I got put into the butterfly. Fly is the most notorious stroke, and the most difficult to to master. Yeah, I said it breaststrokers. Take your frog-looking nonsense into a different lane before I smack you in the back of the head as I fly past you.

Fly is hard. And it was mine. And I loved it.

It was a morning work out early in the season my freshman year. We were one or two sets into the workout when coach called out the set. "10 x 100 Specialty stroke" on some time that would make things interesting. 10 x 100 means ten reps of 100 yard swims. The time was probably 1:20 or something. So you have a minute twenty to swim four laps. The faster you do it the more rest you get. The faster you do it the quicker you get tired. Up until this particular practice I thought about this set as a survival set. How do I swim it fast enough to get rest, but not so fast that I burn up? This morning, completely on accident, I blew past that and learned something about myself.

I crushed that first 100. It felt great. Checking my time when I hit the wall it looked like I went out way too hard, but it didn't feel like it. So I punched the next one too. That one felt good. I was strong and my stroke way working exactly like it should. I went harder on the third one. By this point I the Governor in the back of my head was waving a calculator around and shouting, "If you keep this up you will die by the eighth hundred! It'll be bad!" I ignored him. It's hard to hear that voice when blood and water pound in your ears. It started to hurt around six. Here it comes, I thought. But it didn't. My times didn't drop. My arms didn't fall off and sink to the bottom of the pool. Swim hard. Hit the wall. Suck wind. Go again. Get some. Go again. During the ninth hundred it finally clicked. I'm so much stronger than I thought I was. I've got this. Holy crap. if I can do this races should be so much more intense.

Changed. My. Life.

Right at that moment. In the pool, heart pounding, shoulders and abs burning. Everything changed. I found another gear. I found a strength in myself that I didn't know was there. My body didn't know it could do that. My brain didn't know.

This became advice that I would give to other swimmers. "How do I go faster?" "Commit to the Go and don't question it." It's the only way.

Yes, I see you waving your hand. I know this is a teaching blog. But really, at this point if you can't start drawing these parallels for yourself I don't know if you're actively reading.

I don't shy from Big Projects. Cardboard arcade. Rube Goldberg machine. Benches with a local construction company. Westward Expansion in the from of a Beautiful Mind string web. I have faith. Faith in myself that I can plan and execute a Big Project. I have faith that my students can find an extra gear and get the Big Project done. I will put things in front of them and have the same feeling I felt around the fifth 100. "I dunno about this, seems like it could end poorly." But I still put it in front of them because what's the worst that could happen? It does go poorly? Then we learn from that too. (I've got a principal that understands this is how I teach and she is ok with it. I've been less lucky other places, so I know how lucky I am now. If she ever tries to leave I'm chaining myself to her desk.)

I can't go straight to a Big Project, of course. But I start with projects that push them to different places than they thought they could go. We do the spaghetti towers immediately. We do a Quick Build in the first week. We're constantly finding limits and expanding them outward.

We fall down all the time too. Fourth graders don't just do cool projects because I'm like, "In high school I learned I could swim faster than I thought I could!" But I also had a lot of practices after that realization that kicked my butt and crushed me. My kids make bad projects. They don't put full effort in. They're ten, they don't know what full effort really is yet, mostly. But they're learning.

Here at the end of the year it's easy to stumble. I don't begrudge anyone who does either. This job is unspeakably difficult and to push hard all the way through is sometimes more than you can ask of a teacher. Sometimes we just make it to the end. Sometimes our classes do too. Been there. But that moment in the pool broke me just enough to allow me to see that the bottom isn't always the bottom. Sometimes it is, and it moves around. There's too many variables in a classroom to believe someone who marches in and says, "You Can Do Better! Have More Passion And Tenacity And CRUSH This Final Month." But what I'm saying is I know that, for me, if I can see it clearly, I can find the end and find it with a proper level of intensity.

Then the end of the year comes and I promptly get sick for a week, so...

*I know this should have like a big Rah Rah ending or something, but I just can't do that. I know how much we struggle and I don't want to finish on some disingenuous, disconnected note. So what's the goal for this post? What do I want a reader to get out of it? "Be inspired, be hardcore, but know thyself." Doesn't look good on a t-shirt or a hashtag, though. Ah well, that's for someone else to do.

If you like this post and the other posts on this blog you should know I’ve written three books about teaching- He’s the Weird Teacher, THE Teaching Text (You’re Welcome), and A Classroom Of One. I’ve also written one novel- The Unforgiving Road. You should check them out, I’m even better in long form. I’m also on the tweets @TheWeirdTeacher.

Monday, April 22, 2019

The Snap

On May 8th teachers across Oregon will step out of our classrooms and take to the streets to raise our voices in unity to protest the proposed state budget. Current recommendations coming out of Salem will leave Oregon schools underfunded by a whopping 100 million dollars. Closer to home, this means that my own school district will be losing two millions dollars. In human cost, that's twenty educators.

Later this week the superhero film AVENGERS: ENDGAME will come out, putting to bed the current cycle of Marvel films which started over a decade ago when Tony Stark announced to the world, "I am Iron Man." ENDGAME will, presumably, solve the problem set into motion at the end of INFINITY WAR in which (spoilers for the two of you who haven't seen it, but it's on Netflix so come on), big bad Thanos collects all the Infinity Stones on his Infinity Gauntlet and snaps his fingers, effectively wiping out 50% of the population of the universe. (Side note: Did he kill half of all the universe's puppies? What a bastard.)

I don't know why the Oregon legislature saw AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR and thought, "That Thanos guy has a point though."

This is not a new development. Teachers have slowly been asked to do more with less for as long as I've been a teacher. That's one of the reasons people in education circles who advocate "The best teachers do what needs to be done with a smile" are doing more damage to the profession than they are helping it. Ours is not to suffer. Ours is not to be martyrs. Ours is not to roll over and simply make do. It makes us easy targets. I've worked in a state (Hawaii) where we were inches from striking over a contract dispute, and the narrative quickly turns to, "Look at these teachers. If they loved their kids they'd do this for free. So greedy and lazy." Do you know what hurts our case when we try to argue against that? People in education circles saying, "Teaching is a passion and a calling, not a career." No, it's a job first. A job that's hard and a job that deserves to be treated with the same respect as lawyers and doctors. Let us also not pretend that a major part of the reason teachers get pushed around so much is that it is a traditionally female-heavy profession in the teaching ranks, but male-dominated in administrative ones, and the lawmakers, I feel safe in saying, have always been men. And if there's one thing the last few years have loved driving more super clearly, it's that men in power think they can push women around without consequence. This makes teachers an easy group for them to want to pick on. But not an easy group to actually pick on because I work with some smart, hard, badass women who won't put up with that kind of nonsense. Captain Marvel is about to shine that golden glove up real nice and shove it somewhere that'll make Thanos regret where he placed the Stones.

(I want to note here that I'm not gonna chase the Avengers metaphor too much deeper because I can't stand it when teachers call themselves superheroes either. It's not a super power, we're not heroes. The kids don't need saving. They need teaching and support. That's very different. So I'm good calling the Oregon Legislature Thanos, the baddie who murdered half the universe and thought he did good by doing it, but I'm not Doctor Strange...even though my chosen handle kinda resembles that. *makes wizard fingers*)

On May 8th all the teachers in my district, and teachers across my state, will line the streets and rally in city centers, doing our best to raise awareness for our plight. But it's important to me that people understand where we're coming from. Maybe someone might be thinking, "Twenty teachers? That's not that much." I'll illustrate it thusly- There are two fifth grade classes at my school. Except there's really four fifth grades classes at my school, and only two teachers to teach them. One of the fifth grade classes at my school has 39 students. The other has 40.

I'm not making these numbers up. If I were making them up I'd look at them and think, "Nah, that's ridiculous and no one would believe it. It's not even good hyperbole." 39 and 40 fifth graders. And that's just one grade level in just one school. Both of those teachers are amazing and they're doing work that is just mind-boggling, but they're both honestly doing the work of two teachers. I don't care how great you are, you can't be the best teacher the world with 40 eleven year olds in you room. In contrast, I've got 31 kids right now (maybe 32, there's a weird attendance thing happening right now). Now, in a normal person's mind, 31 fourth graders is a lot of fourth graders. My room is full up. But I've had upwards of 37 kids in a class before, so my personal scale is all screwed up. I'm no longer able to look at a class of 31 and think, "That's too many kids." And that's part of the problem. I've been trained not to notice how screwed up my own situation is. Could be worse, could be 40.

And if the Oregon Legislature snaps their fingers and makes 100 million dollars disappear, could be worse isn't the worst of it. Imagine, as Heather Marshall and Elion King on twitter suggested I do, that half the staff at my school vanished in a "Mr. Stark, I don't feel so good" puff of ash. If they can cut 100 million dollars, what's to stop them from cutting more? We're not quibbling over money at that point, because the willingness to do it, the willingness to look at education and think, "They've got more than enough" *snap* is already there. And when we complain they say, "But look at the wonderful work you've been doing with you kids! You've been doing so good and we're so proud of you. Less is more, after all, so here's less money and more kids." Less Music and PE. Less technology. Less aides. Less support. More expectations. More to lift.

My district, and many other districts across the state, are supportive of the Day of Action. They know. The beef is not with them because at some point we must look past the ends of our noses to the balled-up fist closing in for another shot. I'll be walking out with my fellow teachers, and I'll stand together with them every single time I'm called to. Because that's how we act for the kids. Doing this? This is for my students. They deserve the best, and by cutting 100 million dollars my state is saying they don't.

It's not too late to stop this snap. The Oregon Legislature can still hear what we have to say and see what they're going to do to the world of education. They can grab their own Time Stones and look into the future and see that teachers aren't going to stop coming at them until we are treated like the job demands we should be. Not because we're superheroes or called to it or being the best, but because you do not come for us and our kids and expect us to not come for you.

If you like this post and the other posts on this blog you should know I’ve written three books about teaching- He’s the Weird Teacher, THE Teaching Text (You’re Welcome), and A Classroom Of One. I’ve also written one novel- The Unforgiving Road. You should check them out, I’m even better in long form. I’m also on the tweets @TheWeirdTeacher.

Monday, April 15, 2019

The Great British Teach-Off

The best teachers on TV (and a goth)
The Great British Bake-Off is the best show about teaching and learning on television, and has been for its entire run. (Yes, I'm about to rave about a baking show for an entire blog post, but stay with me and put on your teaching caps, because it's about baking, but it's really about teaching and learning.)

For those of you who have not yet become addicted to this baking show from across the pond, let me give you the five pound tour. The show starts with a group of twelve amateur bakers, one of whom leaves at the end of every episode until it's down to the final three. They must be amateurs, no pros allowed. Inside The Tent these bakers are given challenges by expert bakers and judges Paul Hollywood and Prue Leith (Prue replaced the always complimentary Mary Berry a few seasons ago). Each episode takes place over the course of a weekend and it's always themed- Bread Week, Pastry Week, Fancy French Whatever Week. Each weekend is divided into three bakes-

First- The Signature Bake, in which bakers are given a set of parameters to work within and allowed to do whatever the want within those parameters. Bakers have the previous week to prepare their bake.

Second- The Technical Bake, in which bakers are given a pared down recipe and identical ingredients. The Technical is always a surprise and bakers are given no warning or preparation.

Third- The Showstopper Bake, which is similar to the Signature Bake, but blown up to 11. Expectations are higher, decor and appearance matter greatly, and a ton of time is given.

The Signature and Showstopper Bakes are judged in front of the baker, with feedback given immediately to them in front of everyone else. The Technical Bake is judged blind, with Paul and Prue unaware of who's bakes they're tasting, giving feedback on, and putting into a last-to-first order until it's all said and done.

All of these bakes take place under a time limit that allows for them to be completed, but only just. Especially if the baker is ambitious.

This is the best show about teaching and learning on television.

Let us think about these bakes in teaching terms. Both the Signature and Technical Bakes require the baker to do lots of work at home. They demand careful planning, research, and practice. Bakers who waste the week fail. Bakers who come to the tent practiced and prepared normally do well, except for when Mr Murphy (of Murphy's Law fame) injects himself into the proceedings in the form of weather or accidents. This is giving your students detailed expectations of a project, but leaving it open ended. "You will use this, this, and this. It will be in this general shape. Everything else is up to you." This is perfect project planning- huge range within narrow bandwidth. They have to check a lot of boxes while still making their bakes unique. And also while fulfilling the basic needs of a good bake- it tastes good and it's fully cooked.

The Technical Bake is always the one that says the most about the bakers. Often the recipe will involve some specific skill that the baker, as "one of the best amateur bakers in Britain", is expected to know how to do. So the recipe will say, "Make a sweetbread pastry", "Slice into four pieces", or something equally vague and the bakers will need to use a combination of prior knowledge and guesswork to puzzle out exactly what they're supposed to do. It's not uncommon for the Technical Bake to being with a bunch of the bakers looking at each other whispering, "I've never heard of this. Do you know what this is? What does this look like?" This is a project involving following directions that are just good enough that truly assesses what you can do and what you know. It's all about thinking on your feet and showing what you know. Educated guesses are still educated, and they can still pan out.

And here's where all that gets really teachery- Even when there are twelve bakers in the tent the two judges give deeply detailed, specific feedback that shows their expertise while also taking issues and ambition into account. Paul Hollywood never ever says, "This is good" or "This is terrible" without following it up with, "Because you can really taste the blah blah blah in it, which is impressive because with that mix of flavors it can be difficult for it to not get overwhelmed" or "It's underbaked, you needed another ten minutes in the oven at least, look here at this piece you can see how it's still doughy because it does this and this." They aren't cruel, but they aren't patronizing. They understand ambition without giving too much ground for it. Did the baker try to build the Leaning Tower of Piza out of chocolate cake and it ended up being the Laying On The Platter Mush Of Piza? If they went big and the taste and texture is still there, then they don't get hammered. Oh, the criticism will still be there, but along with "But the taste is delicious. I wish it had worked." I love how the bakers will often go Big and take the risk because they want to show what they are able to do. And while it's about winning, it's not really about winning anything. I'll explain that last bit later.

Paul and Prue and Mary give the kind of feedback I wish I could give to every one of my kids all the time. You can tell they know everything about everything they're asking the bakers to do, you can tell they've made all these mistakes and know why they mistakes were mistakes, and you can tell they aren't flaunting it, they're just using it.

On top of all the planning the bakers (remember, every time you read "the bakers" you can substitute "our students" or even "we as teachers") have to do, there are still plenty of times when something doesn't go right. It's hotter in the tent than it was at home so the chocolate is melting too quickly. The caramel isn't coming together. And then we get to see the bakers scramble and adjust on the fly. It shows just how good they really are when nothing is working and everything seems dire and yet they manage to pull out a good-to-excellent bake anyway. Staying calm and working the problem saves the day. Even if one bake goes horribly sideways, you get three chances over the course of the weekend. Multiple opportunities to be successful and show what you know. One bad bake doesn't get you sent home (unless you, like, poison Paul. Then I assume you'd be sent home right away).

Now here's the really really bestest part- The winner of the entire show, the person who makes it through all 30 bakes and ends up on top at the very end, the person who spent the last ten weeks using their own money and time to practice and prepare culinary delights wins...basically nothing. They get a bouquet and a glass platter. No prize money. No endorsements. No job in a bakery. They get to hear their names announced at a big picnic, cry a little, hug their family, be filled with an deep sense of pride and accomplishment, and that's all. This creates a wonderful sense of camaraderie inside the tent. Bakers become friends, they comfort each other, they cheer each other on. When someone's bake is stuck in the mold two other bakers will stop what they're doing and help. When someone wins Star Baker and everyone claps you get the impression that everyone is actually happy for that person. When someone gets sent home, even if they totally deserve to go home, you get the feeling that everyone is sad to see them go. It's a competition without cut-throat competitors. I've watched enough of this show that if there was a real animosity between bakers I assume the show would play that up because it's good TV, and its never happened.

The real point of the show isn't to win because there's no physical prize, only an internal one. The real point of The Great British Bake-Off is to become a better baker. To learn new skills and push yourself to be better than you ever thought you could. It's like the ideal classroom. I don't want my kids to learn because they'll get great grades or great jobs. I want them to learn to love learning, to love the feeling of accomplishment that comes with being your best. I want them to learn very specific skills, but then be able to apply those skills to a wide variety of things (this is me climbing on my The Content And Standards Matter, People, Stop Saying It's Only How They Feel soapbox, in case it was too subtle).

Watch The Great British Bake-Off. It's on Netflix. After a long day of teaching it's perfect for decompressing, at the very least. But at the very most, it's a great lesson in project-based learning and specific feedback.

Also, I'm team Noel and Sandi. Nothing against Sue and Mel, but Noel and Sandi are funnier, plus I love them from The IT Crowd and the original Who's Line respectively.




If you like this post and the other posts on this blog you should know I’ve written three books about teaching- He’s the Weird Teacher, THE Teaching Text (You’re Welcome), and A Classroom Of One. I’ve also written one novel- The Unforgiving Road. You should check them out, I’m even better in long form. I’m also on the tweets @TheWeirdTeacher.

Monday, April 8, 2019

I Know This Training

Half of having a good professional development experience is going into it with an open mind, giving the presenter the benefit of the doubt.

The other half is the professional development actually being worth a damn and being presented in a way that engages those in the seats. But that's out of my hands as the person sitting in it, so let's talk about the half we can control.

I need my students to meet me halfway when it comes to lessons and projects. Yes, I feel like it's my responsibility to engage them and draw them in, but it's so much harder of they've got their heels dug in before I even get there. It's hard to teach past "This is stupid, why do I have to learn this?" We explain it and all that jazz, but having to justify my existence takes time that could be used moving things forward.

So it goes with professional development. We all have had to sit in training sessions we weren't looking forward to. Oh, who's it gonna be this time? The Expert who hasn't been in a classroom in a decade. The researcher who can't talk to humans. The Icebreaker. *shiver* But then we get to be pleasantly surprised. Hey, this is good stuff! I can use more than 25% of this. Sweet. If I start those days thinking about how I can use the material, I normally have a better day. A bad presenter can still torpedo it, but at that point I feel like I've done my work. I came in caffeinated and fed, I left those tabs on my computer closed, I raised my hand. I'm here with you. Now it's your fault.

Being trained in something I don't know well also makes that easier. When something both has value and is new to me, it's easier to be on task and engaged. We covered what a bad presenter can do. So what about the other way? What about when you know the material that's about to be covered? What about if you've run sessions on the material about to be covered? That's a different ball of wax.

This is not, as I'm sure you can tell, a hypothetical. This week I'll be spending three days at a Fancy Institute Training for Project-Based Learning. I'm looking forward to it, because I like PBL. I'm having some trepidation about it because I do PBL. Like, a lot. Like, it's what most of my class revolves around. I do run conference sessions about Making and Projects. When I told my kids why I was going to be out they raised their hand, "Don't we do that?" Yes, yes we do. "Then why are you going?" I gave them both honest answers, because they deserve both of them- First, because I can always learn more. I'm not an expert on this, I just do it a lot. I make you reflect after every project so you can improve. I reflect after every project so I can improve. This training is another step in that process, hopefully I'll come back with even cooler ideas and better academic ways to integrate projects into our work. And second- and then a kid interrupts me.

"Is the second one that you're gonna have your hand in the air the whole time going 'I do that! And that! And that!' Is it?" I'm honest with them, like I said. So I nodded and smiled. Of course! It's fun to be That Kid in the class sometimes!

I want to go to this training because even though I do a lot of projects I know I'm not doing them as well as I could be. I know that my years of experience doing it have gotten me quite a long way, and then my connections to others who do it both in my school and on social media have moved me further along. I also know that I'm not technically formally trained in it, and if I didn't think there was something to being formally trained in something then I have no right to be teaching in public school because that's kinda literally what I do for a living. I'm all for "Hey maaaaaaan, just do it and learn from it that way maaaaaan. Like, follow your instincts and reflect and it'll all come together." But I know that's not the only way to learn something and trying to do that exclusively will hurt in the long run.

I'm worried about this training because what if it's a bunch of stuff I already know? At least if it's stuff I know then I'm getting reinforcement. That'll be good, at least for a day. Worse though, what if it's really stuffy and formal and takes this free, exploratory learning that I love so much and codifies it into little boxes on forms to the detriment of the process as a whole? What if it's humorless and takes PBL serious as a heart attack? I'll still be able to learn from it, of course, that's what we do as professional teachers. We extract useful information from anything. That's why some terrible presenters still have jobs- we vampire out anything useful from the eight hours and discard the rest, and then three perky teachers happily tweet, "OMG Life Changing Revolutionary Where Have You Been All My Life."

I present on project-based learning, and one of the major facets of my sessions is always having the participants DO SOMETHING. Why listen to me talk about it? If you teach it, have them do it. Don't watch me build a Google Slide Show, you build one. Don't listen to me go on and on about the benefits of PBL, build something and then you tell me what you learned and how you can use it with your kids.

I recognize my hesitance when it comes to this training, and by seeing it and acknowledging the truth of it I'm able to suppress it enough to be open to the training. I can't fake excitement if I'm not excited. But I can see the value for my kids in this. And that's good enough for me to get into it.

At least for a day. For three whole days it better be real good.

If you like this post and the other posts on this blog you should know I’ve written three books about teaching- He’s the Weird Teacher, THE Teaching Text (You’re Welcome), and A Classroom Of One. I’ve also written one novel- The Unforgiving Road. You should check them out, I’m even better in long form. I’m also on the tweets @TheWeirdTeacher.

Monday, April 1, 2019

Who Would You Nominate?

Recently an email came in from my principal. It's an email that's sent out every year about this time. This email is asking staff members to nominate one of our own for special mention.

Dig it.

I like this practice. I don't think it's making teaching a competition because, even though there will be one person chosen for the special recognition, that isn't really the point. There's no Big Cash Prize or anything, and I think anyone who is nominated gets told that someone on staff thought they were worthy of the honor. I will never be against teachers holding each other up for being great. Please note that this is different than someone cheerleading us to work above and beyond reason because that's what "good teachers" do.

Look at the criteria listed-

•Has the respect and admiration of their colleagues.
•Is an expert in their field who guides students of all backgrounds and abilities to achieve excellence.
•Collaborates with colleagues, students, and families to create a school culture of respect and success.
•Deliberately connects the classroom and key stakeholders to foster a strong community.
•Demonstrates leadership and innovation in and outside that embodies lifelong learning.
•Expresses themselves in an engaging, articulate and respectful way.

This is who we all want to be. We may have different personal definitions about what some of these criteria mean. For example, I imagine my take on the leadership one may not align with others. I know that my definition of "expressing [myself] in a(n)...respectful way" sometimes means "biting my tongue so hard I taste copper." And I'll be completely honest, I have no idea if I have the respect and admiration of colleagues and that's never been a primary goal of mine anyway. It's incidental. I do my thing, and if that leads to some respect then that's cool. That's why I respect the people I do. 

Last year I nominated one of my teammates for this honor, and he ended up getting it. I've said before, to him and to others, that if there's one teacher I measure myself against it's him. His ideas push me to push mine, the things he gets his class to accomplish inspires me to get more creative with mine. I think that goes both ways. I believe we should be nominating someone every year, each of us. I work with excellent teachers and I know some of them well enough that I feel confident that I could write a strong recommendation for them. But it's hard because I don't actually get to see them teach. Maybe some observations. Is that enough? That plus faith? 

Here's where I really get inside my own head though- Why shouldn't I nominate myself for this? I know the Answer- because what an ego trip, man. But go back to what I said about the criteria- "This is who we all want to be". Yes, I just quoted myself back to you, speaking of ego. 

I feel that I'm about to walk a fine line between one of those rah rah cotton candy posts you see some post and a post of substance and reflection. If I'm doing my best teaching as often as I can. If I'm accepting myself as human who isn't perfect and has no interest in being a superhero because seriously, that whole thing needs to be shot into the sun, our kids don't need a superhero, get over your savior self (Seriously, the superhero narrative is dangerous and ugly and stoppit.) If I'm breaking my tail and flexing my creativity and doing my level best then I should get this nod. Then you should get this nod because you are too. 

Isn't this a perfect self-reflection tool? If you look at this and honestly think, "Yeah, I deserve this," aren't you doing something right? Or are you full of yourself and that's why the nomination should come from the outside, because you are unable to see yourself honestly in this way? But if you're unable to see yourself honestly in this way doesn't that make reflection even more difficult, if not impossible? Shouldn't we be proud of the work we're doing? Shouldn't we all think we deserve this? But teaching is about service, so rather than boost ourselves up we elevate those around us. Not because we hope they'll do it for us, but because damn that 5th grade teacher with 39 kids is still kicking ass and doing some incredible work with those kids and she deserves to know we see her. Maybe it's a thought experiment then. "If I were to fill this out for myself, what would I write?" It's hard to get that honest distance. I know, because right about now in the school year we're all feeling a little beat down and frustrated. The kids have grown so much, but it also never feels like they've grown quite enough. Which means I could have done better by them. What's the phrase? "Perfect is the enemy of good." Celebrate the good while continuing to strive for the better then, in our teaching and ourselves. 

I think we should all be able to fill this out for ourselves. But I'm a pretty privileged white dude who's ego always loves some stroking, and who also comes from a place of  "If no one else will I will" that extends to getting things done and laughing at my own jokes, and I recognize that my take on this is very colored by my point of view and personality. Would you fill it out for yourself? Even if you didn't send it in? Do you think it would be a beneficial thought experiment or just masturbatory nonsense?  

If you like this post and the other posts on this blog you should know I’ve written three books about teaching- He’s the Weird Teacher, THE Teaching Text (You’re Welcome), and A Classroom Of One. I’ve also written one novel- The Unforgiving Road. You should check them out, I’m even better in long form. I’m also on the tweets @TheWeirdTeacher.