started from the bottom

My students and I didn’t know a lot of things when we started this year.
We didn’t know that we’d be climbing literal, emotional, and metaphysical mountains.
How could we? I am sure that each of us experiences a similar version to this expedition too. 

There we were; 26 individuals together for the first time.
We set up base camp by creating a student centred learning space that valued community, kindness, encouragement, and hard work. We focused on sharing our strengths and areas where we wanted to improve our footing in order to ascend the mountain(s) we were preparing to summit. 

“You cannot stay on the summit forever; you have to come down again. So why bother in the first place? Just this: What is above knows what is below, but what is below does not know what is above. One climbs, one sees. One descends, one sees no longer, but one has seen.” – Rene Daumal

A cartoon man looks up towards the summit of a mountain
Image from Simpsons
S9 E201 5F16 first aired March 3, 1998

oxygen and sherpas please

Each year, we start at the bottom to get to where we are now; by the looks of the mountain still towering above us that is May and June, we have a lot more to climb. There may still be some distance to cover above, but I think it is a great time to look down to appreciate how far we’ve climbed. I think that this perspective will provide us some of the necessary extra strength/motivation to finish what we started in order to reach the top. 

My grade 6s and I are eight months into our ten month journey to the summit of Mt. Grade 6*. We have grown in stature, in perspectives, in strength, and in skills. We have lost our way on purpose and along with those sideways steps, and circuitous routes, we have also left behind some of our worries about participating and presenting by better knowing ourselves. We have camped on lush warm plateaus while gaining the confidence and capacity to go higher. 

We have built bridges over dangerous crevasses of fixed mindsets and self doubt too. We have shared resources and experiences. We have picked each other when there was a slip or slide backwards. We made sure our ropes, pitons, carabiners, and the rest of our gear is safe and strong. We packed enough provisions for everyone to make it to the top and back down again. We have accepted and carried our share of the load. 

We have laughed, discussed tough topics, dug deeply into equity and inclusion, tore up tests that didn’t go well, restarted lessons, disagreed, reviewed past lessons, re-reviewed past lessons, learned new concepts, reviewed new concepts, re-reviewed new concepts, shared life tips, played outside, and so much more. 

There have been moments when the distance between those at the top of the climb were setting up new base camps while others were still climbing. We learned to wait for each other; to make sure that everyone was accounted for on the trek. 

We started from the bottom and we can almost see the top. There is still a lot of climbing ahead, but what a view!

*not a real mountain

Micro Presses: Unveiling Literary Treasures from Unconventional Sources

In the vast publishing landscape, micro presses stand out as literary diversity and innovation beacons. While mainstream publishing houses dominate the industry, micro presses offer a unique avenue for discovering lesser-known voices and unconventional literary works. This article delves into the world of micro presses, exploring how they unearth hidden literary resources in less-seen places and enrich literary culture.

In recent years, micro presses, indie or small presses, have gained momentum as alternatives to traditional publishing models. These intimate operations often specialize in niche genres, experimental writing, and works by emerging authors who need help finding footing in mainstream publishing. Unlike their larger counterparts, micro presses prioritize artistic integrity, literary merit, and community engagement over commercial viability. Consequently, they play a pivotal role in diversifying literary landscapes and amplifying voices that may otherwise remain unheard.

One of the most compelling aspects of micro presses is their commitment to exploring literary resources in less-seen places. While major publishing hubs like Toronto, Vancouver, New York City and London receive considerable attention, micro presses actively seek out voices and stories from overlooked regions, marginalized communities, and underrepresented cultures. By tapping into these diverse perspectives, micro presses enrich the literary canon and challenge dominant narratives, offering readers fresh insights into the human experience and the world.

Micro presses are steadfast champions of diversity and inclusion, showcasing works that reflect the multifaceted realities of contemporary society. Voices from racialized, marginalized and underrepresented communities and backgrounds are highlighted meaningfully, providing a platform for diverse voices to resonate authentically with readers. In doing so, micro presses foster an inclusive literary landscape where all voices are celebrated and valued.

In addition to promoting diversity and inclusivity, micro presses are incubators of literary innovation and experimentation. Not constrained by high sales pressures, these independent publishers embrace risk-taking, boundary-pushing, and unconventional storytelling techniques. From hybrid genres to multimedia formats, micro presses encourage writers to explore new creative possibilities and challenge traditional notions of what constitutes literature. As a result, they contribute to the evolution of literary art forms and inspire readers to engage with literature in fresh and exciting ways.

In an age dominated by mainstream publishing big houses, micro presses offer a breath of fresh air in the literary landscape. By illuminating hidden literary treasures from unconventional sources, these indie publishers enrich our literary experience with diverse voices, innovative storytelling, and inclusive perspectives. As readers, writers, and literary enthusiasts, we stand to gain immeasurably from exploring the offerings of micro presses and supporting their mission to amplify marginalized voices and expand the boundaries of literary expression. In doing so, we nurture a vibrant and resilient literary culture that continues to inspire, challenge, and unite us all.

 

Micro presses to explore:

A Different Booklist

Annick Press

Another Story Bookshop

House of Anansi Press and Groundwood Books

Knowledge Bookstore

Unique and independent bookstores in Ontario

 

logo of the International Decade for People of African Descent

Empowering the Future: The Significance of the International Decade of People of African Descent in Elementary Education

Picture: UN Promotional Materials

The International Decade for People of African Descent (IDPAD) emerged as a pivotal force in pursuing a more inclusive and equitable education system. Focused on championing the rights and contributions of individuals of African descent, this global initiative carries significant implications for elementary education, where foundational values of respect, understanding, and embracing diversity are imparted to young minds.

This decade was positioned to act as a catalyst for promoting cultural diversity within elementary schools. By integrating the history, heritage, and achievements of people of African descent into the curriculum, we cultivate a learning environment that authentically mirrors the world’s diversity. This enhances the cultural awareness of all students and fosters a sense of inclusion for those of African descent.

In the formative years of elementary education, children are shaping their perceptions of race and ethnicity. The IDPAD represents an opportunity to disrupt stereotypes by presenting a more accurate portrayal of people of African descent. The use of diverse educational materials and narratives enables students to gain a comprehensive understanding of the contributions and achievements of African communities.

Incorporating the principles of IDPAD into elementary education is crucial for creating an inclusive and fair learning environment. By celebrating the diversity of cultures, traditions, and perspectives within the African diaspora, schools contribute to breaking down barriers and fostering a sense of unity among students of all backgrounds.

Moreover, educators must recognize the importance of showcasing the achievements of individuals of African descent to inspire their students. By highlighting diverse leaders, scientists, artists, and historical figures through the lens of IDPAD, elementary education offers a broader range of role models for young minds to emulate.

IDPAD goes beyond fostering a global perspective; it emphasizes collaboration and understanding on an international scale. Lessons exploring the experiences of people of African descent contribute to global awareness and nurture a sense of solidarity with diverse communities worldwide.

Educators play a pivotal role in shaping the values and attitudes of students during their elementary years. IDPAD equips them with the tools to address racism and discrimination by fostering an understanding of the challenges faced by people of African descent. Educators nurture a generation committed to justice and equality by engaging in open and honest discussions.

Now, more than ever, educators must incorporate IDPAD principles into their teaching practices. The global call for justice and equality underscores the urgency of instilling these values in young minds. By integrating the lessons of IDPAD, educators contribute to developing socially conscious and empathetic individuals ready to navigate and challenge the complexities of a diverse world.

Beyond symbolism, the International Decade for People of African Descent is a resounding call to action in elementary schools worldwide. By embracing IDPAD principles in education, we empower young minds to embrace diversity, challenge stereotypes, and contribute to a fair and inclusive society. Elementary education becomes the fertile ground where seeds of understanding are sown, cultivating a generation prepared to shape a world where everyone’s story is acknowledged, celebrated, and valued.

 

References:

United Nations. (n.d.). International Decade for people of African descent. United Nations. https://www.un.org/en/observances/decade-people-african-descent/background

The International Decade for People of African Descent: Who have these ten years served? Black Agenda Report. https://blackagendareport.com/international-decade-people-african-descent-who-have-these-10-years-served

what happened

Imagine a last week of school before the winter break that was so crammed with activities that when the bell sounded on the last day that there was applause and a collective exhale?

Imagine a last week of school that collected, organized, logged on a spreadsheet, and delivered over 600 non-perishable items to 2 local food banks?

Our class split into 3 groups (logistics, sales, and marketing). Each group developed and defined their roles in the project which included creating marketing materials such as posters to place around the school and daily announcements for the duration of the campaign. Our sales team was in charge of creating grade level appropriate presentations for grades K to 2, 3 to 5 and 6 to 8. Once the campaign started our logistics team collected the food from classes and drop off points, sorted them by type, checked for best before dates, and logged the items on to spreadsheets.

Imagine taking time for a kindergarten concert, a dance, and some class social activities? This included sending notes and games to our Sweet Secret Santa class in the school, and then joining them for a surprise shared read aloud. It also gave us a chance to cheer for their singing performances too.*

Imagine getting caught up on past work so that there was nothing to work on over the holiday? Perhaps it is a personal preference that has developed over the years, but I like to clean the homework house before extended breaks. It is not my goal to burden my scholars with busy work. Instead, I choose to encourage them to be helpful at home. I shared that washing dishes, doing laundry, using a vacuum, or tidying up will be good habits to start forming now in advance of those post secondary days away to come. 

Imagine having to do, not one, but 2 assessments on the last day before the break? That’s on me. I hate deferring good assessment opportunities for which all the prep has been put in. Plus we can all return to new learning once the break is over. 

Imagine not watching a single movie other than a few Bugs Bunny cartoons? If you want your kids to see movies in my class, then you are going to be disappointed. TED talks, short docs, creative animations or music videos (OK Go), and classic cartoon shorts are what you’ll find queued up. 

Imagine a team puzzle solving challenge that asked students to be leaders and encouragers when under pressure? I thought that this might be fun instead of playing a Kahoot or Blooket (both of which I really enjoy) for a change.

I found two 200 piece puzzles at the Dollar Store. The neat thing was that the puzzles were 150 cm x 30 cm in size. The large pieces made it easy for the 10 plus students to see who gathered around the large table to put it all together as quickly as they could. On the line, bragging rights and a bag of cherry blasters (gelatin free). My only advice was that good teams/leaders work hard at encouraging one another, not yell at each other. 

It was really interesting to watch the two teams (boys vs girls this time) work together. I witnessed two totally different, yet effective collaborative approaches. In my mind this activity was only going to take a half an hour to complete so I set it up before lunch thinking it would all be over just in time.

Nope. 15 minutes into their lunch time, students were still buzzing around their puzzle tables working on their team task before one team prevailed. Victorious and magnanimous they shared their prize.

Photos by author. Edited using Prisma app

Imagine tidying up the class so that it sparkles for our return? Sweeping (me), tech , art supplies, books, math manipulatives all organized, book boxes and lockers cleaned out, and chairs stacked in manageable piles (students). This ongoing chance to model responsible class stewardship never gets old. I always love the zen moments that come from sweeping.

Imagine saying happy holidays, Merry Christmas, and peace on earth? 

That’s what happened. 

p.s.
Imagine being home for two weeks? For some these weeks will be the toughest times where they may not feel as connected or seen as they might be at school. My hope is that all students and staff will come back rested and ready for the next 6 months at school. Wishing you all the best for a healthy 2024. 

* It’s been a while since I have seen a JK/SK concert which was so entertaining and out of the traditional Rudolph and Frosty box. Based on student and adult audience reactions, I was not alone in this opinion. 

wha’ppen

I used to listen to a lot of ska (two tone) music during my youth. It was time well spent. Hearing the steady rhythms and upbeat lyrics from the Specials, the Skatelites, and Madness always put me in the right headspace. Now, before you think I have overlooked another key group, look back at the title of this piece, and know that the cornerstone of my record collection was occupied by the English Beat.

Wha’ppen was just one of the many albums to frequently spin on my turntable. While listening, I would read about how this band formed and who played which instruments, arranged the melodies, and crafted the lyrics. I learned that wha’appen was patois for what’s happening? This was my first time hearing a different dialect of English, and it came with a sonic introduction to a whole bunch of new vocabulary too. I also learned that The English Beat formed as a response to a great deal of socio-political and musical upheaval happening in England and around the world at the time.* 

As a teenager, it was really cool to listen to music that wasn’t being played on the radio, and to listen to the collaborations of this group who did not outwardly resemble the lineups of most rock or punk bands that I had known before.

The English Beat looked and sounded differently than others. They incorporated ska, rock steady, roots, along with reggae and infused it all with thought provoking lyrics which were anchored by upbeat tunes and creative instrumentation. This music was unlike anything else I had heard before; with the exception of Peter Tosh or The Wailers.

So what does a memory lane visit about the English Beat have to do with helping teachers at all phases of their careers? Well, it’s about taking time to remember what motivates you. Regardless of who was blasting out of my speakers these artists provided a soundtrack to my life that lifted my thoughts and spirit at a time when I was making decisions that would impact the future.

40+ years later, these songs still bring me joy. It’s not that there haven’t been other musicians and genres to achieve similar revered status because there are dozens that comprise the soundtrack of this teacher’s life. So far. I also love sharing these songs with my students. 

In her P3 Podcast, Noa Daniel asks guests to pick 3 songs (nostalgia, identity, and pick me up) that best represent them. This project was actually inspired by a classroom project Noa shared with her students. Participants picked their songs and then had a chance to discuss them with Noa. I loved sharing my 3 songs with her. 

Music has this way of breaking down barriers and opening up our minds to experience the thoughts and melodies of others. Music is ageless, timeless, and boundless. I can’t think of a better medium or time to remind others that music allows us the chance to listen. And when we listen, we gain understanding, knowledge, and joy. We also gain a chance to process wha’appen each time we put on some tunes. 

Teachers experience a lot of sounds throughout their days in the classroom. Not all of them are soothing. Some sounds are downright dissonant, while still others are reflective of the emotions being felt in our classrooms. After a hectic month of report prep, instruction, and parent conferences, I am thankful to have so many tracks that help to steady my heart and mind from day to day. 

One more thing: I was thinking about walk-up songs. You know the upbeat samples that come on at sporting events when a particular player is introduced. I was wondering what your walk up song would be? What came to mind first might not even be your favourite song, as if anyone could pick just one. Even after much deliberation, I still struggle to decide, but the first song that came to mind was Sabotage by the Beastie Boys. I am sure that a completely different song will pop into my head next time. 

Please share your song in the comments below. Happy listening. 

*Nothing has changed but the day, month, and year on the upheaval front. Sigh.

What’s in a name?

Hello, my name is…
I have never heard that name before
… Can you say that one more time?
Is there a shorter form of your name?
That is a hard name… Can I call you…?

In the classroom, where knowledge blooms,
Names are like stories; never assume.
Each kid’s got a name, unique and cool,
A tale in sounds; don’t treat it like a school rule.

Some kids have names that might sound entirely new,
Hold onto them; it’s what makes them true.
It’s on you to get it right,
Say those names like you’re reading the night.

Generations of kids given names with pride,
A cultural mark; don’t let it slide.
In each twist and turn of every name,
There’s history, stories, a deep-rooted claim.

Step up; it’s part of your task,
To honour each name, even if you must ask.
Mispronunciation, that’s a miss,
Say it right, it’s a big part of this.

Empower students, let their names ring,
In each syllable, let understanding cling.
The classroom is where their stories bloom,
In every name, there’s room for room.

In the everyday chatter, let respect be heard,
For names are more than just a word.
It’s on you, make no mistake,
To say each name and raise the stakes.

In classrooms where futures unfold,
Speak each name with clarity, let the story be told.
For the duty is yours, let it be clear,
To honour, to learn, to be challenged, to care.

 

Why Pronouncing Students’ Names Correctly is So Important

thank you

It’s been a while since I’ve gushed, but as I was driving to school this week, I started thinking about ways I could show more gratitude for all of the good things that are happening in my professional life. This got me thinking about the staff at my school. In each aspect of the organization, there is much to be appreciated from our incredible office staff, caretakers, EAs, CYWs, DECEs, and admin. In that spirit, thank you, thank you, thank you.

Since this the core of readers of this blog are ETFO members, I will continue before the music plays me off and before being escorted off the stage. Here goes…

Thank you for putting in all the hours that make a difference in the
lives of learners before, during, and after school. 

Thank you for being the only smile that a child might see each day.
Thank you for being the hand that reaches out to a student who is feeling big feelings.
Thank you for being the one who comforts in times of uncertainty.
Thank you for being calm, considerate, and caring when things are not going well. 
Thank you for making sure that new kids feel welcome from the moment they
walk through your doorway. 

Thank you for teaching the basics.
Thank you for teaching the basics over and over again. 
Thank you for teaching the tough stuff.
Thank you for teaching the tough stuff over and over again.
Thank you for teaching morphemes, phonemes, and graphemes.

Thank you for providing accommodations regardless of identification(s) or not. 
Thank you for teaching number sense and problem solving,
and for teaching it over and over again. 
Thank you for extending due dates when needed,
and for allowing retests when things don’t go well the first time. 

Thank you for working hard over the summer to prepare for curriculum changes
even though you should be taking time to rest and recover from the prior year.

Thank you for teaching about truth before reconciliation. 
Thank you for ensuring that Asian and Pacific Islander (AAPI) and Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour (BIPOC) are represented in your instructional resources.
Thank you for reading culturally relevant stories that allow all students to see themselves within them.

Thank you for creating safe and engaging classrooms where everyone feels seen.
Thank you for ensuring that students feel seen and know that they matter.
Thank you for seeing that every learner is 10 out of 10 at something, 
and for helping them discover and develop their unique talents. 
Thank you for hosting a GSA meeting and for displaying a “safe space” sticker. 
Thank you for running clubs and coaching teams. 
Thank you for spending recess after recess sitting in your classroom so students can catch up on their work.
Thank you for making accommodations that support the faith expressions of learners. 

Thank you for helping each other out by sharing resources. 
Thank you for answering questions and offering guidance to those who have recently entered our wonderful profession. 

There is always time for gratitude in this profession and this is my chance to show my appreciation if I haven’t mentioned it enough above. Thank you for all you do. Will

sssh, our students are trying to tell us something

Chaotic, cacophonous, raucous, lively, spirited, loud, energetic, full of beans, demanding, and too loud are all words that have been used to describe my classes over the course of my career. I have also heard irreverent (not disrespectful), confrontational (willing to challenge the status quo), and demanding (using their voices when things ain’t right) too, but that has been mostly in a positive light. To be truthful I have really come to appreciate their ebullience and passion when it comes to occupying their learning spaces. After all, it’s theirs. We just get to work within it.

Until this year, there has been one word not heard describing my homeroom though – quiet. Perhaps it is because we are only 4 weeks into the new year or that this group is still trying to figure out their new teacher (good luck to them) or that I have been blessed with a room that is 80 percent filled with phlegmatic and introverted personality types. Needless to say, the silence has been a bit deafening because this group is q-u-i-e-t.

What’s that you ask? How can a group of 6th graders possibly be quiet? I know, right? Yet, here we are about to take off on a little thought flight.

This year has me thinking about the approaches I am taking with this clearly unique grouping of oddly quiet scholars. Will it last? Am I jinxing myself by the mere mention of their tranquil behaviour? Is this what teaching is going to look like going forward in the post pandemic era of constant connectivity? After all, this group was in grade 2, just learning to fly, when they were grounded for nearly 3 years. How come there seems to be fewer relentless participants than in years past?

Do I need to build more quiet, reflective, and self-directed time into my day? Could this finally be the group that will meditate with me? Do our discussions need to be in smaller groups so those reticent voices have a chance to be heard? How do I honour the A-types because every classroom needs them too?

I started browsing about and found a line that encapsulates what I am seeing right now.

“Behind silent people there is an incredible thinking machine working.” ~Tina Panossian

I know that my quieter learners are working hard. I know that they are figuring things out on the inside rather than where it can be seen. For whatever reasons they choose to work this way, I will do everything possible to make them feel safe, feel seen, and know they are intelligent.

Here’s what has worked so far; the use of no hands participation, peer to peer discussions, and small group conversations. Each of these have helped me ascertain the information necessary to know when we are in full flight to our desired destination or whether we have lost all engines and are bracing for a rough landing somewhere uncharted. Either way, we are on this journey together. Perhaps this group prefers to plug in the headphones and read rather than talk with the folx sitting in their row?

Yet, despite not having much turbulence I think that there is still a lot of work to come in order to chart the best course in navigating this unique group. The world needs introverts. The world needs deep thinkers. It is in these two truths that I get really excited thinking about what can happen if the right conditions get created to give them all flight. All I know now is that there is a chance to build something new into my instructional spaces that might be a benefit to every learner. 

I think an update post will be forthcoming in December. 

Thank you for reading and reflecting with me. Please keep the conversation going in the comments.
Will

Culturally Responsive Teaching and the Brain

“Culturally Responsive Teaching and the Brain” by Zaretta Hammond (2015) explores the intersection of culturally responsive teaching practices and brain research. The book delves into how teachers can better engage and support students from diverse cultural backgrounds by understanding how the brain processes information and responds to different instructional methods. It addresses the critical need for educators to acknowledge and embrace students’ cultural identities and backgrounds while fostering optimal learning experiences in the classroom. This book offers valuable insights into how educators can effectively engage diverse learners and create inclusive learning environments.

Cultural Diversity and Educational Equity:
The book begins by highlighting the importance of cultural diversity in the classroom and its direct impact on educational equity. It discusses how students from various cultural backgrounds bring unique perspectives, experiences, and learning styles, which educators can leverage to enrich learning. Hammond emphasizes the significance of understanding the cultural influences that shape students’ cognitive development and the role of educators in acknowledging and respecting these influences.

Neuroscience and Learning:
In the following chapters, the book delves into neuroscience and its implications for teaching practices. Hammond presents research findings that shed light on how the brain processes information differently based on cultural background and experiences. By understanding these neural mechanisms, educators can tailor their instructional methods to match the diverse needs of students, thereby optimizing learning outcomes.

The Cultural Learning Framework:
Hammond introduces the Cultural Learning Framework, a practical and evidence-based model designed to guide educators in implementing culturally responsive teaching strategies. The framework provides insights into understanding cultural norms, community dynamics, and the impact of stereotype threat on student performance. It also emphasizes the role of the teacher as a cultural broker, fostering trust and building strong relationships with students and their families.

Culturally Responsive Pedagogy in Practice:
The book explores various culturally responsive pedagogical practices educators can integrate into their classrooms. Examples include incorporating culturally relevant texts, integrating students’ cultural practices into the curriculum, and promoting collaborative learning to encourage cultural exchange among students. Hammond emphasizes the significance of teaching students metacognitive strategies to develop self-regulation and critical thinking skills. Hammond provides practical examples and case studies throughout the book to illustrate how culturally responsive teaching and brain-based strategies can be implemented in various educational settings. The author emphasizes teachers’ continuous growth and development in their journey toward becoming culturally responsive practitioners.

Implicit Bias and Stereotype Threat:
Addressing the prevalent issue of implicit bias and stereotype threat, Hammond highlights these factors’ negative impact on student’s academic performance and self-esteem. The book offers practical guidance on how educators can identify and mitigate their biases and create an inclusive and supportive learning environment that fosters student success.

Professional Development and Teacher Training:
The book underscores the need for ongoing professional development and teacher training to equip educators with the knowledge and skills necessary to implement culturally responsive teaching practices effectively. It advocates for school-wide efforts to promote culturally responsive education and create a collaborative and supportive learning community for teachers and students.

Culturally Responsive Teaching and the Brain by Zaretta Hammond is an indispensable resource for educators and educational stakeholders seeking to create inclusive learning environments and improve academic outcomes for diverse student populations. By bridging the gap between neuroscience and culturally responsive teaching, Hammond offers practical and evidence-based strategies to nurture all students’ cognitive, emotional, and social development, regardless of their cultural backgrounds. Embracing cultural diversity in education empowers students and contributes to a more equitable and socially just society.

that kid

Created by DALL-E
a-class-photo-of-faceless-students-in-the-styles-of-Monet-Rembrandt-Kandinsky-and-Warhol prompt by author

I was thinking about that kid and I found myself getting emotional. 

You know the one. We all do. Whether the name(s) or face(s) you thought of are in your class this year or not. We all have one or two students who popped in there almost immediately. I am not going to sugar coat this either because it got emotional. When I think about that kid, my feelings range quite widely here. Anger, joy, sadness, peace, et al have all staked their claims in my amygdalae and other rose coloured spaces in my emotional thought centre.

My first “that kid” came when I was quite new to teaching. I probably owe them an apology for pushing too hard about their studies without considering how hard it must have been to be truly trying their best, but not meeting the expectations of which I was thoroughly* convinced were so clearly taught and put within reach. Like I mentioned above, an apology has been uttered on a couple of occasions for that learner into the universe. 

There are two other feelings that happens sometimes, relief and angst. Relief that you were able to make it through a year together and grow. Angst over what I missed or, straight up, got completely wrong. My most recent that kid reads like this: 

Is quiet – too quiet.
Sticks to the sidelines as if crazy glued there.
Struggles to start something, and struggles even more to finish.
Whether it is a transition, a sentence, or a math challenge mine has got me thinking about what I need to do differently next time because there will be a next time no matter how hard I work to learn the lessons from the past to use now and in the future.

As teachers, I’ve noticed that we tend to be pretty hard on ourselves much more often than we realize or care to admit. It’s who we are as reflective practitioners who seek to make things better for our learners. I have noticed that we fret far more about any flaws in our work even when there are few if any cracks in our foundations. We are constant works in progress alongside our students and we wear it on our sleeves when it doesn’t go well. 

Sometimes, that kid gifts you some victories too. You see, all that time spent investing in that kid can turn out to be a life enriching moment for you as an educator and even more so for that kid as a scholar. Since my first that kid nearly 15 years ago, I have marveled at hearing from students who are completing degrees at amazing schools and starting to write the next chapters of their lives. This week I ran into a student who will be doing just that.

To be honest, it wasn’t all sunshine and lollipops with this particular that kid. If poor choices, bad behaviour, and work avoidance were credit courses, this learner would be top of the class. Fast forward 6 years and they are about to begin a very challenging degree program at a top university. That could have only happened with significant support, responsibility, accountability, and commitment. In other words, the exact opposite to where they were back then. So what turned this scholar around? How did the switch get flipped, and who did the flipping? I was certainly thrilled to receive such news knowing that there would be more good things to come as a result of them finding their stride as a student. Whoever helped this “that kid” turn over a new leaf has changed one young person’s life not for good, but for great. 

I am also aware that there are some who will never get to experience an about face like the that kid above, and I need to take ownership of that and work to improve going forward. Maybe my next that kid will not fall through the cracks through their education? I know that there is always room to improve what and how we do this job of ours. I know that teachers have countless conversations in order to find and fit the complex puzzle pieces we know as students together. I know that there is no single strategy or approach that will reach 100% of our students. What we need to remind ourselves is that we come pretty close to perfection, and we do it across a decade plus of siloed collaboration, between the panels, whether we realize it or not. 

When you think about it, each of our students could have as many as 50 teachers over their K to 12 careers. Of course homeroom teachers occupy the bulk of those first 10 years yet that still means there are countless points of influential interaction to be had between an entire cast of educators all working in concert to make sure each that kid gets and gives the best. 

This job asks us to accept and understand that we often will never know how the work we put in with our students will support them in the future. Closure is not a luxury many elementary teachers ever have once our students move onward and beyond our schools, but that should not bring us down because there is always that kid who takes the time, after several years have gone by, to reach out and connect again: to share how much they appreciated what was taught to them in and out of the classroom all those years ago. 

 

*On a random note: the word thoroughly breaks down into tho roughly. So now my idea of thorough will always be considerate of whether I was thorough or tho rough