Memories of Miss Gray

Tonight we visited friends that live in the same town as my first teaching assignment, Pottsboro, Texas. Driving by the intermediate school where I taught my first three years coupled with going through pictures and notes from that time (this past week while packing up) really sent me into a deep nostalgic mindset.

My friend from our hometown in Missouri to landing in Pottsboro together!

As we drove by and I pointed so my children would look, the thought that I may never drive by this iconic place again, really stuck with me. This place, town, friends, former colleagues who meant so much to me at one time…. So many have, like me, moved on to different places. But those memories of them, they were real again, thinking of the track I walked miles around, halls I walked up and down, the spot where my homeroom and I planted flowers one Earth Day, and mostly the people whom I shared the time. I imagined my first classroom and science lab that were more home to me than any place I rented, just inside the building walls.

No one in the car had the same powerful connection to the place my adulthood began and started to blossom. And yet, had I not started blooming there, I most definitely would not be who I am right now.

Here I am, 38, mother of five, wife of one, and forever an educator who is staring down the road to another adventure…one taking me to another starting point, another cast and crew, and another place to bloom. But I wouldn’t be able to had I not traveled other, transformative adventures, first. Had I not made lasting memories and important friendships and connections….

I coached softball, basketball, and volleyball those first three years.

So much can change in such little time. My children are growing so quickly, my husband and I are graying and getting older so much faster than when we first began. Here we are, 12 years later….

And, well, I’m just grateful for my memories. I’m grateful to be able to look back with gratitude, a prayer of thanksgiving, and more hope for the future than I’ve ever had….

The many connections and deep friendships made will not die in the time and space that will surely grow between us, but onward we look to bloom and create new memories that will also forever change us into the people we become. It’s such a sweet and temporary spot that time allows us to remember, grieve the quick passage of time, but then press forward. I don’t know that looking back is a positive experience for all, but tonight, I remember I am who I am today for everywhere I’ve been, everyone I’ve known, and everything I’ve learned along the way.

This box was made for me by a former student my last year in Pottsboro. Inside were pictures and notes.

Are We Listening?

Let’s face it, kids are hardcore honest. Once I had a fourth grader let me know about my wild and crazy nose hairs! True story! During a parent conference!

But sometimes kids bare their souls and we aren’t listening, we aren’t seeing. We may see hours later what we missed or we may never know, but there is no professional development better, or more true, than what these tiny or smaller humans are teaching us.

Today was such a day for me. I like the social studies curriculum we use very much, it offers online resources, and I like that it’s more current than the textbooks I grew up reading. Today we started reading and learning about the government, who is in charge…and then this picture came up.

Years ago, this picture wouldn’t stick out to me in any way, but today, it made me super aware that not every child in my class would see this picture as I see it.

In fact, two of my students, both boys, and non-white, spoke up and said this picture made them feel sad. One little boy said it made him feel afraid. I asked if he wanted to explain why he had fear, and he bravely said it was because he was afraid they’d come and take away his daddy….

This is first grade. This is not a hardened, cynical youth or adult, this was from the innocent of innocents.

We listened to him. Then, we sang about empathy because even if they didn’t understand the connection just yet, it was my job to plant the seed.

Because I was listening.

Becoming More Culturally Responsive in Teaching

Years ago in my teaching prep courses at Southeastern Oklahoma State University, we were asked how we would teach/be culturally responsive in a diverse environment.  I answered the question by copying whatever the text said and that is why I do not remember what I wrote, only that I had absolutely no idea what I would do.  We were required to spend 75 hours in schools that were high in populations of Native Americans, African Americans, and Hispanic Americans.  What I can recall is that the school where I spent hours with the Native American populations were frightening.  The school was dirty, old, and completely filled to the maximum capacity.  Right across the Red River, the schools where I spent with the two other groups, were completely different, as in modern, clean, and less scary for a teacher-in-training! This was in the early 2000s.

Fast forward to 2019 and most of my  years teaching have been in a public school where my white skin is in the minority and we are classified as Title 1, meaning most of the students are on free or reduced lunches. Being culturally responsive was not something I was aiming for per se, but it has definitely become a required skill to remain relevant for my students.  I wish I had taken courses on this subject, but thankfully, bonding with my students and their families gave me the education I needed.  I can honestly tell you that the desire to know and understand what motivated my students was where my education in culturally responsive teaching began.  Also, my colleagues of color have impacted my teaching practices.

Here is a list of some culturally responsive traits:

  1. Positive perspectives on parents and families
  2. Communication of high expectations
  3. Learning within the context of culture
  4. Student-centered instruction
  5. Culturally mediated instruction
  6. Reshaping the curriculum
  7. Teacher as facilitator

Taking courses on being culturally responsive may not be necessary if you are on the path of finding out how to bond with your students.  When building  foundational relationships with young people, some of these traits are natural, like being welcoming to families.  Over the years, my students taught me that they were more highly involved in learning when I was talking less and they were doing more, my role as a facilitator was shaping itself and my own pedagogy was more student-centered.

The two strongest indicators, for me, that I was becoming more culturally responsive in my teaching practices, was when I was able to reach out to my students and ask them how I could help my students of color more, and when my personal friendships started growing with more non-white people.  One young lady shared with me she felt noticed and as important as all other students, for the first time, in my class.  The comfort we felt while talking about our differences and appreciating each other was real.  I listened more to my students and the wise teachers who took me under their wings. Becoming friends with more people who were African American, Hispanic, Asian, or biracial has given me glimpses into perspectives I would otherwise never have.  I know being able to address cultural differences with people close to me has really challenged and changed me!  AND I LOVE IT! I’m absolutely grateful for those relationships and the way I’ve grown because of them.

Relationships, conversations, and learning how to appreciate different perspectives is what has formed me into a culturally responsive and relevant educator.  While more natural for others and less natural for some, if we are willing to listen and learn, more of us in education can cross the divide that oppresses our nation, and be part of the unifying factors.  That is probably one of the coolest things about being in education, being a unify-er of people!

If you are interested in growing in this area or helping others grow in this area, hop on Twitter this Tuesday and follow one of my favorite chats, #FlocabChat.  While on Twitter, under the search button, type in #FlocabChat and click on the “latest” tab.  Our chat  begins 7pm CST and 8 EST.

 

Although I have grown so much in this area since I first became a teacher, I know I still have much to learn.  Listening and asking questions to educators in the know is one of the best ways to begin this important journey!

Saying Goodbye

When my husband and I were daydreaming about an adventure in a far off place, there was no thought of what it would feel like to say goodbye. This evening, as I prepared for tomorrow, tears fell as I fully took in that there wasn’t much more time in the building that is my second home.

I started thinking about all the students who hug me in the hallways, even though they’ve never been in my class… I remembered so many fun memories with co-workers… And I started praying for the teacher who takes on this beautiful class after me, that she will know what she’s doing, love and appreciate my students, and that they won’t feel like I deserted them.

How can a job take over so much of your heart? I felt panicked because it felt like I was saying goodbye to a part of myself. And it really hurts. I reflected on this, asking myself is it just my ego? But I know it is not.

One of my best qualities is jumping in with my whole heart and one of my worst qualities is jumping in with my whole heart….So probably the brokenness I feel is just natural.

I have nine more days doing this awesome job. I hope these next two weeks will be memorable, and I pray my students will remember how much I love them. There’s still so much I need to take care of before I go, I want to make sure being busy doesn’t rob me of the special times ahead.

I won’t feel guilty for talking with my friends after work. People are the most important part of my profession, and the relationships formed these last few years run deep. I look forward to the last parent conferences, too, for the same reason.

When I’m not residing in my second home anymore, school will still go on, my students will still learn, and the year will be full of all the things. My heart will still be there, at least a part of it. And that means it truly was a work of heart.

How Melody Became Brave

For #WorldReadAloudDay, a fellow first grade teacher and I used Skype to invite author, Elizabeth Roach, into our classroom.  She wrote and shared her story How Carlos Became Brave.  This story was about a young man who was afraid to go down a tall slide, but his older cousin helped him overcome his fear by sharing with him how he was able to overcome his own fear, first.  Afterwards, our students had an opportunity to share with our class and Ms. Elizabeth about things in their lives that caused them fear and how they overcame it.  Ms. Elizabeth shared with us that her inspiration came from her own fear of heights as a child and overcoming them as an adult, and her characters seemed to be born from her many years teaching in Peru.  Ms. Elizabeth is a very loving and caring woman, I could gather that with her patience for her antsy audience and her lifetime devotion to teaching young and older people.

This experience had us conversating about all the different things we have been afraid of.  I shared about my experience about climbing up a high-dive as a child, only to turn back around and go back down the ladder, all the while being laughed at!  When I was a little older, I climbed a high-dive to conquer my fear, jumped off and repeated this five times in a row, but it never felt fun to me! It always felt like I was jumping off a building, and I decided that I gave it my best shot, and I didn’t let my fear cripple me, but jumping off the high-dive was not going to enrich my life!  One little boy drew and wrote about his fear of tornadoes and storms, to overcome this, he started to learn how to enjoy the rain.  Other kids wrote about slides as this was a common fear many had to overcome, just like Carlos!

We finished the day by reading Junie B. Jones: Toothless Wonder.  Junie B. had to overcome her fear of the tooth fairy!  It was hysterical and we all had a great laugh, but overcoming fear was the only thing I could think about as I fell asleep.

This past week, I put in my resignation and gave a three week notice.  My husband’s job is relocating us to Anchorage, Alaska as soon as we can get there.  We’ve thought and prayed about this for months, moving to Anchorage. We want to give our kids an adventure and a life outside of what is normal to them now! This opportunity to see life differently is priceless, but it doesn’t come cheap!  The idea that I will get to stay at home, home school, and take care of our youngest children has been a goal for us as we have a large family.  I did re-enter the workforce a few years ago out of financial desperation and we’ve always hoped I’d be able to return to staying at home with our children and home schooling….

But now it’s here.  The time to put our dreams into action has come.  My last two weeks of working as a first grade teacher at a school I helped open over ten years ago is upon me.  There is excitement and wonder, but also a lot of sadness and FEAR.  A good friend told me last week that if I wasn’t afraid it wouldn’t be an act of faith, and I whole-heartedly agree with this.  I feel certain that this is exactly our next path in life, my faith is everything to me, and I know God is ordering our steps.  It’s just… now it’s here, the action part is being required of me, and there are so many things I’m afraid to leave behind:  my community whom I love, my first graders, my home, my career (it feels like it is just taking off), my family and friends…. We are leaving so much behind.  I even had the thought last night Lord, what was the purpose of me growing in the way I have if I’m just leaving it all behind?   This is FEAR.

There is so much promise in our future! There is being together as a family, and there are new life experiences waiting right around the corner.  There are new places and faces waiting for us to meet.  Did I mention we will all be together as a family? There is a slower pace to life that is necessary for us as my husband still heals from heart surgery.  There is writing and authoring books, there is going back to school to earn another degree, there is snow—so much snow that my children are desperate to play in!  How can I be so positive that this is where we are supposed to go, and yet, feel so much fear about leaving everyone and everything I know behind?

Well, I guess that is truly where faith begins and grows.  This past week, my family read of Abraham, his son Isaac, Jacob & Esau, Rebekah, Rachel, Hagar, and Joseph! The Bible is full of people stepping out in faith, leaving their lands, even in fear, but then being blessed more than they could ever imagine!  Can I see where I’m going now? Can I see how God used this entire week to show me that He has been with so many before my family and He will continue to be there for us as we take this leap in faith?

Carlos conquered his fear using three steps: go up the stairs, learn how go to down little by little until he went down the entire slide, and practice landing!  Then he could be like his cousin and help others conquer their fears and enjoy something that is thrilling!

My first step is to enjoy these last couple weeks of school, work with all of my heart with the little ones God put in my life for a reason.  My second step is to just keep going.  Keep the big picture in mind, knowing that my family will be together and that grieving is okay, but keep going and moving forward.  When we get to our new place, we will be exhausted, I’m sure.  We will miss our family and friends, I’m certain.  But we will also be so excited for this new adventure!!!! I’m positive!!

I will face fear and sadness, but I will be brave.  And I’m going to keep singing about it, too.  Hope you’ll join me for the ride.

 

Connecting Through Tech & Story Telling

Bringing people in and making global connections has been the theme to help my students fall in love with reading and develop their social emotional learning, since we’ve come back from winter break. I wasn’t sure how it would work out, but after Skyping or using Google Hangouts, with an author and other story-telling-educators, I hope to encourage other teachers to give it a go!

If our students had their way, we’d have so many more field trips, but money and time can put a limit on those types of learning experiences. But after using Skype a couple of times with other educators in my Professional Learning Network (PLN), I decided to use it as a tool to bring the outside world in to give my students an opportunity to learn from others through the art of story telling. Every story has had a strong social emotional tie-in and some of my students’ confidence levels have been boosted as they communicate back with the adults on the screen!

These story telling educators range from a published author, Instructional Coaches, classroom teachers, and even one of my former students who is studying law! They have brought a little of the Midwest, southeast, and west coast into our lives! We’ve even had some fellow Texans!

The stories range from I Want To Be Like Poppin’ Jo, Pete the Cat, The Little Engine That Could, The Giving Tree, The Rainbow Fish, Oh, The Places You Will Go!, Have You Filled Somebody’s Bucket Today?, The Circle Unbroken, and The Mixed Up Chameleon! We spend time reflecting after each story. My students are learning that reflections come from your heart and mind. We’ve used written words, drawings, and discussions when we reflect. It’s turned into something my students look forward to and ask if anyone is going to Hangout or Skype in to tell them a story today?

I have enjoyed getting out of my comfort zone and growing in this area. Google Hangouts has been easier than Skype and less technical problems. A couple of times, these sessions were the first time I’ve talked with members of my PLN outside of Twitter or other social media! It’s been fun for all of us!

So if you feel like you are not tech-savvy enough to pull this off, I want to encourage you that being a bit uncomfortable has made this more fun! I did have some tech issues but nothing that made me want to quit! Yes, my kiddos got antsy and sometimes talked too much, but other times they addressed people politely, and stood and answered questions using complete thoughts! It’s been amazing to see how some students’ attention and focus have improved the more we do this!

School can get so boring for all of us! I hope this time of connecting to others, in different parts of our country, will be a memorable experience for my students and I hope their confidence will continue to grow! I hope they will naturally reflect more with their hearts and minds after this time. I even hope they’ll fall in love with reading!

So if you want an idea to put a little joy back into your day, a Skype or Google Hangout Story Telling session might be just what you need! And February 1st is World Read Aloud Day so you still have time to line something up! I just asked people if they’d read a story and they were more than willing to connect with us!

Would love to help you in this endeavor, too! Best wishes!

Relationships Matter

Starting to teach at 23 years of age, I can tell you that I did not have an abundance of wisdom.  BUT, I did know that relationships matter in my profession of teaching.  Like many college kids after earning their degrees, I was super scared about where the next road in life would take me.  I had been in school my whole life and now I was supposed to find a professional position????  The future was scary and I was eight hours, 500 miles, from my parents.  But as God would have it, after a semester of substitute teaching, the school where I did my student teaching, hired me for a fourth/fifth grade math and science teacher position.

Honestly, I had no idea what I was doing.  I had a total meltdown the night before school started because people were going to leave me with their kids and I was supposed to help them, grow them, get them to the next level…. Scary and exhilarating at the same time, that sums up my first year of teaching! Hmmm, I wonder if it still kinda sums it up?

Every morning I woke up and couldn’t wait to get to work! And I made peanuts, I’m pretty sure I earned more as a receptionist for the dealership I had worked for.  But those kids, they were awesome.  My colleagues, well, they became my best friends. My boss believed in me, and looking back now, I was in a supportive environment that I wish all new educators could have.  My Mentor, Jenna Frye, was incredible and her son, Tanner, was in my fourth grade class.  As I type this out, I’m smiling because her family made such a positive impact on my life.

But there were a lot of families who made an impact on my life.  I never went without food or entertainment!  I was always being invited to places.  Heck, I took some of my kids to the movies because I loved being with them.  I have some super silly memories of getting lost taking my young charges home!  The point is, the relationships growing in my life mattered to me more than anything.  They fed me and pushed me to be my best.  I genuinely loved the students I was teaching, and I still do.  I’ve watched them graduate high school, college, and even been invited to weddings! Some of them have babies the same age as mine.  I am just so thrilled to see them grow into good people.

Relationships matter. I invited Tanner to read to my first graders today.  One of my first year students reading to my first, first grade class…it choked me up quite a bit!  I feel so blessed to see a young man, whose life I was part of as a youngster, grow up and pursue his dreams and share his story with six and seven year olds, that he doesn’t know, in another state because he knows some things are just important like that. He sang/talked to them a song I had taught him so many years ago and they sang to him “Lean On Me” before he had to go, and the whole experience was just precious for my teacher’s heart.

They are all the reasons I do this job everyday.  My first graders today, and all of my students throughout the years.  I have taught all the different subject matters in elementary school, but they were, and are, the reasons it matters most.  Becoming friends with former students is the icing on the cake.  Watching them make life choices any parent would be proud to see their child make, well I can’t describe the pride and love I feel to the justice that I feel it.  But I know that not all people get to see this kind of heartwork in their professions, so I feel especially blessed to see it with mine.

If you are reading this, and you were in my class at one point, or we just said “hi” in the hallways, YOU are the reason I do my best everyday.  You matter to me.  I am so proud of you.  I don’t just look forward to teaching my class, I get excited about being part of every child’s life that comes into contact with mine.  Today was a gift.  You are a present in mine.

 

Connecting Through Tech: What’s Holding You Back?

Technology is great. I’m only a fan of it, though, when I actually know how to use it to make life better or cooler.  A few years ago, I had been out of the classroom for three whole years and when I came back, technology was not my friend. I felt like it had advanced at least ten years ahead in my short absence.  I also felt pretty old for a young person.

BUT, the district I teach in offers a lot of professional developement.  My principal loves technology and since we get something new every month, I decided I should go to some classes after school. Through these training sessions,  I joined Twitter, found Nearpod, and ClassDojo.  I heard something about Skype for Educators, but that felt too out of my league.  So I dove into Twitter, started using Nearpod, and immediately fell in love with ClassDojo.  I loved these programs because they were so user friendly and you couldn’t break it.  The more I used technology, the more comfortable I became, and I learned that  you can’t break much.

Flocabulary was also very user-friendly and soooo fun.  Who doesn’t like to sing, rap, dance, and learn, right? I would tweet about all of these programs and the companies would tweet back.  I felt like a rockstar!  So cool!  But even more cool, I started following all these other educators who were learning or leading, just like me.  My confidence in technology grew, and my Professional Learning Network (PLN) blew up!  All the sudden, I had hundreds of people to bounce ideas off of and I could even help others…technology is cool when it connects and helps others, and it’s worth the moments of discomfort before finding my way.

I think it’s funny when my colleagues tell me I’m tech-savvy.  I still feel behind in a lot of ways.  However, if I know there is a program that is going to help my students love learning, I will fight my fear and dive in.

So this past week, I gave Skype Classroom a try.  It really wasn’t hard. It was awkward and there were some funky moments of tech freezing, but mostly my students loved it.  Thursday, three educators from Miami, Florida read my kids stories focusing on social emotional learning, and Friday, a children’s author read us one of her books.  Jo Mach of Finding My Way Books writes non-fiction books about children with different disabilties and how they are winning in life.  She is an adovcate for inclusivity and after years of being an occupational therapist, she is using these real-life stories and characters to show children that we really can be and do what we want in life.  These learning moments gave my students an opportunity to be connected gloabablly, practice listening, practice talking with others, and learn even more how to relate with different kinds of people.

Something important about learning anything new is reflecting on what we just did.  Giving students time to let it cement in their brains.  So we drew and wrote about what we learned.  I thought Skype Classroom was too hard to implement a few years ago and I thought it would be too hard for my first graders to write and reflect on the stories they listened to.  BUT I TRIED IT ANYWAY!  The teachable moments were plenty and my students blew me away with the depth of their thinking, even as six and seven year olds.

So my own reflection is this:  keep going.  Keep giving these kids opportunities to connect with others, learn from others, find ways to ariticulate big ideas and important take aways, and please, Melody, teacher, stop with the fear and limitations.  I shared what we are doing with some other teachers, too.  I hope they’ll see how cool it is to connect with other educators in our country (or world) and try something new, too.  Even more importantly, I hope this fuels my students to love to read and talk about what they are reading.  Our kids need us to bring fun into learning, even with the count down to state testing.  ESPECIALLY with the count down to state testing!

So what have you been curious about trying? I dare you to dive in! Remember it’s okay if it’s a bit chaotic at first!  Your students will love you for being brave!

Here’s to 2019: My Song!

Here’s to 2019! I’ve been hoping you’d come and dreading it at the same time.  The passage of time can feel like the enemy is after me when there’s so much to be done and so many challenges along the way.

Here’s to 2019!  New beginnings feel like spring, even during the winter.  Here’s to a fresh start that’s been offered and may I use what I’ve learned from this past year and use it to make this new one better for all I love!

Here’s to 2019!  If I don’t lose all my baby fat, may I grow fonder of myself, anyway.  May I cherish the grays, for I’m still alive to tell about them. May I smile at my laugh lines because the best jokes are the ones shared among friends.

Here’s to 2019! Life might get harder this new year, and Lord, I need your help so I don’t dread what’s coming.  Help me to live in this moment where I have all I need and want, surrounded especially, with the people closest to my heart.

Here’s to 2019!  Patience is hard to come by with little ones running all over the place and a messy house that refuses to stay clean! May You shift my focus so it’s on what truly matters, Heavenly Father, and forgive others like I have been forgiven by You.

Here’s to 2019!  Dreams make life worth living.  Here’s to pursuing them and celebrating them when they come to fruition after the ups and downs that certainly will be along the path.

Here’s to 2019!  I am here. So far from perfect.  Like everyone else, I’ve made mistakes and I’ll make new ones, of this there is 100% certainty.  May I embrace these new lessons without quitting!

Here’s to 2019!  Here’s to 365 new chances of looking a situation and asking myself how I can make it better for someone else?

Here’s to 2019!  The hope and joy felt in the hearts of many, on this new day, comes from a Creator who has given each of us our own unique purpose in life, and part of that responsibility is sharing it with others!  

So here is to the newest year, and I pray, Lord, that I meet with You regularly.  I ask You to open the doors of adventure and to grow my faith so this life, no matter the year, is always lived to its highest calling and deepest purpose:  to love my neighbor as myself and love You with my whole heart, soul, and mind. Amen.

School Leadership: We Need More!

We need more school leaders in our schools.  I’m not saying we need more principals or Central Office personnel.  I’m not saying we need to have more degrees and titles. I’m saying we need more leaders. We need more people who are sharing the load in the ideas and events that draw us into being a school community.  We need more leaders who are willing to step out of their classrooms and into the Big Picture of where our schools are headed.

These last couple of years, I have grown into an educator I am proud of being.  It’s not because my students have reached 100% passing rates on any one exam, least of all state exams.  It’s not because I’m better at teaching than you, or even because I have more than a thousand Twitter followers.  Although, I do feel pretty good about that last one. Ha!

I’m proud of myself because I went back into the classroom three years ago out of financial desperation, but I never looked at teaching as just a paycheck.  Everything I do in my classroom and school is to grow something larger than myself. I want kids to like school. I want MY KIDS to want to go to school. I want kids to be inspired and know that even as young people, they have so much to offer their community and the world at large.

I’m sure there are people who think I’m a sad sucker who will do anything admin throws at me, but I don’t do what I do because of admin.  I do what I do because I understand the importance of my impact in my students’ lives, in their parents’ lives, and how it plays out in our community.  I am purposeful about connections. I grow them and they flourish. But before flourishing, I have heavy conversations, meetings, and conferences. I spend time getting to know and encouraging others.  I build up the people around me because I see how it builds me up, too.

I’m a school leader, but I’m not a perfect teacher.  I mess up…a lot. I make mistakes…a lot. I piss people off…a lot!  But my faith keeps me humble, the Spirit convicts me and opens my eyes to my errors, and together these two things help me apologize and forgive others.  I’m a school leader because I know people come first. They come before any paperwork, are the reason for paperwork, and loving people makes me stop what I’m doing  and notice others. I do not walk down the halls with my head down. I acknowledge and engage my peers and every student who crosses my path. Watching them light up because I engage with them is worth the effort of getting out of my own thoughts.  I have often been told that I am the first friend that new employees make when they come to our school. I actively seek out people who seem disengaged or lonely. I make friends with every grade level teacher, custodian, and cafeteria person. I’m a school leader because I know that each person, regardless of level of education or job title, has a high impact on our school community and the children in front of us.  

But I get bitter. My mom used to tell me growing up, “It’s lonely at the top.” It’s lonely being a school leader.  So many have given up and don’t understand why I continue to stress about things. So many of my peers never even reach a level of caring that I believe is necessary to do our job, and these things drain me.  These people drain me, and I get bitter. And then I’m reminded that I don’t do the things I do because I’m trying to please people who will never be pleased. I do the things I do so my kids will love school. I do what I do so my students will love school.  I do the things I do so my students’ parents will see the impact we have together as partners. I do the things I do because the work I do impacts this world in a positive or negative way and it goes far beyond my classroom.

We need more school leaders.  We need more people to pitch in and form community in our schools, to get uncomfortable, to get out of their classrooms, and join us in sharing the load.  If we could only teach and our students learned, then we wouldn’t be living in the world that I know. We need more people to form and share the vision of our school systems.  We define the community of our school in how we respond to one another, how we lift each other up…or don’t. When there is a lack of peer support, I have also noticed there is a lack of support for our students.  Positive relationships are not forming on any front, and this causes bitterness in many of us, and people find it much easier to leave than stay around in a toxic atmosphere. Who could blame them? Students are more inspired to find ways to get out of school than do complete assignments or try to learn in toxic school environments.  

Tonight, at an event in our local city, many students came up to me and got a hug, but none of these students were in my classroom.  They know me as the teacher who engages with them in the hallway or school event. They know me as the mom of Madi, Ben, and Lela. They know me as the loud teacher who sings a lot.  And because they know me and there is trust, I’m not just a school leader, I’m a leader in my community outside of the building walls. I feel the weight of this, and I cherish it. Always, I am humbled.  

We need more school leaders, not just newer technology and better lesson plans.  Our purpose drives our impact, and if we don’t have impact, our students don’t have purpose.  But oh, when we do have purpose, and we work together to achieve it, everyone in our community will feel the impact.