I Just Don’t Understand

Sometimes I just don’t understand. I try. I listen. I ask. I ponder. But sometimes I just don’t get it. Last night was one of those nights. A committee I served on earlier this year presented the findings of a district equity audit with the Board of Education and the public. The study brought some things to light, but I’m not sure there were any big surprises. We, like most districts (and organizations), have work to do in the area of diversity, equity, and inclusion. The study suggested a few broad actions. Again, nothing surprising, and really nothing that was all that revolutionary.

But some of the responses rocked me. I know that there is unrest in our district around these issues, and I understand that the mention of DEI can strike fear into the hearts of some people. The world is changing, and change can be hard, especially for those who feel they hold power. But last night people came out swinging – and criticizing, and offending, and politicizing, and berating.

I just don’t understand why parents and community members would be against things like building a deep sense of belonging for all, or creating opportunities for more students, or giving students more voice, or providing professional development for teachers so that we can be more responsive to the children we serve. There seems to be this idea that if we do these things for some students, we are taking away from others. That’s just not how I see it. That’s just not how it is. If we take action, all students will benefit – a rising tide lifts all boats. There seems to be another belief that we should “just teach the 3 Rs” without thinking about the environment in which we teach them. Again, that’s not how I see it. That’s not how it works. People don’t learn well if they don’t feel a sense of belonging. We (teachers) don’t just dump knowledge into the heads of our students. It’s much more complicated than that. Most of these comments came from parents. How is it that they don’t see the need for this work? What is their vision for their children’s education; for their children’s future?

I’ll keep listening and and asking and pondering, but I will also take action to make this world a safer, more inclusive place that provides real opportunities for all.

Receiving Inspiration

This week I read Amy Ellerman’s post, Time for a Shift.  As she always does, Amy pushed me to think and reflect on my practice (both personal and professional).  In this post, Amy says (and asks) things like:

-Learning is energy giving, for kids and for us.

-What must we hold sacred every day to ensure that learners grow?

-What are some ways we might shift our own self-talk (and the teacher-to-teacher talk that happens in our buildings) to protect this sacred learning time?

I have also experienced the negative self- talk and teacher-to-teacher talk that pushes us to give up on some of our most important goals and dreams for kids.  The “I can’ts” or “not during a pandemic” or “not with all the other stuff that needs to get done” talk can be energy draining instead of energy giving. 

It’s easy to fall into this pit of despondence and despair, but I want to fight it and find ways to hold true to the work I have signed up for – to teach and to learn.

I’m going to start by setting some goals for my upcoming vacation.  It would be easy to say I’m tired and I just need a break from everything, but I want to learn.  I want to read and write. I want to move forward. I want to be positive. I want to give and receive energy. So….I am going to commit to Amy’s 25 hours of reading and writing this week.  I do realize that Amy is doing this IN ADDITION to her full time job and life, but I thought it would be a good start!

Thank you, Amy, for pushing me in this direction!

Perspective Shifting

In this recent post from Reflections From a Coach, a fellow slicer shared that she had listened to a podcast by Glennon Doyle on aging. Doyle had interviewed Ashton Applewhite on her theories about aging and ageism. I quickly added this to my podcast list. I am a worrier. I worry about aging. I worry about being alone. I worry about not being able to do the things I enjoy. I worry about becoming a burden to my kids. Like I said, I am a worrier. This podcast has helped me to worry less. The underlying message from this podcast was that aging is basically all about the way we look at it. Applewhite shared some reassuring facts: Most people don’t end up in nursing homes. Most people don’t completely lose their memory as they age. People are happiest when they are very young and when they are older (called the “Happiness U-Curve”). She went on to say that it’s really our choice to look at aging as either a positive and powerful place to be, or as a place filled with decline and depression. She also discussed how hard this can be in a society that adores youth, but said that it can be done. We need to shift our perspective on what it means to grow older.

I listened to the Glennon Doyle podcast last week on my way to and from work. This morning I just happened to come across this article in the New York Times: The Best Advice You’ve Ever Received (And Are Willing to Pass On) by David Pogue. This article is FILLED with advice that I desperately need (and will now pass on). One piece of advice was this:

You’ve never seen a cat skeleton in a tree, have you?” When Alexandra Aulisi’s cat couldn’t get down from a tree, her grandmother reassured her with those words, predicting (correctly) that the cat would come down on his own. “This advice made me realize that, sometimes, you need to shift your perception of a problem to see a solution.”

As I mentioned, I’m a worrier. I call myself a Master Disaster Planner. This only makes my worrying worse. I desperately need Alexandra Aulisi’s grandmother by my side. I need to start thinking this way. I know it will change the way I live in the world. I know it will make me calmer, happier, more positive. I know the people around me will benefit. Maybe as I age I can even become the kind of grandmother who gives out this kind of advice.

I’m working to develop not only a new view of aging, but a new perspective on how I deal with the world. Maybe some day I can write an advice column and help the people around me to shift perspectives too. Wish me luck!