Chapter 19: Re-write the story you tell yourself about teaching
This chapter is one of the best ones in the book for what I needed to hear right now in my career. Watson discusses what she calls "flip[ping] the script." This corresponds well with another book I'm reading.
Watson focuses on our inner voices and what we tell ourselves about teaching. I feel that this is true of pretty much everything in life. She suggests positive affirmations of the things that are going right and well. She offers many examples on p. 240-241 of negative statements we might say, new stories we can tell ourselves ("flip the script"), and new habits we can practice to make the new story come to fruition. This feeds in to the problem-solving gene of mine.
I will say however, for those teaching with others who are struggling, we want to tiptoe carefully. Exaggerating the positive can be as damaging as focusing on the negative. Too much Pollyanna makes colleagues want to punch you if they are not in that space. I think our job is to embrace our own journeys and support those who are having a rough go. When they are ready, we can feed them little bits of sunshine.
Chapter 20: Innovate and adapt to make teaching an adventure
The beginning of this chapter made me think of my colleague and buddy, Emily. Her first couple years of teaching were spent at my school. We always talk about things being an adventure, especially when we are faced with not so fun things.
I like that Watson stresses reflection. We do so very little reflection as a practice in our profession. We just seem to move on from one thing to the next because it's in the curriculum. I usually go through curricular content slower than other teachers because reflection is a huge part of what I do. If the students did not get the material, my teaching was not successful. Why would I want to just move on if I screwed up?
On page 248, I felt like she was mentioning my resume. Taking on different roles and responsibilities has definitely been a huge part of my career. I agree with her point that we need to keep giving ourselves challenges. This is definitely true. My latest challenge has been to "flip the script" I have told myself about teaching science. I have embraced NGSS before I was told to, and I have focused my PD this year on bringing the new science standards into my classroom. It has definitely been a challenging yet fulfilling change. I feel like this is what she reinforced on p. 251: "Don't just stand still and brace for impact. Run toward the changes in education. Be an innovator. Be the one who looks at a difficult situation and figures out how to make the changes work to your benefit and the kids'."
I paused when she said, on p. 249, "you will never be happy as long as you insist on knowing what's going to happen in the future." She was referring to the anxiety of the unknown and constant changes. She also ends the chapter with an excellent point about rolling with "mandates." We as teachers are SUCH rule followers. If we are being told to do this, we must do THIS. I have even worked with colleagues who have "tattled" to administrators when others were not teaching EXACTLY from a book as we were told to do.
I am not a robot. My kids are not all the same. I am a diagnostician. I have to see where they are and take them from there. Canned programs are not intuitive. We owe it to our students to be intuitive to their needs and plan for them as individual learners. Perhaps if others worried about their own students as much as they worry about what's going on in the classrooms of others, they, too, would have time for true differentiation.
I said in the beginning that I was not sure how I was going to like this book. Now that I am finished I can say I VERY MUCH enjoyed reading it. It helped me a great deal through some of the hardest months of school. I now have some practices, skills, reminders, and validations that will carry me through.