Some days go along smoothly and stay that way. Others, not so much. One of the interesting things about working in a school is that there is seldom a dull moment. That may sound like things often go wrong, but that’s not the case. Things just go “differently.” A child who navigates assignments and social relationships nicely may hit a snag and need support. A teacher who is reliable and always on top of things may encounter a challenge that requires her to further develop her skills to best address the needs of one particular student, though these skills may eventually serve many. A well-designed schedule may be interrupted by a fire drill or an unexpected visitor. Things change, and we need to be ready to embrace the changes.Continue reading
I do my best work in collaboration with others. Yes, some tasks, like writing this blog post, are easier done when working alone in a quiet space. Others require undivided attention or concentration. But, I am happiest, energized and motivated to push my thinking and outcomes further and further when working with others.
I realized this several years ago when working on a teaching team. It was a great team. We had the opportunity to share ideas, reject some, modify others and try new things. That process provided great instructional opportunities for us, but more importantly it served students in the best possible ways. Yes, most classrooms are one teacher’s domain. Not so in Montessori classrooms. Some have a lead teacher and an assistant or two, and others are fortunate enough to have two lead teachers. Teachers working together are bound to have more or better ideas than a person working alone. Everyone needs a sounding board. In the best partnerships that is what happens. Ideas are molded and created in direct response to student needs.
I am quite sure I could not have remained in the field of education if it were not for those who have worked with me in various capacities. I have benefited from the wisdom, humor, honesty, thoughtfulness and imaginations of more people than I could count. How do you do your best work?
As this school year gets underway, I have had the pleasure of working more closely with a few classrooms. This has meant everything from meeting about supporting students, to discussing potential field trips, to helping plan lessons. Though these are not my “typical” responsibilities as head of school, they are things I thoroughly enjoy. Getting closer to student learning is always interesting and energizing.
When many of us were in school, each teacher was in charge of his or her classroom. Teachers followed the textbooks given to them from the school and were responsible for making sure all of the topics within each subject were adequately “covered.” Coverage. We may think of that when painting a wall or protecting a passer in football. Does it belong in school? Is the goal coverage? Or is it something much more? Continue reading
Most of us prefer knowing to not knowing. We derive a degree of comfort in knowing and understanding things. The unfamiliar brings about feelings of uncertainty and maybe even doubt in our ability to navigate a situation or endeavor.
Summertime means traveling for many people. Familiar destinations bring back fond memories while new places can bring a sense of discovery and anticipation along with feelings of uncertainty. You may not know what to expect or what is expected of you. In a new coffee shop, a new city or country, how do things work? How do I navigate the rules of that particular destination? Even something as simple as knowing whether you can seat yourself at a restaurant or have to wait for someone to seat you can cause confusion. Continue reading
There was a time, and maybe it’s even still true in some cases, that people envied teachers. They wanted their schedules… The holiday and summer breaks, the sweet hours – school’s over at 3! And, how hard is it to teach a bunch of little (or big) kids? If you are aware of current events in the news, you know that time may have passed.
Teachers know what most don’t. It is a tough job. To be fair, some teachers have a harder job than others. Some of us teach in schools where children come to school ready to learn and are supported by families in every possible way. Others teach in under-served areas where they are not only trying to teach, but also helping to meet children’s most basic needs. No matter where we teach, the job is one that requires great dedication, tremendous effort and hours well beyond those idealized by the general population. Continue reading
Schools are interesting places. When I was in school, students remained many steps removed from the adults in the community. A distance was set by the adults, and it was not crossed. Not so today. Research shows time and again that building relationships between teachers, families and students is the best way to support learning.
Last week, I spent time in a number of classrooms. I raced children on a typing app, seeing who was the fastest typist. Phew! It was so much fun! Then I had the chance to work individually with a student, administering an assessment and sharing reading. I joined a current events discussion, listening to students’ ideas about the happenings in our world. Later that same day, I was invited to participate in a hands-on “museum” of writing. Children used various communication tools to write: a typewriter, feather pen and ink, small letter tiles, clay and stamps. They experienced the communication of yesterday and loved the experience. All of this happened, and it wasn’t even lunch time!
At Wilmington Montessori School, relationships are at our foundation. No matter the age of the students, they are building connections with each other and the adults in our community on a daily basis. These relationships are the foundation of what motivates students to learn more, encourage others and wonder about possibilities. What connections have you built today?
Learning is not a secret. Access to the facts we learn in school is open to everyone who is interested and able to learn. How do schools determine the best ways in which to present the information deemed important? How do they build student skills and improve their practice?
In industry, much of what comes to market is kept in labs and top secret files until it is ready to go public. Many iterations occur, each one slightly different than the last. Only the few people directly involved in a project are informed about the work. The edge that comes with releasing a new product is critical to a company’s success.
Schools operate differently. We learn from each other, asking questions of another school or offering information to questions posed online or in person. We don’t have to wait until someone lets the secret formula out to benefit from it. Most of what schools teach is open to others. Methods may adapt over time, research may be done, testing may occur, but in the end, anyone in education can learn from what others are doing. The difference is not typically the content or curriculum but the delivery. Teachers building relationships, honoring individual students’ learning styles and working on behalf of their students is the secret to learning. It’s a secret that is open to all willing to put in the effort. Most of us can recall a teacher who took the time to get to know us and make us feel important. Can you?
Children spend more time in school than in any place other than their homes. Schools strive to make this time productive and worthwhile, but too many schools define productivity and success through the subjects they teach and the grades children earn.
Running into an acquaintance, speaking to former students and catching up with a former teacher recently provided me with perspective on what really matters in school – the true benefit of education: Relationships. As Rita Pierson is famous for saying, “Kids don’t learn from people they don’t like.” The job of a teacher is complex. Universities are good at helping prospective teachers learn how to teach academic content. They rarely include more than an overview on how to build relationships and teach the actual children in our classrooms.
Like adults, children are affected by what is going on in their lives. Their ability to pay attention, interact and learn is dependent on their lives, not just what is happening in the classroom at that moment. A teacher’s primary responsibility is to provide a safe, caring environment for those children. Each child must know that, no matter what, she will be cared for, nurtured and supported as she works to succeed in that class and in life. It’s what all children deserve and what we, as educators and adults responsible for their growth, need to ensure.
Teaching is a tough job with long hours. Many of these hours are not spent in the classroom with children, but are instead spent outside of school hours, learning and preparing for the days ahead. It is a job where great effort is put in and often the outcome of the hard work remains unknown. Teaching is a service to our future. Although a teacher almost never knows if or how he/she has made an impact on a student, our words and actions can leave lasting impressions. Teachers educate for the future; they help children see possibilities. They make it their business to learn about the children in their classrooms, respecting their individual differences and supporting their growth. They may never know the results of their efforts, but they will know the child is stronger, more confident and capable as a result of their time together.
People love to complain about the news media, saying most news is bad news. It certainly seems that is true. Each year schools deliver many messages to parents and students. They share facts, updates, and feedback about the students they serve. Report cards are issued and conferences are held. And what do most of us remember about these conversations? The “bad news.” Continue reading
What do children need to succeed in school? Google that question, and you will find more answers than you have time to read. However, take the time to think about it, reflecting perhaps on your own school experiences, and you will come close to an answer that will serve children well.
Children, like their adult counterparts, come in all shapes, sizes, appearances and abilities. They live in houses, apartments, in the country, suburbs and the city. They are as varied as can be and so is their learning. Some children can “do school.” They enter school at a young age, and it works for them. They know how to navigate through the information, demonstrate their understanding and successfully work within the established parameters. Others struggle with all or some of this. They can’t figure out what is expected, or don’t have the ability or skills to navigate the many demands of school. These children need ongoing support to get through their school years.
At their best, educators are continually asking how they can help children succeed. If a lesson isn’t working and a child isn’t learning, they ask themselves what else they might try. They strive to find the best approach to assist each and every learner. What helps one may indeed help another. These teachers don’t give up. They teach resilience to children by being resilient themselves. They lead by example, showing each and every day that even though school might be hard at times, they push through the difficulty, trying again and accepting the support that is offered.
To succeed in school, children need advocates. They need people who know them and try to understand them and their needs as learners. They need people around them who care, support them and bolster their confidence as they work hard to gain the skills and knowledge needed. What do children need? Caring adults, a warm and friendly environment of confidence, resilience and dedication. They need to know that we will never give up and will find ways around and through any difficulties that exist. They need to know we are on their side.