We had a group of teachers from another school visit us yesterday (Z gets all the credit for making that happen, I just show up and talk). They spent the day hanging out in our classes, asking questions, sharing ideas. They were really super people, the sort of people you’d be thrilled to work with.
Reflecting last night, there were a few things that came to mind.
First, if you want change, seek community and connection. Change, especially big change, is really tough to do on your own. A lot of what was great about our engagement yesterday was, at least for me, that feeling of connection and community. The feeling that you are not alone in trying something new or difficult. I hope it was the same for our visitors.
Second, if you want to really understand what you are doing, try to explain it to someone else. We will be going to NCTE next week in St. Louis to present on a few things we’ve been playing with. We’ve done that a lot, and yesterday was not the first time we’ve hosted a bunch of teachers to look at what we are messing with. The value of presenting, either formally at a conference, or informally by hosting others in your classroom, is that it forces us to reflect on what we are actually doing, and then try to articulate, as best we can, what that is. That helps us iterate, update, create, recreate, etc.
The third thing, which I’ve written more about recently (see Rome and Building), is that nothing happens fast. It has taken us a lot of time to get where we are, and we aren’t ‘there.’ In fact, there is no ‘there.’ There’s just the process. Which is why ‘iterate’ has become my new favorite word. One of the things I felt like I didn’t get a chance to say yesterday to these awesome teachers who came to see us was “you’re already there.” They are already doing it. They may not be on the same iteration we are, and if they have a good process, they may never be. They won’t replicate what worked for us, they will create what works for THEM. For their students, in their community, in their context.
This process is really the creative process. We cycle through this over and over. It’s what we are trying to teach our students about reading writing, and it’s the way we get better at reading and writing ourselves, it’s the way Z is working on a book, it’s how I write songs and stories.
The more of it you can get in your life, the more lively and alive you will feel. The better the things you create will be, the more meaningful it all is.
If you’re going to be at NCTE next week, come see us:
Friday: Singing Your Own Song In the Classroom: Teaching poetry as writers and musicians in a writers workshop setting. #3495029 (yes, I might sing you a song in this one) 12:30 pm – 01:45 pm America’s Center Convention Complex 232
Saturday: Stop Grading: Empower Your Students to Evaluate Their Own Learning #3496649 03:00 pm – 04:15 pm America’s Center Convention Complex 143