How do you spend your vacation? Is it reading up on how to be a better teacher? Discovering the glorious opportunities for professional development on Twitter? Oh, wait, it has to be shop-talking the cover art, title, and tag line of your half-baked podcast, right? Just me? Probably.
My mind has been a flurry of teaching and platform-building ideas, even though I know I am supposed to be unplugging, like one of the new members of my PLN (@MrPStrunk) posted about just the other day. Hey, I did river rafting with the family, a carnival, The Discovery Museum a couple of times, walks, board games, and more. I just had too much to look forward to, too many things on my mind, about the upcoming school year to completely unplug.
Okay. I’m going to take a BIG risk (for me) here. I’m going to be vulnerable and share with you something that has been on me teacher-heart for more than a few years. But I’m nervous. I don’t want to be rejected, yet I need good feedback from great people. So, please read on! This could potentially be a help to you, your colleagues, and other teachers out there!
[This ended up being a lengthy post, so if you’re eager to help me out, feel free to scroll down to the heading “Podcast Idea” and read from there. Maybe you want to skim a little, or maybe you think I’m mildly interesting and you want to read all of it. Whatever works for you.]
Before I dive into the content, let me take you on a little journey through the thinking behind my thinking, and provide a little context. This is the kind of thing that I challenge my students to do (brainstorm together, talk about their thinking, get feedback on their ideas), but I don’t do enough myself (I really need to start practicing what I preach, so here we go).
First, I wrote about how many of us are probably behind in our professional development in a recent post and suggested some ways that we can play catch up. Here’s where I have been practicing what I preach. A few months ago, I struck up a collaborative friendship with Marisa Thompson (@MarisaEThompson) after listening to the ReThink ELA Podcast Episode # 006. I left a comment there, and tweeted Marisa to let her know how inspiring she was (see her first-ever #teacherblogger post HERE, it is an impressive start). She has graciously shown me around Twitter and today introduced me to my first chat (#waledchat). I learned that a PLN is a Personal Learning Network, and grew mine by 30 people today! Overall, this experience has been the most encouraging educational experience I have had to date. I have been to conferences that are inspiring, and I have read books for teachers by teachers, both of which have a beginning and an end. But this twitter thing feels unlimited, and I am encouraged by the ongoing possibilities.
(As I am about to move on to my second point, I need to mention @brianharrissays, who I met through twitter only to find out that we teach in neighboring districts. We had a twitter conversation that is leading toward a face-to-face meeting coming up soon. He has been a big help in showing me what’s possible collaboratively. And, thanks Brian, for teaching me that T = Teacher and S = Student on Twitter. I was lost for a while.)
Second, I have been listening to podcasts by educators for personal growth and to get a feel for the kind of host I want to be. One thing that has stood out about the podcasts I listen to (Cult of Pedagogy; Better Leaders, Better Schools; TG2Cast; Ditch That Textbook; and ReThink ELA) is that these hosts are trying to shine a light on all the good things that go into making a teacher better. They have all been inspiring! And what I hear behind all of their episodes (sometimes the episodes and guests either get very close to this or address it outright) is that teaching is hard and lonely, but if we take a new approach to professional development/learning/connecting, then teachers can connect and flourish! These podcasts have made me hopeful and caused me to think, “I feel really confident that I can do this! I am a good teacher, AND I can be even better!”
The original tweet is no longer available because Marzano took it down, letting his bot go and taking back over control of what he posts. The gist of the backlash against the tweet is that the post was laying all the responsibility for a student’s learning at the feet of the teacher. Not the student, not the parents, not the site administration, not the shot-callers at the district, not the politicians that shape the educational landscape from far away. It clearly touched a nerve in our teacher community.
Now, I’m not going to presume what’s going on with Marzano, but I have lived all the feelings that animated this push back against his tweet. Presuming positive intentions on Marzano’s part, I don’t think that he would blame teachers. Also, what Marzano says and how a district or site interprets and implements Marzano should not be conflated with one another. That being said, reading the comments from individual teachers about how sites implemented Marzano’s strategies and evaluations were all too familiar to me. I entered the profession when metrics were starting to be weaponized against teachers, setting up unrealistic expectations, treating first-year teachers the same as tenth-year and twenty-fifth-year teachers. In my case, I have been more of a victim of my own teacher-guilt through my own unrealistic expectations than I have by my district or sites. They have been pretty fair. But on the whole, the public has really soured on teachers, or at least that’s the way it feels.
Now, it’s going to seem like I’m wandering off here, but hang with me. After partnering with a teacher at my site on collaborations of our own concoction, while also working with a great site team, I was encouraged in a way I hadn’t experienced. At the time, I thought it was getting involved that led to that synergy, that encouragement. So, I signed up for district-wide initiatives (which came with a hefty amount of planning and pull-outs from the classroom). I also signed up to be co-chair my department. I thought that I would get fulfillment from leadership positions, thinking that I would make a difference and influence people. The return on investment was negligible at best. I poured myself into those roles and did form some good relationships, but I also lost a lot of hair, and those that remain are quickly turning gray far too early. I watched projects I built and implement get taken over and swept aside by others. Very few, if any, saw the value in my contribution. So, I quit that part of my life out of frustration.
My past, my present, and this recent teacher outrage (which seems like it might be a bit strong of a word, but let’s go with it for now) have been swirling together as I think through what kind of mark I can make in the landscape of public education. Really, how I can make a mark with a few teachers. And this leads me to my brainstorm (it’s really more refining, but I’m trying to be open too) and my big ask to you, dear reader. I want to do something meaningful and make a difference, and I would like your help.
I need help with this podcast idea. Here’s my thinking so far (and the scary part for me to share with you):
- Most, if not all, teachers at some point think/feel they are not doing enough (with students, with parents, grading, lesson planning, for administrators, in their lives outside the classroom, etc.). They feel overwhelmed by all the demands and expectations. And sometimes it crushes the best of us.
- Most teachers experience a level of disconnect between the educational shot-callers (educational leadership, politicians, the district office, maybe even site leadership) and what they are doing with and for students in their classrooms.
- Teachers are reaching out to one another in incredible ways online. My development as a teacher, and my self-confidence in what I am doing, has largely come from other teachers. It has come from colleagues, teacher-authors writing for other teachers, teacher bloggers, teacher podcasters, and teachers on social media.
It wasn’t until I took a risk and opened myself up to others that I realized I wasn’t alone. There are others out there who have gone through what I have gone through and come out better, stronger, and more optimistic! And I have even more emotional energy and time to give to my family and friends! It has been great!
I want to share that with others. I want to help others know that they have the capacity and they can make it through all the demands, all the high expectations, and all the guilt. I want them to get to the point where, like me, they see this as the best job in the world. And I also want to help keep guys and gals motivated who are, like me, crossing into the middle point of their career.
So, here’s what I got so far…
Rough Draft Tagline
“I help teachers fight that nagging, unnameable feeling that whispers, “You are not enough,” through building a strong, engaged community, in order to win at teaching, increase our impact, and enjoy life!”
Possible Podcast Titles
(keep in mind that I want the title to communicate “this podcast exists to provide hope and encouragement for teachers who feel, or have ever felt, that they are under-prepared, overwhelmed, and under-performing at one, many, or all aspects of being a teacher to become a teacher who is competent, who cares, and is passionate about teaching.”)
- Developing Teachers MasterCast
- Dear Teacher, Don’t Give Up!
- Teachers Becoming Unstuck (or Teachers Getting Unstuck)
- Teaching Unstuck
- Teachers Unleashed
- You Are Not a Bad Teacher!
Possible Podcast Cover Design
(This is only for the first podcast title above and MTMI is for “Make Them Master It”)
Okay, so I’m really putting myself out there. I will take any ideas, suggestions, or feedback that you are willing to give.
I really love the growing community of teachers who are out there ready and willing to connect with fellow teachers in the effort to get better. It is a very welcoming group. And if you have not had the chance to meet the great people out there, just stick around here for a while, and an opportunity will present itself soon.
How about you? Have you ever felt like an impostor in the classroom? Do you have any thoughts about my work in progress?
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If you haven’t already, follow @MakeThemMastrIt on Twitter, and like the Make Them Master It Facebook Page. I can’t wait to talk about how we can increase the impact we can have on each other and our students!