Putting Ourselves In the Position of Students

The post was originally published in my school’s blog, CambridgeLearns, on October 4, 2015.

Slide50This past Friday afternoon after a busy week at school, many Cambridge staff members participated in a few fun social events. First, we headed over to the Bose Corn Maze where we had a great time answering trivia questions and navigating our way through the corn in teams.

However, this learning story is much more about the second event – Curling. I’ve watched Curling many times on television, but never appreciated the amount of skill involved.  I very quickly found myself on my back after trying to actually curl my first stone. I wasn’t really embarrassed because I know that while everyone had a chuckle, no one was making fun of me. As I continued to try, and try really hard, I began to grow frustrated that I was struggling so much with a task that others made seem so easy. In fact, some teachers who had never curled before looked like experts right away! My struggles had nothing to do with the instruction either. Our teacher broke down the task into small parts, modelled these, and gave us ample time to practice. I just was not going to catch on to this activity without more time and practice.

IMG_2755In that moment, my mind immediately went to our students…your children…who are asked every day to put their learning out there, to risk-take, and to try things that are very difficult for them. I thought of the feeling many students have when they struggle to learn new things.

That’s why I think it’s always important for us all – principals, vice-principals, teachers, parents –  to be learners too. When we put ourselves in these positions – positions where we play the role of the learner – we are made conscious of what it feels like be a little afraid, to take risks, to struggle, and most importantly to persevere and see ourselves get better at something.

Despite the quality of our instruction, not all students will grasp concepts the first, second, or maybe even third time around. I think the most important lesson we can teach children is to always work hard and to keep on trying because with enough time and practice, any of us can be great at something.

So…

When is the last time you put your own learning out there?
Risked?
Failed?
Got up?
Tried again?
Refused to give up?

Paying the Price

My last mylearn365 blog post was about committing time this summer to exercise and take care of myself.We all have different reasons for doing this. Some people exercise to lose weight or build muscle. Some people exercise to prepare for an upcoming athletic season. For me, it’s the upcoming school year that has me gearing up.

I think sometimes in the media, our work in schools as teachers and administrators is sometimes misunderstood. Too many times our work is defined by those on the outside by weekends off, holidays, summer vacations, and a supposed 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. day.

I am taking care of myself because I know the truth about working in schools. To me there is no work more fulfilling where you have not only a chance everyday to make a positive impact on the lives of others, but to change a life forever. This work challenges one emotionally, mentally, and physically. While I don’t often feel “stressed” at school, it is only because stress levels are so elevated most of the time, I don’t even notice. It’s only after a week or two off that I realize I’ve been in a chronic state of stress.

The teachers I know start well before 8:30 a.m. and stay well after 2:30 p.m. They love their students. They buy many of their own supplies. They use their own time to assess and plan. They take it personally when a child doesn’t do well and continually look for ways to reach students. And quite often, I see teachers come to school, day after day, worn down, but persevering because they don’t want to let their kids down.

Today, I think about the many friends and colleagues who pay a dear price every year – their own health and well-being – to make sure the important work in schools continues. I urge everyone to take care of themselves and find the balance in life that is so needed. If we can do this, we will all be better able to take on the upcoming challenges of a new school year.