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Working Our Way Out

I like this title, but it might be a smidge misleading. If I hadn't written this post, and I saw this title, I might assume it's about how educators are over-worked, over-expected, over-overed, and that's why we are leaving the profession by the droves.

While some (maybe all?) of that might be true, unfortunately that's not what this piece is about. This piece is about the power of drawing upon your personal experience, THEN turning to your PLC (professional learning community) or team for support, collaboration, and guidance. There are a few other circles involved but I really don't even want to focus on those because part of our collaboration crisis is that we jump over our colleagues (aka, PLCs) and run straight to our search engines and principals to hope to find answers out there. Outside of ourselves. Outside of our classrooms. Outside of our colleagues.

I was working with a team the other day, and as we reflected, I drew a quick image of these circles on a piece of chart paper. Smack-dab in the middle is you, me, self, the teacher/leader/coach/whatever your role. As a group, we talked about the tendency of their teachers to turn and run to the next new idea, all of time, and then there was no real way to pause, reflect, or get as James Clear says 1% better in their existing practices. There was little refinement of strategies or tools, but rather, just a jumping to the next, next, next.

In this re-created image, we focused on the power of the PLC being the next inner circle--before coach, admin, and independent searching.

Because as we started to discover, I guess we ARE working ourselves out of this profession in part through our incessant searching, Googling, and seeking of answers outside of ourselves, our students, and our colleagues. It can all become pretty exhausting.

I know there are new strategies, research, and developments in our field that we should utilize. Make no mistake: I'm not advocating for routinely using the same lessons from 15 (or even three) years ago. There needs to be continual curiosity around what works (and why) and what does not work (and why) for our students. Adapting teaching methods to meet the needs of our students is absolutely needed. What I'm suggesting is that we are exhausting ourselves in the seeking when perhaps if we could pause, draw on our experiences, draw on the experiences of our colleagues, and actually brainstorm--we might feel energized (and closer to choosing the best viable options).

Our culture is rich with examples of ways we can improve our lives by adding something to them. There is this feel that something is always missing--and we'd better do our due diligence to find it. Whatever IT is.

And I suppose what I'm saying is that we need to do this work, this seeking, more from the inside out, rather than the outside in.

I don't have anything against Google (I love Google. I use Google all the time, and it empowers me to find answers that I can find for myself and when I do I feel super smart and capable. Thank you dear Google).

I do, however, believe the more powerful resource are the people around me. I believe the most powerful resource for a brand new teacher is another teacher. Even more powerful than the coach (which I've been) and the administrator (which I've been). The colleague, the PLC member (which I've been) is the most important resource for another teacher.

But are we creating systems where this is crystal clear to everyone? It's easy to think that we are, but then our practices demonstrate otherwise.

We drew these circles (without the pretty colors) on chart paper, and I'd ask your own teachers to do the same. We're not wrong for independently researching or curiously seeking answers--we just need to realize the valuable assets that our people are--and create systems where people and collaboration are honestly valued.


Want a copy of the graphic to use with your team? Here you go! Tag me on social if you share--I'd love to hear how you're using it!

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