Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Inspired Teaching Institute Day 2: Where self-care and play connect

Over a tasty lunch, I spoke to a few teachers about how they care for themselves. One maximizes summer break, building relationships with other educators through professional development opportunities. They all agreed that prioritizing whatever matters to them is essential. They make sure that their loved ones and hobbies are nonnegotiable, because the rejuvenation, they said, that these can provide help them to stay balanced. In turn, their teaching is enhanced because they can be 100% present.

Complete presence is also what the Inspired Teaching Institute facilitators asked of participants for day two. A variety of warm-ups led us into the “meat” of the day, which focused on observation. And what better way to practice tuning our observational skills than playing?

Yes, playing. Turns out that some of the games that I played at school and church growing up are excellent “Petri dishes” for observing myself and others. We dove into better understanding how we learn, building upon the unique space created yesterday of peers who care deeply about students.

In the quest for improving education, it can feel like there isn’t time to take care or to note that teachers, just like students and all people, see the world in a distinctive way. A couple of participants told me that their colleagues used to joke about who will have the next bladder infection from not maintaining their own heath. At the Institute and at school alike, many teachers struggle to “stop the cop” from stifling creativity and self-care in the class.

But this second day of the course and last night’s homework led me to another question that I now leave with you: Regardless of the subject matter, how inspiring can school be—for students and educators—if teachers are so distracted by their own needs that they can’t build relationships with students and allow creativity and observation of play to catalyze change and growth?

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