Friday, August 7, 2009

Top Five Inspired Tips

There are many resources available about getting into shape. Here are our “Top Five Inspired Tips” to get back into shape as a teacher:

5. Breathe—Remember letting out a big, loud sigh after Mental Math exercises at the Inspired Teaching Institute? Try it in your own life and it can keep you moving to the next lap.

4. Dance—Why do kids feel so much more comfortable than we do with moving their bodies? Put on some music that makes you happy and excited and let loose!

3. Find a dependable route—Find a place where you feel comfortable planning for class. It might be in your classroom; or perhaps a quiet coffee shop. Turn off your cell phone and remember how it feels to have those magical teaching ideas take shape in your mind.

2. Connect with your “Jackie Joyner-Kersee”—Jackie Joyner-Kersee was one of the top female athletes and won many gold medals for track and field in the Olympic games of the 1990s. Imagine training for a marathon with her! Connecting to a teacher that you admire will inspire you and challenge you to reach your teaching goals. You might have met him at a workshop; maybe she’s an author that you like to read. Introduce or reintroduce yourself as a fan and as a teacher with a great deal to offer.

1. Stretch—Take a few minutes to stretch every inch of your body, from your eye brows down to your tiny toe. Then reach for the solid ground beneath your feet. Reach for the height of your dreams. You are ready for a great year!

Monday, August 3, 2009

Keeping the Door Open

This summer during the Inspired Teaching Institute we were working through the question of how teachers can help to not only change their own practice, but change that of their peers as well. We discussed the typical school phenomenon where teachers close the doors to their classrooms so they can exercise freedom to teach the way they know they should, in relative obscurity.

In devising their own leadership strategies for next year, one teacher responded to this “closed door” tendency with a simple goal. “This year I will keep my classroom door open.”

That statement sticks with me today as I think about getting ready for the fall. It is so brave in its simplicity. “I will keep my classroom door open” means:

I will not be afraid to do publicly what is right for children.
  • I will share my best practices with my colleagues and not be afraid of their judgment or curiosity.
  • I will take the risk of failing publicly if the new things I try don’t go well the first time I try them.
  • I am confident in my approach to teaching.
  • I am comfortable with students’ behavior and with what people will think of them, and me, when they pass by.
  • I am setting an example that I hope my peers will follow.
  • I want to step into other open doors besides my own.

“I will keep my classroom door open” may seem to be a simple goal, but it is a huge step towards breaking down much of the norm in our current educational system. If, as teachers, we all opened our doors –imagine what synergies might emerge! Just think:

  • How much time you could save lesson planning if you collaborated more with your peers!
  • What new strategies for building classroom community your colleagues might have up their sleeves!
  • What supplies you could avoid buying on your own if you shared with other teachers!
  • How many new ways you could try to reach a challenging student if you talked with everyone in the school who knows him or her!
The list goes on.

It’s not a coincidence that wherever you find people tackling major challenges, you tend to find them working in supportive groups. Marathon runners, smoking quitters, dieters, community organizers, they all know the magic of working in numbers.

Finding peers who share your goals enables you to push through the hard times when you feel like giving up, and to celebrate your victories together when you achieve major milestones. Human beings are social creatures and we do not tend to make our greatest advancements in isolation. Why should the art of teaching be any different?