Thursday, January 21, 2016

At my old school...

Since 1994, my career has taken me through several incredible schools!  Every school had some great teachers, passionate about their students and passionate about excellent education.  Every school also had some that were not so great.  I have also been a part of a few campuses that didn't fit me too well. Most of those loved status quo rather than continuous improvement.  It is probably safe to say that I wasn't a fit in their eyes either!

Regardless, every campus had strengths that deserved to be shared.  One campus truly took care of the whole child.  Students were little humans above all!  Another campus utilized data to drive instruction better than NASA.  One campus blew me away with their constant innovations and collaboration.  

Within classrooms, strengths were everywhere.  One teacher made math journals come to life.   Another teacher constantly pushed the edge of higher-level thinking with her students.  Yet another caught the heart of every single student.  One made excellent learning look so gloriously simple yet it was always engaging and challenging!  Another truly gave ownership of the classroom to her students.  Strengths could be found on every campus!

We all know that educators are the best of borrowers.  Some say we are the best of thieves.  We love taking great ideas from other teachers, giving them a little remix, and making them our own!  And when we do borrow or steal, we gladly give credit to the giver.  It isn't about credit, it is about doing something that improves learning.

So what happens when someone new comes along?  A new teacher joins a campus after success in another school, another district, another state, or even another country?  New teachers bring their own strengths and experiences.  They bring their own biases and opinions.  They also bring their own assumptions and their own gaps in knowledge.

When the new teacher models something that the campus considers to be new and wonderful, teachers copy it and use it.  We borrow that bit of goodness and make it our own!  We may ask questions about it and seek to learn more.  We may share our successes with others and give credit to the newbie.  After all, better is better, and better is worth sharing!

The new teacher probably has questions too.  The thing is, questions from the newbie are often met defensively.  Folks that have been around for awhile often see these questions as derogatory.  The newbie asks, "Why do we do it that way?  In my old school..."

A process may work just fine in the new place, but the previous place used a process that was extremely effective.  If the new teacher simply puts the better process into action, others copy it and love it.  If the new teacher questions the new school's process, it is often seen as negative.  Why?

Each one of us is a product of our experiences.  I am the educator that I am because of my experiences.  My learning experiences, my teaching experiences, and my life experiences made me the person I am.  Same for you.  Same for your school.

If it is your goal to wake up today and be better than you were yesterday, don't be defensive when new folks ask why something is done a certain way.  Instead, ask yourself the exact same question, "Great question!  Why exactly do we do it that way around here?  Do you know a better way that we should consider?"

When someone says, "At my old school...," don't roll those eyes.  Instead, ask questions and see if there is something in that story worth borrowing.  If your new person has ideas worth stealing, be grateful for all that is offered, whether they offer it by showing you, or they simply ask you why something is done a certain way.

When someone asks, "Why do we...," it probably means there is a suspicion that a better way exists.  If someone says, "Maybe we should...," it means the suspicion of a better way is strong. When someone questions the processes, see it as a great opportunity to question them too!  When someone says, "At my old school...," listen with open ears and an open heart.  You might just find your own improvement!

Tomorrow, I will add a post with the same message.  I wrote two and could not decide which one to post!