This summer I participated in a FaceBook study group of Angela Watson's latest book Unshakeable. I have really followed Angela for her entire career almost, back when she was Miss Powell and had a tiny little website. While I was student teaching and then into my first years in the classroom and now as I prepare to enter my 10th year in the classroom, I've followed her and her work.
Two summers ago, I read Awakened and did a book study on that as well. One thing I appreciate the most about Angela is that she's real--she isn't afraid to say, "you know what, I used to be like this too!" You can't get much more real than that.
Unshakeable is a book that shows you ways to be more mindful of your own thinking to make teaching truly enjoyable all the time. I don't fancy myself pessimistic necessarily, but I do think that with the ever-changing tide in the educational realm, we need voices like Angela's to show us that we ARE professional, we ARE worth it and we do know what we are doing. It is way too easy to fall into a negative, complaining trap that steals away the real reason why most of us went into the profession.
We did a chapter per day (Monday-Friday) beginning July 5 and ending today. Many groups have spawned from the Unshakeable Book Club (ie I am now part of a third grade group and a group for teachers of ELLs that came from the original group). It's quite powerful to connect with people you've never met and realize that you do all have similar issues and concerns even if you are across the country (or the world!) from each other.
It is not a secret that last year was a major disaster for me. I didn't write about it a lot here on the blog because a) I couldn't change the situation, b) I know there are people in my district who read my blog sometimes and c) it wasn't productive or helpful to complain about the situation I couldn't do anything about. The first month of the school year last year was brilliant--I had 16 students and we moved along like clockwork. It was absolutely beautiful. Alas, we lost a teacher and I gained 7 students who had not done a single academic anything in that first month of school (and several of whom were severe behavior challenges) and the rest of the year was very difficult. I had a revolving door (14 new students from October to December) and my "team" was not a team at all.
I can not tell you how many times I wanted to just walk out one day and not go back. I was tired of being the one that everyone looked at to solve all of the problems in our grade. Thank God for my resource team (resource teacher for my grade, our social worker and speech pathologist)...they saved my sanity, truly. If it hadn't been for them, I probably really would have just quit one day.
Fast forward to now. I get moved to 3rd because I was adamant that I couldn't bear a repeat of this past year in 4th grade. I LOVE 4th grade, I do, but something needed to change. Then my 3rd grade partner quit. She is having her first baby so I certainly do not blame her for wanting to be at home with her new baby! But this means that there is uncertainty with my grade level partner again. We got three new teachers to our school last year and it was not always good. I fear that will happen again. I have had some serious anxiety this past week since it was let slip to me last weekend that these jobs had already been filled internally. This late in the game that is usually not a very good sign.
Thus, yesterday I was at the lake with The Littles. And the information from Unshakeable kept running through my head. And I came to a conclusion. It really isn't my problem if my grade level parter is awesome....or isn't. Last year, they weren't. And these two people both had well more experience than I do (35 and 27 years respectively). I care about kids. It is as simple as that. My mouth has gotten me in trouble standing up for kids before and I'm good with that--I will challenge you if I think that you are doing something that does not benefit children. I won't apologize for it either. Many people don't like me for that reason. Quite honestly, it doesn't bother me a single bit. I figure if you don't like me, it has much more to do with you than it does to do with me.
That said, I AM going to be Unshakeable this year. Hopefully my grade level partner rocks and we get along amazingly well and she pulls her weight. Alas, in the event that doesn't happen, as was the case last year, it isn't my issue. I will take care of my students and do what is right for them. As much as I do care about the success of all of the children, I can't drive myself insane trying to carry an entire team again. It is something I absolutely refuse to ever do again.
I have made many notes and highlights reading through this book study and many people have shared quotes and other memes they have found that truly highlight what the book is talking about. That's my goal this year--to take care of me. I have my own students, my own kids at home, and grad school that I need to be able to focus on. I can't do someone else's job for them. I'm more than happy to offer advice and whatnot if needed but it is not my job to teach someone with more years experience than I have how to be effective in their job.
I know that mindset is going to stop on some toes this year. I'm prepared for that. I have to keep Raye happy....and frankly, last year I wasn't. I spent so much of my time worrying about what the other 4th graders were getting from their education. I can not control what other people do. Thus, I am choosing to let it go. I am going to focus upon my own students, my own goals and determine what we need to do in order to have the best year ever in 3rd grade.