What Keeps You Inspired?

In the throes of a winter snow storm, progress reports, parent conferences, state testing and the flu season, imagine what might have inspired these comments:

“This was totally worth giving up two weekends!”

“This was fabulous . . . we lost two weekends in January and it well worth it! Thanks!”

“We are inspired and empowered.”

Well, it wasn’t a ski trip to Vail, or a mid-winter vacation to sunny Florida.  This was a group of 20 teachers from Murch Elementary in Washington, DC, who chose to spend two full weekends taking Responsive Classroom II! I was so inspired by them and by their enthusiasm and willingness to engage in learning at one of the busiest times of year.

What I’ve come to understand is that good teaching is inspired and passionate.  When teachers come together to learn and put themselves in the role of learner, they develop empathy for their students, and the adult learning community is strengthened.

One of the teachers shared an insight that sparked learning for the entire group.  She said she had always appreciated how Morning Meeting could be fun, focused on learning, and help children get to know one another, but until experiencing Academic Choice for herself, she did not realize that Academic Choice lessons also have the potential to strengthen students’ relationships.

Jane Nelsen has a great quote about discipline, “Where did we ever get the crazy idea that in order to make children do better, first we have to make them feel worse?”  I think we could say something similar about learning in general, “Where did we ever get the crazy idea that fun and hard work are mutually exclusive?”

The teachers I just worked with in D.C. worked hard and had fun during their RCII course. They left with great enthusiasm for implementing what they’d learned and sustaining the connections they’d made with one another. I asked them to name some specific ways they might do that, and here are some of their ideas:

  • Spend dedicated grade-level time together to plan how they can better integrate more academic learning goals in Morning Meeting.
  • Develop a resource library of activities, greetings, energizers and Academic Choice lessons to share.
  • Gather interested teachers together once or twice a month to share challenges and successes and problem-solve issues that arise.
  • Invite the assistant principal and other administrators into the classroom to observe, and to provide encouragement, support and feedback.
  • Invite special area teachers and other staff members to join classroom Morning Meetings.
  • Create shared visions for common spaces and routines (hallways, cafeteria, and recess).
  • Consider reading Solving Thorny Behavior Problems and using the text as a faculty book study.
  • Get into each other’s classrooms to observe, and then reflect with colleagues.

What are you doing to inspire and sustain your enthusiasm for teaching and learning at this mid-point of the teaching year?

Babs Freeman-Loftis is a Responsive Classroom consultant and coauthor of Responsive School Discipline. She was assistant head of the lower school at the University School of Nashville for nine years.

Tags: Middle of the Year, Professional Community, Professional Development

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