Some FL teachers returned to work last week and some this week. If you’re friends with any in real life or on social media, you know that it’s not a day that most look forward to. (Especially with our ridiculously short summer this year.)
However, for some…eh, hem Indi-ED teachers…we couldn’t be more excited! Truthfully, this is the most enthusiastic I’ve ever been to begin a school year and I have had maybe a handful of days this summer that I was not working and preparing.
So beyond the obvious, what makes this year so different?
As we began our INTENTIONAL planning last week (yes that’s one of the differences) I found that it was some of the most productive planning days I’ve ever had as a teacher and here’s why.
What we DID NOT do…
1. We did NOT WASTE TIME
No one told us where we had to be at a certain time for a meeting that had absolutely no relevance to us or our students. No one made us review commonsense procedures that we’ve been doing to full fidelity for multiple years in a row. No one was berating us or giving us new checklists because of some newly mandated procedures. We did not spend time looking for furniture or trying to fix a copy machine or fighting for supplies in the supply room. (I could go on.)
What we DID DO…
1. We DID focus on OUR STUDENTS, REAL LIFE EXPERIENCES, & the IMPORTANT THINGS in LIFE first
We started by thinking about our students and the input that their families have already provided. YES, we KNOW our students already and that’s why INTENTIONAL planning is DIFFERENT and so POWERFUL. We didn’t just think about math topics or assessment scores. Instead, we thought about how we could tie math topics into things that were happening in the real world and that were of interest to our students-what a concept?!
(Disclaimer, these pictures were definitely staged to cover student’s names and does not include all of our students or our ideas, but we thought they may help you visualize.)
And get this, we didn’t even start discussing how we were going to teach the content until we had decided on how we were going to teach them REAL LIFE CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT! (I can hear all of the teachers reading this sarcastically gasping in shock.) But it’s true and I’m not talking about how to sit quietly in the cafeteria as a ‘social skill’ but for example, the focus of our first book is how to have a positive mindset when approaching life and will be something that we can always refer to.
3. We DID TRUST one another and treat each other like PROFESSIONALS
We had different ideas but we value that diversity in our students as well as our staff. Knowing that we all come from a caring and capable place, are here for the right reasons and respecting that, allows us to model the same values that we want for our students. The intention is to have our staff feeling inspired to be inspiring. It’s really just that easy.
I don’t think I can accurately describe how uplifting it was to INTENTIONALLY plan by simply focusing on what was right for our students, but that alone created an atmosphere of positive opportunity.
As I sit here comfortably working on a carpet, with my shoes off, (yes teachers can work differently too) looking up at our family photos (excuse the non symmetry – math concept – we’re still adding a few more) I am fully appreciating the reality of what is.
In addition, their first unit is going to be a leadership unit that asks them to not only investigate what makes a quality leader, but to actually meet and interview leaders for themselves, and to set up a plan for what type of leader they’ll be this year as they ACTUALLY LEAD projects themselves. Yes, real 21st century skills that will help them in life and we don’t have to be done teaching those skills in the first 10 days of school. (Yes, parents that’s the time that is usually allocated for those types of things.)
2. We DID remain FLEXIBLE, POSITIVE, & REALISTIC
Did it storm so badly one day that we decided to do what was safe and best for us as real life humans and plan from home? Yep!
Did we plan and then come up with a better idea that made us rework the original plan with no judgment? Yep!
Did we knock out an entire year’s overview and our first month’s detailed plans in one day knowing that they may very well change as our year progresses? Yep!
We are surrounded by genuine support and have no limitations.
If I compare my back to school week this week vs. the weeks of the past, I can see it in the results already. We stayed longer. We worked harder. And we were more productive. I guarantee that will have a positive impact on our students.
Seems to match the motto for the year.