By Kass Minor, circa 2017 [Present thoughts: I am pretty sure I wrote this after a heated reflection on the Danielson Framework, Teacher Evaluation, and the flatness of distilling good teaching into a series of steps that was heavy in the air a couple of years ago and probably will be always]
For you, Teacher:
This year, It’s not about a step; It’s about a state of being. A Worldview.
So maybe, step 1: Step outside yourself and look into your soul. And not just your teaching soul, but your soul soul because those two things aren’t separate.
We often ask what makes a good teacher. We study those who are deemed effective, and do our best to replicate what we see and memorialize it so we can do it again on Day 3 Lesson 5 Syllabus X.
Most educators explain a defining moment in their careers that helped them crossover the imaginary but perfunctory line of “I don’t know what the Hell I’m doing/The Kids are eating me a live” to…”I got this.” It can be sudden, powerful, decisive.
I argue that a Teacher’s defining moment is the one where they not only find themselves in their classrooms, see themselves in their classrooms–but THEY are in their classrooms. The part of themselves that sat next to their Grandmother and learned how to crochet on the plastic covered “davenport”, the self who was heart sick when their old and weary dog died. The self who is hella good at making homemade spaghetti sauce. And also the self that has learned the trajectory of literacy development in grad school, or the self who learned how to create accessible, challenging, RELEVANT goals for all students. And yet still-the self who drove by a confederate flag on their way to school every day with side-Btape terror in their head. The entirety of the imperfect, bodacious, let-me-learn-it-and-I-will-teach-it whole self finally, finally is PRESENT, and it works. Your kids are finally listening and learning from you, and you can feel it.
Because you’re not hiding, the bits of your authentic self that were stolen away from the regime of Extreme Standardized Testing, the paper version of American Ninja Warrior, YOU have surfaced, you have reemerged and you are never going away. It happened because maybe you’re older, maybe you have fallen more in love with your students, maybe you have just said “F%*$ IT!” to yourself, or even out loud, and you just want your kids to learn and walk away from school equipped with a moral complexity that will allow them to deal with the world. The best thing about this type of complex phenomena is that there is no metric for a feeling; once you feel the “I got this” you are not WAITING for anyone’s permission anymore.
Be in your classrooms. Good teaching is a state of atonement with your students and yourself. I repeat:
step 1: Step outside yourself and look into your soul. And not just your teaching soul, but your soul soul because those two things aren’t separate.