I have been staring at a blank page for some time trying to figure out how to frame what I want to say. TMC18 has come and gone, but the energy that fuels the participants lasts far longer than the four days of the conference. The ideas that are planted during those four days spark enthusiasm and give new life to tired souls. I do not want to dampen any of that enthusiasm but want to throw in just a note of caution.
I have now taught for 24 years and the 24th was, by far, the most difficult. For whatever reason, there was more negativity from both parents and students this past year to the point that I questioned whether I wanted to continue teaching. Although a number of teachers had to deal with these storm clouds, I think I felt it most because I do things differently. I spiral my curriculum and my homework, I don’t teach from the textbook, I implement the elements of a thinking classroom. I do these things because I truly believe that they have a positive impact on my students’ learning. But not following the pack means that difference gets pointed to as the reason for any issues. And as much as I wish I could let all the negativity wash off like water off a duck’s back, I can’t. I take things very personally and felt crushed. I’ve been trying to let it go and get past it, but it all came flooding back when Julie Reulbach had everyone tweet out why they are a great teacher. All I could think is “I’m not” and I sobbed through most of her keynote. I have great friends who have told me that I am good at what I do, but the seed of doubt that has grown over the past year is hard to dismiss.
So here is my advice. Don’t try to do ALL the things. Choose your #1TMCthing and dive in but if you are making substantial changes to what is considered the norm at your school, make sure you have a support system in place first. Knowing that someone has your back is empowering, just as finding out that no one really does is heartbreaking. Set yourself up for success and don’t forget that you’ve got the #MTBoS on your side.