Each summer I find myself signed up for professional development sessions. I am totally psyched about them in March, but come mid-June, I just want to sleep and sew and crawl into my personal quiet space where I can heal. Teaching is hard on the mind, body and soul. Luckily, having the attention span of a gnat, it doesn’t take long before I emerge and start reading and writing and reflecting and of course, attending professional development sessions. Through this cycle, I eventually come away with an area of focus for the next school year. For example, 2015’s focus was on student thinking. I worked on strengthening meaningful mathematical discourse among learners as my students built and rebuilt mathematics conceptually. The many algorithms installed by well-meaning parents and past teachers were eventually understood. In 2016, all of my professional development had the common thread of intentionality. Instinct and reaction were insufficient. Every assignment, activity, question and comment is to be crafted with intension. The theme heard loud and clear in 2017 was about being vulnerable as teachers. Just as I want my students to take risks as they explore and problem solve, I too must stretch outside my comfort zones and take risks in my teaching-practice. Also, both in and out of the classroom, be brave and talk openly about race, gender and inequities. None of my themes are ever perfected, but significant progress is made and now these themes are part of who I am.
I sensed early that this year’s theme is going to be about self-care. I got hints as I saw my friends on strike in West Virginia and Oklahoma as they advocated for themselves, their students and others. The Me Too movement is about self-care and advocacy. Students organize and march for stricter gun laws, advocating for themselves and safe schools. These were all early clues.
Then Julie Reulbachspokeat Twitter Math Camp 2018 (#TMC18) about being teacher-leaders, and, oh, so much more. The theme was sealed. Self-care it is. A big part of self-care is liking and respecting myself. I am good at some things and I work hard to improve what I am not yet good at. I am reliable, honest, caring and confident and it is not bragging to say so. I love my students and I love my job and it is time to love myself. I am enough. Everyday!
Realizing a theme for each year first came about by accident. I happened to notice ideas recurring over certain periods of time and I started making connections among what I was reading and hearing and noticing. Now, I actively look for the coming year’s theme without forcing it. Having a central focus helps me when I find myself flailing in the middle of October and when panic sets-in in March. These themes make me who I am: a work-in-process making progress. Discovering my new theme is how I prepare mentally for a new school year. I still have to set my room up, plan my first couple of weeks, rewrite my syllabi, and finish making my first-day-of-school outfit, but I have observed my custom.
Have a great school-year everybody!!