Saturday, November 15, 2014

What happens when the tide goes out?

In my educational life, there is nothing more important to me than my team. After teaching in isolation for six years, I was fortunate enough to find a PLC school. And when I mean PLC school, I mean really a PLC school. The culture that I found myself in brought me from a person who was looking at jobs outside of teaching to someone who feels complete, valued, and in a space where innovation can happen. It was a game changer.

Over the past three or four weeks my team has been riding a pretty big high. We have been doing good teaching and our students have been in the driver seat of their learning. We are feeling good about ourselves.

Then this week happened.

Specifics are not important, but my team was hit with three significant setbacks. All of the setbacks made us question our worth. The supports we relied on didn't just crumble; they disappeared. These set backs were the perfect combination of professional and personal. They happened in our professional lives, but they called into question what we thought of ourselves. It was bad.

So, my teammate looked at me, through recent tears, and said, "What happened?" I replied, "Well, the tide went out."

Alright, now what?

As with most of my plans, I think there are three things we need to see as next steps. We need to:

  • Keep our attention focused on our kids.
  • Continue to rely on our team.
  • Do our best teaching.

We need to keep our attention focused on our kids.

I will speak only for myself, not my team, from now on out. When conflicts arise and adversity comes and sits on my couch for a day or two, I have the tendency to think about myself more than usual. Thoughts like,:

"Why is this happening?"
"I can't believe they would do that."
"This makes no sense to me."

What I should be doing is thinking things like,:

"It's not really that bad."
"You can make it through."
"Quit worrying about yourself."

Taking the focus away from me feeling sorry for myself, and focusing on the most important people related to your job will help that tide to come back in a raise your spirits. Invest yourself in those who look to you for consistency and trust. Even though, sometimes, our students let us down, you must understand they are learning more than just reading or math or music. They are practicing being humans. Let them fail, but never let them feel abandoned.

 We need to continue to rely on our team.

When the tide goes out it can be very easily replaced by negativity. This must be avoided. In these situations, be the person who pushes positivity. Be the one who reminds your team that you are still a team. Remember who that person is without the cloud of disappointment.

Continue to rely on your team.
(That sounded like a pep talk, Mr. Barner.)
That's because it is.

We need to continue to do our best teaching.

I have to be real honest, earlier in my career, if I was disappointed, if I was mad, or if I was just not feeling it, I would not do my best teaching. I would let my mood affect the quality of teaching I was doing. This behavior was terrible. I'm embarrassed.

Over time I found out that if in those times, where I was just not feeling it (for whatever reason), I would teach harder, I would feel better. I found that if I really threw myself into the teaching I was doing and the connections with my students, the tide came back in much faster than if I decided to take up permanent residency at Captain Crabbypants' House of Irritation.

If you focus on doing your best teaching rather than the circumstance, you will realize what is important in your educational life and what is just a phase. But, most importantly, remember that these kids only get 2340 days of public education. Don't waste it.

Your comments are welcomed and encouraged,

Dane Barner


  1. So tough to keep yourself from getting stuck in self-worry/pity when that tide goes out. We teachers tend to take these things so personally (and it is personal when you love your kids and what you do).

    I like your attitude, though. "They are practicing being humans". So important to remember that (I may post it in my room!) Focus on the kids and what they need. And focus on each other. Help each other find the positiveness and the reason to teach again.

    Here's to a new week....and a fresh start.

  2. Deb,

    So right! When we move our focus from ourselves to our kids, we can shift from what's going wrong to what's going right. I encourage you to post that in your room. I'll do it too.