Collaborative Teaching

Goochland County Public Schools

Month: August 2017

How to Get Your Mom to Let You Jump in Puddles

Amanda Steeley, Special Education Teacher

We got home from school today and the girls asked if they could jump in puddles on the way in. No. Please just go inside, I told them. I was stressed. I’d known the entire ride home that a run was what I needed. And it had nearly stopped raining.

We went inside, I changed into shorts, a t-shirt and running shoes, and I opened the front door. It was pouring. I asked my husband if he thought I should stay home. No. You should go, he said supportively.

I raced down the road and the rain continued to pick up. We rarely see cars and I was thankful I didn’t have to explain to a hunter driving by that running in the rain was actually my intention. We also rarely see bears, and I was thankful I didn’t see one of them either…

Running in the rain made my stress disappear. It reminded me that whether I am a teacher or a student, a mother or a child, I am a small part of the world.

I am no better than the stones beneath my feet, and no worse than the life-giving air that I breath. I am no more permanent than the falling drops of water on my face, and no less grounded than the trees around me. I am important, by my importance does not override my humanness.

And for me, in that moment, I felt better. I will always be teaching and learning, mothering and growing, so long as I continue to be.

As I splashed down our driveway back up to our house, I realized I couldn’t withhold this joy of being out in the rain. And so I leaned in the front door and beckoned the girls to get their rain boots on and come out to jump in puddles.

In or out, Mama, my eldest told me, referring to the wide-open front door.

Out! Come out with me!

And with that, we all went out to play in the rain, jump in the mud, and just be. Isn’t this the best night ever? My youngest asked me when we went inside. Yes. Of course it is! Rather than be overcome with the challenges of life, we were given a special opportunity to enjoy life’s gifts, and we did!

***

How does all this relate to collaborative teaching or co-teaching? I’m not sure that it does any more than it relates to any profession: We have to come to work ready every day, and we need to find ways to destress in order to share our gifts. In order to take care of others, we must first take care of ourselves, and only with practice will we truly know what that means.

How Do You Find Balance at the Start of the School Year?

Amanda Steeley, Special Education Teacher

This morning, I seriously considered exercising. I could go for a walk – maybe walk my parents’ dog – but I decided against it. This afternoon, the students will be coming for Back To School Night and I want to feel fresh and ready. But I knew I needed to do “something.” So then I considered meditating, which really amounted to trying to think about nothing… and then eating a cheese sandwich instead. I almost landed on the idea of going in to work early, and then I remembered that I could write.

Yesterday, we had a Being a Writer* refresher – a small group of teachers reflecting on our practice as teachers of writing but also as writers ourselves. We talked about the importance of authentic writing experiences, free of judgment and critique, to develop the young writer. We didn’t focus on creating writers as publishers of text, but as processors of feelings in a diversely complicated world. While I went to the training hoping for direction on teaching mechanics, I’m thankful that wasn’t our focus.

My dad, Tony Emma, hanging out with the late, great, king of gospel music, Andrae Crouch (circa 1983)..

Writing mechanics certainly wasn’t my dad’s focus when he wrote songs on whatever scrap of paper he could find. He used writing as a form of expression and his songs reflected the joys and struggles in his own life. He was talented enough to put his words to music using the piano, and brave enough to share them with those around him. As such, he inadvertently modeled the power of being a writer for his children.

I’m thankful he took these risks. Without him, I might not even consider that writing could help me during the yearly celebration we call the start of the school year. The emotional charge of this time of year for teachers is unique, and although this may sound absurd, I can liken it only to preparing for my own wedding. It is a time when excitement and hope and energy are as prevalent as the anxiety that often quietly plagues our teaching population. There are so many tabs about to be unceasingly opened in our brains. How do we quiet our minds without neglecting our duties?

I don’t think there’s a perfect answer. I think part of it is accepting that we won’t always be the person we hope to be. For me, my fear is that I will give all my kindness and love and energy to my school family and be short and irritable with my family at home. And really, it’s more than a fear. It’s a reality. It’s going to happen sometimes. And maybe that’s ok because it teaches my own children that you don’t have to be perfect to do great things – you just have to consciously care about your actions.

Teachers, what do you do to find balance at the start of the school year? Where do you draw energy from? Where do you find calm? I would love for you to share your thoughts below. I know I’m not alone in this and am grateful to be in a profession where the support of my colleagues is vital fuel.

*For more information on Being a Writer, click here