Sunday, September 7, 2014

Inspiring Colleagues

I am lucky to be surrounded by so many colleagues who inspire me. Many of my peers are my mentors, though they haven't been assigned nor are aware that I'm modeling myself after them. Here are a few: 

San Diego Area Writers Project: This summer I had the chance to be part of a month-long professional development program for K - 16 teachers sponsored by SDAWP  My peers' enthusiasm, professionalism, and willingness to share their skills fired me up big time. Plus, they helped me rediscover the joy of teaching. Each of the teachers presented a demonstration on a particular aspect of teaching. This semester, every class I've taught has been inspired by a particular demo from a particular peer. Basically, I've embedded my content into "craft" I've stolen from my colleagues. I'm standing on my SDAWP peers' shoulders in a big way. And we had great time together! Here's an "artifact" one of the SDAWP folks put together: 

Learning Community Peers: I've been involved in multiple Learning Communities, i.e. linked classes that share the same students and similar thematic objective. I've been paired with Personal Development/Counseling professors and Reading professers. Each partner has influenced me in many ways. I get to see, on a pretty regular basis, how they teach and how they approach the problems associated with teaching, This means I get to see a broader picture of what it means to be a good teacher and the particular strategies my peers employ from mulitple disciiplines. And we spend hours outside of our own classtime reviewing shared learning objectives and crafting integreated lessons. Talk about meaningful, substantive cross-traing.  My learning community peers' intellectual generosity and willingness to share certainly benefits our students' experience of community. Moreover, I get to feel part of a larger community of teachers, part of something bigger - reducing that creeping sense of isolation that leads to burnout. 

Colleagues in my Department: Yes, I'm watching you! Taking advantage of your intellectual generosity, watching to see what works, and inhlaling the "tribal knowledge" from those of you who've been around longer. Seeing your smiling faces - day in and day out, day after day - helps keep my spirit high. And the nuts-and-bolts advice you give me, explicitly or implicitly, makes my job easier. I absorb how to be a good teacher from you! Big ups to my department role models, for sure. 

The common characteristic of all my inspiring colleagues share are the habits of mind and heart manifest. Passion. Creativity. Risk taking. Resilience and flexibility. Dedication to life-long learning. Kindness without coddling. Rigor without being rigid.  

Many times I hear one of my peers voices coming out of my mouth. They've become the standard, the measuring stick I use to keep a check on myself:  What Frank would do this?  I wonder how Kellan would handle this? How would Freddie handle this? They've become my conscience. So whenever students tell me they've enjoyed a lesson or they finally liked an English class, I take that in, knowing that much of who I am as a teacher has to do with the wonderful teachers-peers in my life.