Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Teach Like Yourself, Part 1

Welcome to our summer book study, Teach Like Yourself: How Authentic Teaching Transforms Our Students and Ourselves by Gravity Goldberg. I don't know about you, but I am fascinated, inspired, yet overwhelmed and discouraged by teachers on Instagram and Pinterest. You'd think I'd securely know myself, beginning my 34th year of teaching! This book is SUCH a great reminder to trust yourself, teach like yourself and the impact it will have on not only your teaching, but your students' learning!
We will "meet" every Wednesday in July. You can comment below on the blog or on my Facebook page. 
Note: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. This means that I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.
Click HERE or on the image (book cover) below to order your own copy to join in this book study!
I was struck by the first page of the preface:
According to Education International (2017), 150,000 new teachers are trained each year, yet half of them quit with their first five years of teaching!  What?! Goldberg hypothesizes that "teachers nationwide are experiencing a profound loss of trust in themselves." There are a variety of reasons besides the effects of social media, such as stringent district policies or lack of engaging and appropriate materials or overemphasis on testing and accountability. A trusted friend and mentor of mine told me over 30 years ago to follow your gut instinct about what is best for kids. I still need to be reminded of this!

This book is organized with three recurring features: personal stories, research-based practices, and reflection sections. Each chapter begins with a QR code that takes you to a video with Goldberg and teachers; the videos are terrific!

Just like we want our students to take ownership of their learning, teachers need to take ownership of their teaching.  Kids can sense if their teachers are being authentic. If you think back to the teachers you had as a child, I'm pretty sure you don't remember them for a great lesson, but rather the relationship you developed with that teacher. My students love when I admit I made a mistake or when I get teary-eyed while reading a book to the class. They want to know their teacher is "real". And "real" does not mean just the highlight reel, but all the nitty gritty.
Somedays I am exhausted, trying to be "on" all day, especially during distance learning. Kids are so used to being on screens that I felt I had to be extra bubbly and enthusiastic to hold their attention. "I was confusing entertainment with engagement." (p. 12)  Wow. I had to stop and reread that statement several times. Teachers need to change the focus from being interesting to being interested in our students! That should seem so obvious, yet how often do we get off track? Learning about our students sets the tone, builds rapport and develops relationships. Donald Graves suggests the following format for methodically checking in with students:
Chapters 2-6 are organized below:
To stay focused, take a few minutes to actually think and name your core beliefs. What do you believe about how children learn best? What is most important to you as a teacher? If we are secure in our foundation, then we can always return to it.
Thank goodness when we teach, we are allowed "do overs".  Have you ever taught a lesson that you were so excited about, only to have it flop? I remember teaching about plants when I taught second grade. We grew grass from seeds, put lima beans in a wet paper towel in a baggie and hung them on our windows, we read books about plants. Yet, when I asked my class what they learned, their responses were so off base, that I sat stumped and in shock! I had to really take a tough look, examining if my lessons were for show and effect (they were; my room looked fabulous!), or if they truly took students through the scientific process (they did not). Even after more than three decades of teaching I am still learning and developing my teaching craft!
Too often, I've heard of teachers closing their doors to teach in isolation. I learn best from other teachers. Years ago, my district used to do Learning Walks.  Small groups of teachers, administrator and sometimes a parent would observe a lesson. It was a non-evaluative observation. After the lesson, all participants would gather to debrief what they observed and to ask the teacher questions. It was so scary and intimidating at first, yet I loved the process. I learned so much as an observer and I was pleasantly surprised and felt acknowledged by the feedback I received as the teacher.  We became closer as a staff, with newfound admiration and respect! You can read more about Learning Walks HERE.  

Not only do we need balanced relationships with colleagues, but also with our students. Students who feel supported by their teachers, feel safe enough to take more risks in their learning. 
When I first started teaching, my room partner invited me to conference after conference. I learned SO much from going to them! (Plus I was in heaven in the exhibit halls; I never knew all that I needed to buy; lol) Now I'm so grateful for the internet! It is simple to find professional growth opportunities to help us grow. There are still conferences and workshops, but there is also a wealth of webinars, blog posts, podcasts, articles, Twitter chats, and reading professional books (and Facebook groups to discuss these books) To teach like yourself, you need to know yourself well enough to know your strengths and areas  you want to improve; take responsibility and seek out these opportunities.
This should be common sense, but I'm the first to admit I still need reminders of this! Our students are always watching us and gauging our moods and energy levels. Teacher friends, we must put ourselves first! Drink enough water, don't stay in your room working during lunch; go to the lunch room, even if it's only a few times a week!   Several years ago, I led a book study on The Well-Balanced Teacher.  The whole premise of the book is to take care of yourself! Check out the study HERE.

I'm so excited you're joining me in this book study! Comment below: what is the hardest part for you to teach like yourself?

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