Posted in Education, Professional Development, Teaching

Being Open-Minded When New Things Come Our Way

I’m a creature of habit.  I sit in the same chair in my school’s dining hall for every meal.  I park in the same spot almost every day.  I have a daily routine that I can’t change.  Trying new things and taking risks has always been challenging for me.  However, as an educator, I need to be flexible and open to new ideas.  I also need to model this attitude for my students.  I’m getting much better as I age, much like fine wine and cheese.  But, I do still have many “miles to go before I sleep.”

At the end of the last academic year, we had some closing faculty meetings to wrap things up for the year. During these meetings, a new professional development and review protocol was introduced and discussed.  Now, to go back in time a bit for context…  Last September, I was told by the Dean of Faculty that we would be moving to a PLC model of professional development during the coming year.  That excited me.  The idea of working in a small group composed of teachers from different discisplines made me giddy like a kid in a candy store.  Imagine meeting twice a week to review lesson plans, unit plans, and each other’s teaching so as to help support each other as we grow as educators.  That made me so happy.  Then, I find out that we are actually not doing that.  Instead, we are moving to a system in which only a handful of faculty members can be reviewed and receive feedback.  What about the rest of us?  How are we suppossed to grow and develop?  Plus, the whole system sounded like jumping through a series of hoops.  It didn’t sound collaborative to me at all.  I was very dissapointed and a bit angry.  What happened between September and June?  Going into summer vacation, I was mad and not looking forward to this new professional (un)development system.

Then, September came and faculty meetings began once again like the swinging of a pendulum.  Sure, I was still a bit upset about what was to begin this year, but also happy to begin a new chapter in my career as a teacher.  New students, new classroom furniture, and a new co-teacher.  Bring it on!  As a department chair, I attended a meeting that outlined the new ITIP professional development system.  I wanted to be optimistic and open-minded.  So, I attempted to release the negative energy that filled me like hot air in a balloon, but of course, there was still some residue left behind.  As more information about this new program was discussed, I started to change my thinking.  Hey, this sounds pretty good, I thought.  I can get behind this.  It’s like a discussion and conversation about teaching.  The members of an ITIP group will meet several times over the course of the year to discuss the teacher’s teaching and methods.  We’ll also share ideas and talk about new teaching practices.  That does seem sweet.  So, the meeting finished and I was no longer angry.  Instead, I was excited to be a part of something new and different.  Yes, I know it’s not what I wanted, but as the Rolling Stones once sang, “You can’t always get what you want.”  But, I am getting what I believe will help me grow as a teacher while also helping my peers grow as teachers.  Nice!  I like it.

So, as I did a mental 360 transformation regarding professional development at my school, I was also reminded of the fixed mindset many of my students will bring into the classroom in just a few days.  I need to model flexible thinking and a growth mindset.  I need to help my students realize how fun writing and reading can be.  I want my students to love solving problems in STEM class and trying new things in their other classes.  The power of positive thinking and a growth mindset is amazing.  I feel as though I can take over the world now.  I know that I can definitly help my students to grow while inspiring them to be the best version of themselves possible.  So, my message to teachers as the new school year begins is, “Be open to new ideas and possibilities, even if at first they seem ridiculous and unnecessary.”

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Author:

I teach sixth grade at Cardigan Mountain School in Canaan, NH. I'm currently ensconced in my fourteenth year at this small, independent boys' school. I love engaging students in relevant and hands-on learning. I was nominated for the NH Teacher of the Year Award in 2016 by a parent. While I love education and guiding students, my first passion is my family. I have a wonderful son, Jeffrey, and a beautiful and intelligent wife, Kim. I couldn't be happier. Every day is the best day of my life.

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