Impact

In his post, Why Are Good Teachers Leaving the Classroom, Dan Callahan states (for him), it all came down to “impact.”  I get that…he wants to have long-lasting positive impact.  The impact of a 30-year librarian (like at our school) or our principal last year or the 30-year teacher or the beloved gifted teacher or art teacher or coach or…you fill in the rest.  I remember my PE coach from parochial school (I was sent there when the school I teach at now was just awful–way back in the 70s).  Coach Larry made us run around on a field outside of Catholic school (girls had separate classes) just like the boys (which was innovative in those days in the South and in Catholic school).  Coach Larry coached swimming, although he couldn’t swim. Coach Larry ended up working at the YMCA, where I became a member at 15 and later a fitness instructor, retiring, even.   When he retired from the YMCA (mostly because of his Alzheimer’s), he became a crossing guard right by where we live now.  He is one reason I became a teacher, stayed at the YMCA so long (I’m 22 years as an employee), moved into my neighborhood, and have fond memories of school.  He absolutely had impact.  I loved him so much because of his impact–both in and out of school.  

I agree with Dan Callahan.  The smart teacher weighs the pros and cons of leaving the classroom.  It is painful.  He writes:  “The toughest part of the decision, of course, is that layer of separation now between me and the students.”  Did Coach Larry feel that way, too?  Does he know in his afterlife how much he was loved and admired by his students, friends, coworkers, and neighbors?  When given the opportunity to leave the classroom, what teacher wouldn’t hesitate, just a little bit?  Who wouldn’t crunch the numbers of impact?  Your family.  The extra money.  The fact your job probably ends with the clock (even if it looks like more than 37 and a half hours).  The value others place on your new “outside of the classroom” position.  The fact is that many of those jobs outside of classroom do pay more (and, therefore, have a higher value).  The opportunities to move up and down the ladder (not just sideways or not at all).  The stresses that will be null and void outside of the classroom (sure, there will be new ones, but not the same ones).  Impact says it all.

Recently, a very talented teaching coworker, who now is in an instructional coach position outside of the classroom, talked with me about a few of her frustrations.  I sensed her distress and she even articulated she didn’t feel respected because other teachers commented about her not being in the classroom, as if she wasn’t busy.  I liken it to the years I spent as a part-time fitness instructor and full-time mom of three small children.  Moms who worked bitched and moaned about child care (as if I didn’t understand) and moms that didn’t work at all bitched and moaned about the pressures of staying at home with their kids.  I always felt left out and a bit angry.  I even had a few that said I wouldn’t understand.  I had the very best and worst of both positions.  As with my co-worker, she, too, has the very best and worst of being outside of the classroom.  

However, what she really is, what she really should think of herself as, is a wealth of information and experience and know how.   She is a Coach Larry.   She has taught two of my own children and countless others.  She has raised her family.  She has worked in lots of positions.  She has amazing ideas.  She has impact.

How many of us see the impact we have on others in ourselves?  How do we create a feeling of this both in and out of the classroom?  Most of us ardently want to have impact on our students, our coworkers, our children, our spouses, our friends, etc.  We want to feel appreciated, valued (both with money and kind words).  

It is through constant reflection and exploration of myself and for the new and different that I begin to see ways I can impact others positively, a way I can stay in the classroom for now, with the ever-increasing demands and really rather callous public sentiment toward teachers, teaching, and public schools.  I love to hear others perspectives on this, and I’m so glad that Dan Callahan shared his because without others, we create that “layer of separation” between ourselves and our impact.  Sometimes it feels like we’re barely keeping our heads above water.  Sometimes it feels like we are aimlessly swimming in a stormy sea.  Sometimes it feels like leaving is better than staying (and when that time comes, it will be).   In the end, it all comes down to impact.  Whether we exit the classroom or this mortal life, we are our impact.  

Black Belt Test and SOL

KidsLife matters.  Life is good.  I spent a whole summer running from one PD to another, immersed in gifted education classes and good books, like The Book Whisperer and Teaching Like a Pirate.  I learned how to participate in educational talks on Twitter and I read 75% of the SSYR books for the 2014-15 school year, along with some other really good historical fictions and YA novels.  I discovered ecofiction.  I discovered some amazing blogs, which encouraged and celebrated a teacher’s summer vacation as a time to relax and renew.  How short our time is, and how quickly it is gone.  Here we are at the brand-spanking-new school year, and my head is spinning with ideas (and, darn it, if they are different than the ones I started out with at the beginning of summer).

In the Altensee’s family, there is little time to actually relax.  There’s absolutely no time to split the proverbial infinitives.  Time matters.  Our summer started with Fred’s graduation from APUS with highest honors (and awards, too) with his Master in History.  He made a big decision to work toward imminent retirement.  We worked on editing, publishing, and marketing his book and, in fact, it’s just happened FINALLY.   We’ve been prepping ourselves for how busy August and September and October and November will be with the elections, as well as the myriad of activities that our three teenagers are involved in. There’s karate (our school) on Wednesdays and Saturdays.  There’s yoga teaching (me) on Sunday.  There’s my daily Crossfit Milk District visit (where I WOD like today with a partner or myself).  There’s dance on Thursdays with troupe practice with Blue Caravan.  Blue Caravan

I even have fallen passionately in love with paddleboard yoga.  And in these, day-to-day activities, we do renew.  I actually decompress with my own interests, passions, and hobbies.  And I just don’t know how to separate reading, writing, and thinking from all of that, because I just love them.   The teaching, the planning, the doing it myself.

The blog I’ve been following, reading, inhaling, etc. (currently my fav) is Two Writing Teachers.  I awoke this morning to plan my writing instruction for the next two weeks and ended up setting up my Edmodo class (although I learned all about Moodle this summer), a new blog (A Slice of Irresistible) for the SOLSC, and getting lots of housework done today (Saturday) so I could do my lesson plans tomorrow.   With all this training, the Common Core is making me rethink my teaching.  I’ve always wanted my students to be readers (like I am), but I also want them to be writers (like I am?).  I’ve resolved giving up the control (which many of these blogs are about) and letting the students experience what it is to be a writer.  It is messy.  It is exhausting.  It is exhilarating! It is time-consuming.  Writing matters.  Writing is good.

My SOL today involved watching my buggy bug test for her black belt, sweating and crying and getting up again and again with intensity and ferocity.  My SOL today involved the gamut of emotions from anxiety to love to pride to uncertainty to anticipation.  My mind is like my closet, stuffed full of all sorts of garb–belly dance, winter clothes, shorty-shorts, maxi skirts, fancy dresses, shoes for all occasions, and the cutaway to the master bedroom’s shower (supposedly for easy access).  I’ve folded about all I can fold and put away all I can put away, but I still have a laundry basket full of stuff to hang up or put in another closet and its not happening tonight, and that is okay.  I have a clear idea of where I want to go and hopefully won’t get side-tracked too badly, but if I do, I have a plan.

The plan is just this:  amid our day-to-day musings, our too-full plate, and our work and family obligations, there are special times, like Nina’s black belt test.  These come but once.  I’m going to enjoy them and not sweat the things I missed (certainly not the pre-first-day-of-school laundry or my dancing hafla/party).  I only have my 5th grade students for one school year.  I really want to cultivate a love of reading, writing, and learning.  Discovery and big “ah-ha” experiences don’t come all the time, and maybe they only come but once, but they are definitely the seeds of tomorrow.

The 40 Book Challenge Revisited

Yes!

Donalyn Miller

Years ago, at a professional development workshop, Ellin Keene poked fun at the creator of the overwrought and overused “Text-to-Self, Text-to-Text, Text-to-World” reading strategy. If you’re laughing right now, you know that Ellin is one of the original architects of this strategy, which appears in her groundbreaking book (co-authored with Susan Zimmerman), Mosaic of Thought.

A few years back, a woman proudly announced to me at a workshop that she was, “doing her own version of the Daily 5, but she could only get in three of them.” I imagine Gail and Joan want to know which three. I should have asked, ladies, but I was at a loss for words.

It happens; the original thinking behind an instructional idea becomes lost when it’s passed along like a game of Telephone. You heard about it from a 60-minute conference session. Your teammate attended a book study and she gave…

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