Ramblings From A Train in Germany

Going through my notes and reading from the Summer of 2018:

img_2038As I sit here typing this, my husband and I are on our last leg of our journey through Europe. We have been exploring France, Brussels, Germany, and Austria for the past 2 weeks and are now finishing with 6 cities in 6 days. That includes going back home through NYC. Needless to say my brain is both fried and also ready for something new. Luckily I have school to now look forward too.

While we have been traveling I have been reading lots of great teacher books and getting to see and experience things I want to take back to my classroom. These have all combined into some random thoughts and ramblings.

Take Pride

This one is for us teachers. We need to consistently take more pride in what we do. There are tons of people out there already who look down on us for being teachers, and we need to show them that we are proud of the profession we were called to do. We did not choose to be teachers because we couldn’t do anything else, but because we wanted to help shape the future generations.

Be proud that as teachers as continually choose to learn. Although there are many times we have to go to this professional development or that, we also choose to expand our knowledge by doing optional PD. Many times we pay for these workshops and courses ourselves, showing even more how important they are to us. Would you get as much satisfaction from a workshop or conference if your district made you go? Yeah they might pay for it, but you would feel obligated and would probably not get as much out of it. I know I wouldn’t. Part of the experience in our continual learning is doing it for us, not for anyone else or because someone said we had to. We are learning because we want to learn and that is the mark of a great teacher.

Try and Fail

Students try and fail all the time, and it sucks for them, but we continually tell them that it is ok. Why don’t we tell ourselves that? Why can’t we show the students how it looks to try and fail? Part of growing in your profession is the ability to constantly try new things. I experienced this, this summer during my level 3 course. We had to write and try out new lessons in front of our peers. I was more nervous about trying out new lessons in front of other teachers than I would have been in front of students who don’t know any better.

One problem I see in myself and with others is the need to be the picture perfect teacher. The teacher who’s room looks like Pinterest and everything they do can be Instagramed and shared with the world. I fall into this trap all too often, and I constantly have to tell myself to knock it off. Not everything I have to do, has to be perfect. No one is documenting every minute of every hour of my day. I can try new things in my classroom and if they don’t work the only person who knows is me, and maybe the students depending on how spectacularly I failed. Maybe I’ll not only try posting about my accomplishments, but also my failures. That’s what is great about professional learning networks, sometimes, they have been there and can cheer you on, give you support, and even offer up new ideas on what to try next time.

Sit at the Front

Teachers you need to sit at the front! I have not seen this phenomena happen as much in the Orff Schulwerk workshops that I have attended, and that might be the nature of the Orff learning process or jumping in and just doing it, but it has happened sometimes. Teachers are choosing to sit at the back and not participate. As teachers weren’t we the ones growing up who sat at the front, raised our hands to answer questions, and all around loved school?  What happened to those little versions of us, don’t we want to still learn?

I think the problem has become that people are scared of sitting in the front and making a mistake. We can’t be afraid to participate just because we are afraid to make mistakes. Mistakes are good, they are how you learn what works and what doesn’t. If everything goes perfectly all the time you are never going to learn what might be better. As my next section might suggest…make mistakes! Just chose to sit at the front!

Make Mistakes

It seems like my theme for the summer has been to embrace the mistakes. My name is Allison and I am a perfectionist. It is hard for me to be ok with making mistakes. My husband knows that I don’t like to get into situations where I might end up looking stupid and like I don’t know what to do, sometimes I literally am in the verge of a panic attack. So coming to grips with this happening in my professional life has been and will be a challenge moving forward.

I want to be a good role model for my students and so I need to show them that it is ok to make mistakes. That is how we learn. On my recent trip to the Studio 49 factory, Herr Becker, the owner of the company, said “Orff Schulwerk is not about mistakes, it is about the experience of learning through them.” When he said that I was like, Wow! He is exactly right. It is not about the end result or about the mistakes are along the way it is about the experience the students get in getting there. That is where they learn. They will make mistakes every day, and so can you.

Be Creative

This rambling comes to you from reading Teach Like A Pirate, in which Dave Burgess dedicates large sections of the book, if not the whole book, to being creative. Burgess writes about how everyone can be creative, it depends on how much you need to work at it. It is a skill that everyone possess, just some people choose to work harder at being creative so then you hunk they are more creative.

I know a few of my colleagues who would say that they are not creative. They talk about how creative I am and they can’t do the stuff that I do. But I don’t believe them. I think they could be creative if they just invest some time and energy into thinking and working creatively. I find that creating new and interesting ideas for my classroom not only keeps the sparks alive for me but also keeps it alive for my students. They know that music class is going to be interesting and engaging because I am interested and engaged in what we are doing.

One of the ways I have found to work on and home my creative craft is finding the time of the day that I work at my optimum creativeness. I read once about famous composers, writers, and politicians who would work at odd hours of the day because that is when they were able to generate their best ideas. I can’t work at 2am and sleep from 10-5, it’s just not possible in my world, but I did find a time that I work best. My prime time for creative work is from 6-10am. This is great during the school year as I am up and off to work during that time anyways. Maybe when I need a little extra time of working on school things I might get up extra early to fit them in before heading to school, that way oaks sure I am working within my window( unfortunately my plan time at school does not fall into this time frame). I will also wake up between 6-7 on the weekends, make some coffee and sit with my dogs and do work until the late morning. I find myself working harder and more efficiently during this time. This is one of the ways I continually practice being creative. 

Now that I have sufficently rambled about different aspects of teaching, I will leave you to contemplate your own career and how you might make a positive  change in it, as I am hoping to do with mine this year. I am going to go back to looking out the window of my train, as we cruise next to the Rhine river I think I can spot some castles up on the hills.


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