The hawk lazily circles over the running river. Butterflies flit across the path and bees are busy pollinating colorful, majestic wildflowers. Morning walks, ping pong tournaments and deep conversations over wine with like minded colleagues. Typical summer vacation for a teacher, right?
NOPE! I am deeply immersed in my summer CSETL retreat and while all those things are certainly true of my environment, this is a week of hard work and deep introspection. I celebrated some great success in writing last week: a powerful three-day writing workshop, the launching of my blog, the creation of a model to integrate writing into the content areas. This week – dissonance!
I have spent the past year researching and exploring literacy in an attempt to answer the question “What does it mean to be literate in social studies?” As a social studies teacher, I grow increasingly concerned with what I see in our classrooms. As I have mentioned here before – the TEST seems to drive everything we do. We eat, sleep, and breathe those assessments. We give up solid instructional strategies and our very passions, the reasons we entered this profession, for the narrow focus of preparing our students for this small moment in time. And while I tend to push teachers into thinking about a different way to practice their craft – it was pointed out to me today that I have fallen victim to the same trap.
I have spent this past year writing and rewriting and rewriting again the rationale and outcomes for a professional learning experience investigating literacy with the TEST sitting smack dab in the center of it all. That’s not what I intended, nor is it what I want to have happen at the end of my time with teachers. But somehow, I lost my focus and felt compelled to lure teachers in by dangling the carrot of the test in front of them. False advertising? You betcha! And the guilt associated with my religious upbringing is now weighing heavily on my mind.
So – I need to find me. What are my passions? What have my teaching experiences taught me? Why do I think what I do is worthwhile? That will make my work compelling to others and help me find other passengers for this journey.
Confucius, one of the world’s most powerful teachers, said “words are the voice of the heart.” Our voice is the key component to making our writing persuasive, provocative, and powerful. It took a conversation with a colleague I respect and a man I have grown to admire to make me seek my true voice. What will it take to help our students find theirs?