Friday, August 28, 2015

Summer Growth

As I left the parking lot of my middle school in June, I couldn't leave fast enough. I was feeling drained and exhausted. So much so that the thought of September was one that felt overwhelming, and I couldn't imagine having the energy to begin another year.  There were lots of reasons that left me feeling this way. It was the first time I had ever dreaded the upcoming year. Not good.

With September beginning next week along with my first day of school, I am amazed at the turnaround in my attitude about heading back into my classroom. This summer was exactly what I needed to shake off the trials and tribulations of the past year and feel prepared and excited to get to know a whole new group of 7th graders.

These past few weeks the news have been filled with a lot of negative stories about education and teaching. They are a reminder that a lot of what made the past year difficult will still be there at the start of this year. But this summer was filled with experiences that not only allowed me to renew myself physically but also reaffirmed my own beliefs about teaching. I feel stronger, more supported and ready.

My summer began with the CDWP's Summer Institute, which grew my circle of colleagues and friends. It was the ideal way to decompress after the past year. While the idea of delaying my vacation to participate and co-facilitate professional development for three weeks might sound crazy, I assure you that it was a necessity. The writing, reading and talking we did over that time allowed me to clear out the dark clouds and remind myself about the wonderful opportunities that my teaching allows me.  I left with a confidence in my work with digital student portfolios and the promise that I would begin to pursue other colleagues in my district at the elementary and high school level in order to make my vision of K-12 portfolios a reality.

With the support of my co-facilitator Alicia, who teaches at the high school in my district, we organized a meeting with other high school teachers who were interested in utilizing the portfolio websites that were started in middle school. I was so grateful for their excitement at how they could incorporate this work into their classes this year. We began talking of how we could continue to meet and support each other during the school year. They made plans to reach out to other teachers who they thought would be interested.  While this was just our initial meeting, it was another aspect of my summer that built up the anticipation for September and erased the dread. In part because I knew our work would continue into the school year, and I am so looking forward to that.

At the same time, Becky, another wonderfully supportive colleague, reached out about how we could begin digital portfolio work at the elementary level. Becky sent out a simple tweet,

and I was immediately connected to a wonderful group of elementary teachers across my district that were excited about embarking on this journey with me. We were able to meet face-to-face yesterday and talked about all the possibilities for digital portfolios. We shared resources and were inspired by one another. This collaboration is yet another reason why I feel ready for this year and excited about our continued work together.

This summer, educators' ethics have been questioned and we have been labeled as whiners, but I offer my summer up as evidence to the contrary. The teachers I know are passionate and go above and beyond the stereotypes offered up in the media. We use our summers to recharge and finally have time to reflect on our craft. We look for ways to improve and rethink the work we do with our students. We collaborate with those that encourage our ideas and support our creativity. The connections I have made this summer are ones that have the potential to impact me for years to come. But for now I am happy to carry them with me into this year and see where it will all lead.