“What are your grateful for?”
“What brings you joy?”
I began each of the team meetings that I facilitated over the past 2 weeks by inviting teachers to consider these questions via a quick write. In our busy lives where “to do” lists pile up, reflecting on these two questions grounds me.
As a literacy coach, I am incredibly fortunate to have time with my colleagues every other month for a half a day. It is a time to come together, examine professional practices, unpack curriculum and learn. It is a time when I learn about my colleagues and discover what they really care about and what they need. Most importantly, it is a time to connect.
This year, one of our district’s goals for these meetings is to familiarize ourselves with our state’s revised learning standards. Since this is not a topic that typically generates excitement, I find myself in a position of needing to defend them. “They are such an improvement from what we had before,” I say. “They address the whole child,” I reassure. But the feeling of here-we-go- again with the pendulum swinging prevails. Why does this matter when we have papers to grade, curriculum to learn, field trips to plan… the list goes on.
While some great insights come from these conversations, I have to admit that I find them exhausting. Listening carefully, weighing when to speak and what to say, and ultimately managing the energy in the room takes a lot of energy. In addition to giving me lots of questions on which to reflect including: “How can I honor teachers in this work and help them see its relevance? I also have to ask, “How we build our resilience?” I think the second question is the more important one because if teachers are not resilient, the eyes will roll and the negativity will take over no matter what the meeting’s content.
I go back to my guide for teacher resilience, Elena Aguilar and her amazing book Onward and the workbook that accompanies it. I turn the pages and think, “Which activities might build our community and give a sense of shared purpose? What will build our resilience?” While I plan to invite teachers to delve into this work with me (it starts in May and take you through the school year), infusing these activities into our meetings frames them in a positive light.
We concluded our meeting by writing a note of appreciation to a colleague who has impacted our work. While one teacher commented “Here you go again with ‘feelings’, Krista”, when I responded, “But you feel good now, don’t you?” She smiled and said, “Yes, I do.” Moments like these remind me that no matter what our exterior says, inside, finding and naming that which gives us joy and expressing gratitude lifts our spirits.
What do you do to build your resilience? How do you encourage others to do the same? Please share!