Monday, September 29, 2014

From ME to WE

I was 23 when I got my first teaching job.  I won't tell you how many years ago that was, but it has been a while.

At the start of my teaching career, I was very ME-centered.  What lessons did I have planned?  How should I handle this situation?  What will these parents think of ME?  How can I get the students to learn?

It took me a while to learn that - surprise - school was not about me.  Once I started seeing teaching and learning as a more collaborative effort, I become a more astute teacher, planner, colleague, listener and motivator.  

This was a difficult lesson to learn.  It is a fairly easy trap to fall into.  "This is my class" or "I built this program" are things that almost every teacher has said or at least thought.  When this is the mindset, it creates a roadblock to success for teachers and students alike.  When teachers are ME-centered, they succeed or fail all alone.  Neither is a good scenario. 

Over the years, I learned to be more WE-centered.  WE is a much better place to be.  As a WE-centered teacher I:

Question more: Why do students like this but not that?  What might she really be thinking or feeling?  How can I understand his position better?  What is really at the heart of that complaint?  Why do others support or oppose this idea?  

Listen more:  Because - duh!

Collaborate better:  As a result of my questions and listening, I am better able to work with parents, students or other teachers to find a solution or get a job done.

Strive to understand the viewpoint of others:  While this is a thing I still struggle with, I remind myself to ask this question often: What do THEY want from me/the lesson/this school year, etc?  How can we address that need/expectation??

Respect others: When it isn't all about me, I develop respect and genuine affection for students, colleagues and parents.  It seems like a simple thing, but I am pretty sure that I didn't have a whole lot of respect for others back when I was 23.  

Helen Keller said it best: "Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much."  Internalizing this message and showing up at work with this attitude is my daily goal.  And it is a giant shift from the ME-centered place from which I started.

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