It's such a stressful time for the teachers, and as much as we tell the kids not to worry, just do your best, of course they worry. Some kids express this by shutting down. Instead of responding to carefully tailored interventions, they use their best avoidance techniques.
So when I start seeing these behaviors increasing, I like to keep it real for my students and have a heart to heart with them. We've all heard some variation of, "No one is good at everything, but we're all good at something." But we need to let them know that it's possible for them to get better at something that they feel they're not good at. I let them know that I'm not good at everything either. I am pretty sure I have a learning disability when it comes to sense of direction. This affects me in various ways:
1. I'm not fluent with left and right.
2. I can't find new places easily.
3. If I do find where I'm going, I have trouble finding my way back because everything is reversed. Even something as simple as walking around a store used to be frustrating.
4. When I am facing someone, like in an aerobics class, I have trouble reversing the directions.
Does this mean I should avoid aerobics classes? Should I avoid going to new places? Do I need to go with my mom to the store so I don't get lost? Obviously not. So I've learned ways to compensate.
1. If I twitch my right hand, I can "feel" where my right is. It might take me a second, whereas most adults know instantly, but at least I'm not helpless.
2. I bought a GPS. Totally counts as adaptive technology as far as I'm concerned.
3. If I have to find my way back from somewhere, I look back often. I have a pretty good visual memory, so if I'm seeing something from the perspective that I'll be approaching, I can retrace my steps.
4. If I'm watching an exercise video and direction doesn't matter, I just do the routine completely backwards and mirror the person. I'm still getting the same benefits. If I'm learning a dance routine and direction does matter, I either face the other way and look behind me to get the instructions, or for footwork I ask the instructor to turn around.
I have learned how to function even though my sense of direction is a weakness. And I prove it to them in our school's Variety Show every year when I perform in the teacher's dance number. That's right. This introverted teacher who never had a dance lesson learned the choreography has banged out Dynamite, Beat It, Proud Mary, and Firework. It's not easy, just like reading those MCAS passages are not easy for some people. I've gotten pretty frustrated at myself during rehearsals, just like some people get really frustrated after a few practice math MCAS problems. And since I don't quit, they can't quit either.
The fact is, it's worth it to make ourselves uncomfortable, because that's how we grow. I tell them, "It keeps me involved with the other teachers, who are fun to be with. It feels amazing when it comes together and I know I've nailed it. And people in the audience have never said, 'You messed up that one part,' they just say, 'Wow, you all did so great!' Because no one's looking for perfection from anyone else in this school. But we do expect you to do your best and do a little better each time you try something."
This is the first year the teachers will be unable to perform in the Variety Show. I'm sad it's worked out that way. And I've missed having this talk with my class. But I still believe in making myself uncomfortable, on purpose, because this is how I will grow. So I'm getting ready for a new endeavor.
I'm flying off to the TPTOrlando16 Conference in July.
For the past 2 years I'd told myself, "I'm an introvert. Face to face networking is not a good investment of my time and money. I can learn from reading blogs and forums posts" But last year I ended up feeling really sorry for myself that I wasn't there. And that's when I realized I was ready to grow. I have some work to do, but I will actively be seeking ways to compensate for my weaknesses. I've collected some articles on how to network over on Pinterest. Then I'm going to look for opportunities to practice prior to flying out.
This post is a prime example of why I need help networking. I would like to invite comments to this post. I went back to revise it and looked for an opportunity to say, "If you were going to have a similar talk with your students, what would your weakness be? How have you overcome that weakness? Is there something you want to improve but need to create a plan first? Are you an introvert going to the conference, or are you on the fence because you are an introvert?" But I had trouble fitting it in naturally, so I've lumped it all into this paragraph. It's not ideal. But hopefully you're not expecting perfection either.
Shut the Door and Teach
Amber Thomas's Classroom Favorites on TPT