Monday, July 7, 2014

Thrive Week 5: Listen to Yourself

Do you have a hard time listening to yourself over the other loud voices and opinions around you? What about overcoming the fears that you have as a teacher or finding alignment between your values and actions? What tools and ideas have you used to accomplish these things? Or are you still struggling with this and would like some suggestions from your network?

We only have one more chapter to read and two more weeks of the book club. Please catch up on your reading and comments to posts (including comments to other participants' comments). Also, if you did not introduce yourself the first week of the discussion, please do so.

136 comments:

  1. Listen to Yourself:

    1. As an older teacher (57), I experience both the blessing and the burden that age brings to the teaching dynamic. One the positive side, I am very comfortable in my own skin. I've been around long enough to know that "what goes around, comes around." I've learned that education philosophies, strategies, and even definitions of best practices change. One has to rely on that inner confidence that some things work well and cross all times. One has to get beyond the necessity of having constant positive validation and reinforcement from colleagues and students and learn to trust what one knows to be true. Shakespeare doesn't change, and some strategies will always be appropriate when tackling his text.

    Consequently, there are negative aspects of being an older teacher. Many younger teachers assume (without ever having visited my classroom) that my methods are dated and lack any use of technology. Many teachers have friends and acquaintances that would love to fill my position when I retire, and wait like vultures for a hint of when that may be :)

    I recall being subjected to some very negative criticism because of an issue revolving around the teaching of grammar. The assumption was made that I used worksheets and taught grammar as an isolated component (never the truth), and I was somewhat dismissed. Later, I found great comfort in hearing MY IDEAS being suggested and validated at an National Teachers of English convention workshop. I did not, however, report this to my peers. I probably should have, but I don't think they would have changed their minds on the topic, and it didn't seem a battle worthy of an energetic fight.

    2. FEAR: Last year I sought permission from the local school board of trustees to begin a LGBT Discussion group at our school. I was not denied not approved. Absolutely NO COMMENT was ever returned to me. They were to "get back to me" after discussing it privately, but I never received either a written nor verbal comment on the subject. I will make the same request this year. I know what it is to be afraid to stand up for something that is desperately needed but that will not sit well within the small community.

    3. MUTUAL TRUST: "authenticity and mutual trust are a rarity" (page 63) This could not be more true. My biggest struggle is the one NOT to be negatively influenced by those who constantly criticize and malign the administrators. Having a moral/value difference of opinion is one thing, but the constant bombardment of criticism serves no purpose. Frankly, I'm thankful for my job, and most of my being "laughed at" comes from having an honest appreciation for the administrators, their efforts, and my employment.

    4. TOOLS: Driving to school, I meditate and pray about my hopes for the day. Sometimes this involves talking aloud about a specific strategy I plan to use; reiterating the lesson plan in my mind; or praying for patience/understanding of a particular student. On the way home, I meditate and pray about the events of the day. What worked well? What bombed? What need did I fill? What need did I discover and fail to fill? Was I true to my personal values and moral compass? Did I uphold integrity, honesty, a strong work ethic, an accepting personality? Did I interact with students in a way that focused on their importance - not my agenda? Did I make the jobs of my co-workers and administrators easier or more difficult? What did I do to create the culture? This personal reflection and spiritual checking-in is difficult to establish as a routinely included habit of behavior. Again, this is a place where my age is a bonus. I've done this for years! It's a part of who I am.

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    1. As a "younger" teacher I think I've certainly been guilty of making some assumptions about some of the veteran teachers...but I experience the flip side of that as well. As a young teacher I've felt like I've had to earn my colleagues respect for them to listen to or consider some of my ideas...both are examples of what Meenoo Rami is talking about with the Fear of criticism from colleagues (p 62) "This is also the biggest killer of innovation." We must first accept each other as professionals and overcome our fear of speaking up to achieve our goals and best serve our students together.

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    2. I appreciate your response, Krisanne. I often use my drive time as my reflection time for my upcoming lessons, prayers, and my end of day behaviors, words, performance. Additionally, I appreciate your paragraph on mutual trust. I hope others recognize the harmful criticism in their settings and not get caught up in it. Nothing good will come of those efforts, for sure.

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    3. I believe that many teachers, myself included, are inherent 'pleasers.' We work very hard to do a good job and make everyone happy. We are not comfortable stepping out of the box and speaking up to make changes. This is an area in which I need to reflect and revisit.

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    4. I like what you said about not succumbing to negative comments made about administrators. It is easier to chime in and go along than it is to remain silent or defend. I have worked in management positions and know that it is impossible to please everyone all the time. Supporting the administration and trying to see their point of view is the direction I try to take and most of the time, it works :)

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    5. Thank you for your post. I am also an older teacher (54) and I am planning for retirement in the future. Unfortunately, older and experienced sometimes is seen as "burned out" in this day and age.

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    6. Krisanne,
      I enjoyed your post, and some of your previous posts as well. I will turn 50 in a couple of weeks, and this past school year was really the first year that I felt an uncomfortable divide between some of the teachers in my school. I don't feel old yet, so I was a bit taken aback to realize that one or two of the younger teachers seemed to view me as old! I really think it is more of a difference in opinion than of age. I remember as a young, beginning teacher always wanting to hear what my more experienced colleagues had to say. Goodness knows I didn't always agree with all of them, but I did respect their experience and knew they had lived in the community a long time and I had recently moved to the community. One male teacher across the hall from me didn't talk to me once the entire first year I taught with him. Over time we became good friends and we laugh about it now. As he tells me, "I didn't bother with you until I knew you'd stick!" I would like to let the younger teachers I teach with that I admire their energy and computer skills. Some of them let me know they admire my experience and perseverance.

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  2. This chapter came at the perfect time for me because I just got the results for my AP World History classroom after my first year teaching the course. I struggle with two of the bullet-pointed ideas Meenoo Rami shares -- Fear of failure in the classroom and Perfection is the goal. I wanted 100% of my WHAP students to get a 3 or above. I barely slept for days prior to that exam stressing over whether I had covered everything and prepared them for the essays. Now I have the results, and while they are solid with the caveat that it was my first year teaching it, I feel like I failed the students who earned 2's. It's a great motivator for me as I plan for the upcoming school year, but last night I found myself guilty of what Rami mentioned on pg. 66, "We create conditions in our classes that allow our students to find resiliency and a new opportunity to learn when they fail at a new skill or task. However, we do not extend this kindness to ourselves."

    It was funny last night that it was the students, regardless of their scores, that lifted me up via Twitter! My perfectionism and fear of failure was alleviated by them because of the vulnerability and authenticity we shared throughout the school year. I was honest about the pieces of World History I struggled with, I apologized on numerous occasions when I had to reteach something because I felt like I failed them in the lesson before, and overtime we become the co-creators of the classroom and taught each other. I take no credit for this because it was a stumbled upon thing...but I had so much fun with that class this year! Entering my 5th year, I get why teacher's get burned out and leave the profession, and I agree with Meenoo that when we hide/mask our passion in the classroom we will eventually lose it. I want to be a person and teacher that embraces vulnerability...being "real" improves all kinds of relationships so why would it be any different with our students?

    Lastly, I was so thankful for John T. Spencer's profile at the end of the chapter. As a Social Studies teacher I struggle teaching the world religions, difficult topics, etc., and I always get a few emails and phone calls from parents criticizing the subject matter even though they're state standards. Teaching, like it was for most of us, became my calling long ago. I approach it with a servant's heart that is driven by my faith in Jesus. As John stated, "I screw up. I've yelled at kids. I've gotten impatient. But even here, it has been my faith that reminds me to be real, to apologize and to be grateful when students respond with forgiveness." Those AP World History students that earned 2's didn't receive college credit, and I was upset that I failed them...but the forgiveness they showed me last night further proved that they understood the value of the skills and knowledge the gained. No AP test score can take that away.

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    1. I enjoyed your post so much. You're just keeping it real! Good for you! It's okay to not have all the answers. Here's wishing you another terrific year doing what you love. :-)

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    2. I enjoyed this post too. I experienced the same thing as the Policy Debate Coach for my district, a district which had a long history of success. The pressure was intense.

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    3. We have a lot of awesome students at SHS. The majority of our students appreciate what we do for them everyday and we as teachers appreciate what our students bring to us everyday. I am sure your AP students appreciate what you taught them this year and you should take pride in what you do for our students. You challenge them and you make them think!! #KnightPride

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    4. Right back at you Sandy! #KnightPride indeed. Our students rock!

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    5. Diane and Therese - Thank you for your kind posts. Best wishes to you as well!

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    6. Tara-- I also find that I apologize if I need to reteach something or if I change up the directions to an activity before it's done. When I recognize that students aren't getting it (or are bored stiff) then I know it is time to make a change. I find myself asking students for feedback regarding which activities they like or didn't like and why and which activities they would like to do again. This has been seen as a sign of weakness by some of my past administrators, but it is a way for students to be involved in their own learning. It is important for them to know that I am not perfect and that I am really trying to do my best to be sure all of them receive the education they deserve.

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    7. Tara,
      I agree that we all want all of our students to succeed. Sometimes we want that more than they want it for themselves, and that creates a problem. As a colleague and as a mom of one of the AP World History students, I want to tell you, "Great Job!" You did your part preparing the students; students also have to do their part trying to learn as much as they can and developing good learning habits all year long.

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  3. As I was reading the chapter, I realized that I tend to stay silent and reluctant to share my ideas. In the past when I have shared, I have felt the resistance as if my ideas are not good enough to consider. I realize the feelings of exclusion and criticism have affected me, especially over the past year. I have always internally questioned new ideas or changes. In the past couple of years, I verbalized some of my questions and reservations about proposed changes to trusted colleagues. While I was trying to gain new insight I learned recently that by questioning I was labeled as negative and unwilling to change. I’m conflicted…am I the only one with questions or are others simply embracing the change to follow the “popular” trends.

    I have always worked from day one of the school year to build positive relationships with my students. Many students have a negative view of mathematics when they walk into the classroom. This is a difficult hurdle to overcome but through a positive trusting relationship it is possible. I believe finding a connection with each student builds a foundation for them to take the risks in the classroom for true learning to take place.

    During the upcoming school year we will be going 1:1. I know many colleagues and students are excited about this. I am more hesitant than my colleagues. I am doing more and more research lately. When the committee was first discussing the idea, I shared several research articles about the pros and cons. I am searching for a source or network that can help me incorporate 1:1 into my math classrooms with a purpose to improve student learning and understanding.

    The phrase “focus on the students” has helps me keep my perspective when the clouds of fear approach.

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    1. I am the tech mentor for my district and with every PD (20 minutes at high school faculty meetings) where I get to share new tech with teachers, the math department chair always raises her hand and asks, “Does it have an equation editor?” The first time that she did this I was totally flustered. I never used or needed an equation editor myself. Now it has become a prerequisite for me. I have to remember that my math teachers need that equation editor and the world language teachers need special characters and formatting. If I forget, she reminds me. Each department faces distinct challenges with new technologies. Meenoo Rami suggests #mathchat on Thursday at 8 PM EST. You might try this because you will get links to all sorts of resources. Also, you will amaze yourself.

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    2. Therese thanks for the information. I will definitely check into #mathchat on Thursday. It will be great to find ways to integrate the technology that has been used by others.

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    3. Therese, your comments about the equation editor for iPads are so true. While our learning management program, CANVAS, has an abbreviated version which has helped, it doesn't have a lot of geometry shapes and symbols. And the new Pages update made finding symbols even harder. It's been one of the biggest challenges for me because it takes so much longer to get a quiz, assignment or test together. Grrrrr.....!

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    4. I saw this and thought of you. I do not know if it will be valuable webinar or not.
      Want to Engage Your Students?
      Engage Them in the Math Practices
      Tuesday, July 15th - 3pm Eastern Time
      http://urls.ht/15P

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  4. Again, I recognize my good fortune to work with a supportive and caring administrator. In the past when I've had concerns about student performances, particular units of instruction, curriculum, or my desire to try something different in the classroom, I've always been met with helpful collaboration and support from my principal as well as my department colleagues. Being able to bounce ideas off another individual and examine a different perspective has been a tremendous help.

    I had to chuckle when reading the myths section of the chapter. It seems that once your teaching career begins, these myths are exposed for what they are. I've heard many times the axiom about not smiling until Thanksgiving. I can't help but show my emotions when appropriate. I genuinely like my students and celebrate their successes. I smile a lot and want the students to feel very welcome in my room, but to also respect the boundaries. Also, it's not with any regularity that things go as planned, either. I wish it could be that easy! And, it is okay to pursue perfection, but keep in mind that reality will most likely prevail. That pursuit, though, will produce a much better lesson than simply doing it on the fly. While administrators do have the final say in many things, I find that there is a tactful way to question certain decisions and find a common ground that will suit all parties and keep the students as the priority.

    Lastly, the end of this chapter reminded me of a terrific resource I read a couple of years ago and one that I go to frequently. Focus, by Mike Schmoker was recommended to our staff by our principal. The author does a great job of detailing for the teacher the importance of what we teach, how we teach, and purposeful reading and writing. If you haven't read it yet, I sincerely recommend it.

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    1. "And, it is okay to pursue perfection, but keep in mind that reality will most likely prevail. That pursuit, though, will produce a much better lesson than simply doing it on the fly."

      Thank you! Your thoughts echo mine.

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    2. Thanks for the book suggestion--looks relevant and interesting. Hi Therese!!!!!

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    3. I feel the same with the myths. Many of them were spoken of, but I found it impossible to not celebrate with my students. I think some of my favorite lessons from this year are ones that were unplanned and spontaneous.

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    4. Brittany, isn't it great when we have the opportunity to be spontaneous and it's the greatest thing ever? I love when that happens! I hope you never lose your spark. This is what the students love about who you are and what you bring to your lessons. Hope you have a wonderful second year. :-)

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    5. Yay for Focus! It may be my most loved PD book, one I turn to frequently when I wonder, "is this it? Is this the best option? The best decision or instructional decision? Focus reminds me that almost nothing should stop the think, read, think, discuss, think, read, think, write, think, repeat cycle.

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    6. Hi, Rhonda! How long has it been?

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  5. I loved this chapter because I feel like it affirmed what I do as a teacher. When I started teaching, I was determined to keep a stern, professional demeanor at all times to keep control in my classroom. In turn, I really did not like teaching at all! With time, I learned that being my gentle, soft-spoken self created a much better classroom environment because my students could see that I was being genuine. Also, like John Spencer, faith is the foundation of everything I do (even though I reach math). I am lucky enough to teach at a Catholic school where I can talk about my faith with my students and they can see how important it is to me.
    Also, it was good to read that it is okay to show emotion. I used to try to hide all my emotions, but this year I was going through a difficult death in the family and I found my students to be a great support system. This definitely added a more human element to our relationship and let my students see that sometimes there are more important things in life than math.
    Finally, I loved the section about preparation not equaling predictability. I used to beat myself over a lesson gone wrong, but now I see it as a chance to learn more about my students. If I could script every class perfectly my job would be pretty boring!
    I finally started to enjoy teaching when I learned to stop taking myself and my lessons so seriously!

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    1. I started a teaching position in a new school district this year and had a family death early in the school year. Talking to my students about what happened when I was away from school, and what happened with the sub while I was gone, really helped to establish a supporting foundation with them. I used to do what you talked about--not showing emotion and trying to do everything perfectly, but it cannot be done!! It is ok to laugh in the classroom and to be silly at times. As long as the students respect the limits that I have established, then we can have a good time and still learn!!

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    2. I think students are more receptive when you are "human" rather than when you try to appear perfect, as you said. One of my students told me that when he was in elementary school, he thought his teachers lived at school! Fortunately by high school, they have realized that we aren't teacher robots!

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    3. Totally agree- the kids love to hear about our lives outside of class. When I was pregnant with my second child, I let my students guess the gender of the baby. They couldn't wait until I found out and kept asking each day how I was feeling, how big the baby was, if I had names picked out, etc. Their excitement was amazing and their sadness when they realized I was going to miss the last 6 weeks of the school year was bittersweet. Of course, I brought the baby in on the last day of school to see them off for the summer :)

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    4. I agree that it is so important to share our lives with our students. It really builds community. I think one of the easiest places to do that is in the writing workshop. Sharing your personal stories not only helps to build community and trust, but it also provides a model for good writing and mini-lessons. When students see you take risks by sharing, they are so much more willing to do the same.

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    5. Katie,
      Please tell us how your conference went. You were courageous and did it! Hope it went well.
      You are right that your gentle, soft-spoken, faith-filled self is wonderful for your students and classroom atmosphere. You are a model teacher and I love observing your interactions with the students.

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  6. I learned from reading this chapter. It examined the dynamic of being a teacher in a way that is not often explored. As others have already mentioned, it was affirming. I used to read an excerpt from a book on writing that tackled voice in a personal way. It was a young student’s journal which dealt with her father’s stroke and the events which slowly led to dissolving the family farm. I would get to the part in the journal where they had sold the father’s “beloved cows” and I would start to cry. The first time I read it to students I started to apologize for crying. When I looked at my students, many were also crying. I thought I needed to be that strong, adult role model for students but quickly discovered that we validated each other’s empathy.

    I never thought about the voices that surround educators daily until I read this chapter. Maybe this is because I do a better job of tuning out the white noise of unproductive and time wasting rhetoric than I realized. My analysis of this resulted in my identification of one voice that does bother me. It is the voice of those who claim that students are incapable of skills or tasks based on only their judgment. These opinions are usually given at the point in an educational movement when their words can have the greatest negative impact. They seem to have impeccable timing. It is therefore not far of a leap to read that many teachers fear speaking up and expressing “when our voice will benefit students.” It would be far better for discourse to center on the issues that are fact based rather than subjective. When this happens, all parties seem more inclined to participate in the discourse. It is not personal because it is no longer linked to opinion. This should allow more perspectives to come into play and broaden the possibilities for the decisions that need to be made.

    For me, when you improve your practice as a teacher, you reach that point where the voices around you are not about you but rather about students and student learning. You can then filter out the inconsequential to find what needs to be used. When you can do this, then you are on your way to being an educator who is both self-reflective and a person you want to work with. You can strive to improve while learning from others because you are not threatened by them or in competition with them. It is about the students.

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    1. Therese - Your third paragraph is eloquent! Well said!

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    2. Great post! Focusing on the voices that truly matter is difficult but vital.

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    3. Wonderful post! I appreciate your paragraph about showing emotion in front of students. When I teach the novel Night, my freshmen and I cry together at some points. I think it's important for students to feel like they are in a safe enough space to show and share emotion.

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    4. This applies to more than teachers. As a related service provider I frequently have to filter through the expectations of others. Your 3rd paragraph fits.

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  7. I enjoyed reading this chapter and hearing of how the students embraced the writing project so differently when it was relevant and meaningful to them. It is easy to get into daily routines and check off tasks on our to-do lists, but our efforts should keep our students’ goals at the forefront of each decision. It is interesting to hear my own children retell high school stories or share a memory when they bump into a friend. I hope that I never lose touch with the "student view" of my classes. I share the enthusiasm of those moments shared when former students take time to send an update or reflect on one of their experiences.

    The message of this chapter becomes even clearer if you consider the opposite view of the classroom community, the work assigned, or the daily structure of the instruction. It sounds dreadful. The teacher determines every last detail about the classroom from rules to assignments, and the students march in step according to his or her directions. The words from the top of page 79 said it well: "When students create content rather than just consume it, their engagement grows capaciously."

    I enjoyed reading all of the above posts, too. I think that the words of advice to really know your students are invaluable, and the text shared some good tips to make those connections. Whether you are able to tweak content to capture their interests or provide targeted opportunities within assignments, the students' willingness to engage and take ownership is so important.

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  8. For me the most profound and startling idea of this chapter pertained to resistance. "(resistance) can alert you that what you fear to do is the very thing you need to do. It lets you know that you're on the right path," p. 70.

    By nature I avoid conflict. So, I tend to seek compromise or avoid altogether what will create havoc in my life or anyone else's. I have never considered this a flaw; I grew up with peacemaking parents, and as a result, I appreciate as little agitation among those around me as possible. I do understand the push behind embracing resistance in order to grow and be innovative, however. This is a challenge and a risk for me to see resistance as something that I should welcome when change is necessary.

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    1. I too tend to avoid conflict in all areas of my life, but especially in my professional life. Sometimes I wish I would stand up for myself and what I believe in instead of compromising. Finding my voice is something I hope to work on!

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  9. I think Meenoo Rami’s approach to this chapter is very meaningful. I suppose it is like this in all professions to some degree, but fear and misconception are powerful obstacles to well-being and success. I am helped by remembering that nothing is more important that the relationships I try to foster within my classes and those or some element of them may lead me to instinctually alter even the most well-prepared lessons or units. That is a great moment when it happens because it means I can still use flexible judgment. Education, my classroom, even life are fluid constructs that need to be re-evaluated in the moment sometimes. When that is no longer possible we lose our ability to adapt and grow, in my opinion. The changes these past five years in education have been substantial and at times have caused me anxiety. I agree with the Ms. Rami’s assertion about resistance as it relates to my own experiences in education and life in general. The world is going to change, I think I need to be able to change with it. It usually requires a lot analysis on my part to take a prospect that makes me anxious and turn into something that longer fear but rather embrace. That transformation is essential for my development.

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  10. This chapter was an interesting read from the perspective of an administrator. As I read I saw and thought about specific teachers from my building. I reflected on the decisions and practices that I use that have either supported teachers listening to themselves or stifled them from listening to themselves. I also thought about my practices (or discussions) that have possibly supported or not built their "confidence" in listening to themselves.

    I also reflected on myself as an administrator being able to listen to myself. Although it often feels like we get to do what we want, in actuality, we have the same fears and stumbling blocks in supporting our abilities to listen to ourselves. In fact when I reflect back on my teaching experiences versus my administrative experience, I believe I struggle even more in listening to myself now as a principal. In this role there are so many other "voices" to listen to and to support that sometimes every day seems to be about compromises. I don't know that is necessarily a bad thing but it has me thinking today about when the compromises are about empowering the right teachers and the right choices versus just compromises.

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    1. Thank you for being so honest in your perspective as an administrator. I am fortunate to have a great principal to work under. I think all teachers understand that our administrators also have a heavy burden to carry of expectations, fears, and requirements. Thank you for reminding me of that!

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  11. I think this chapter was very beneficial to read. It is a relief knowing that you’re not the only one experiencing fears on a daily basis. I was the educator who sat quietly in the corner and listened to rest of the group share their ideas. I will admit I definitely struggled with this throughout the year. It is hard speaking up when there are many bold personalities and experienced teachers in the room, but I do see the benefit from sharing your ideas and speaking up. After this year, I think my fear of failure has increased. The scores from the state test weren’t exactly what I would have liked to see, but I know in this instant that change can be a good thing. I love the idea of giving the students a say and collaborating with them to create writing assignments or projects. If they are internally motivated to complete the project, the outcome will be completed with quality and meet your expectations. I was guilty of having a tremendous amount of anxiety when I felt unprepared for the next day. I spent many after hours in the classroom preparing and trying to feel ready for the day to begin. The more I was excited about a lesson, the more the students were engaged.

    When I was reading through the myths section of the chapter, there were many recognizable sayings or quotes that I heard this past year. I think my favorite part of my first year of teaching was ultimately my students. We had our ups and downs, but at the end of the year, I was thankful for them. There were things that occurred throughout the year that were hard to mask. Seeing the students day in and day out, they recognize your change in emotion, especially eighth graders.  I loved being able to celebrate with them whether it was a good grade they earned in my classroom or in another. I was able to build a rapport with them and in doing so, I was able to build their trust. I think it is harder to recognize in the beginning, but as the year progresses you recognize that each class has a completely different dynamic. From first hour to fourth hour, I went from sleepy eyes to fully energized. I had very hands-on learners that enjoyed being in a group compared to my independent workers. Not every lesson is going to go exactly as planned, but that is the joy of teaching. Every day, every class even, is unpredictable. You can strive for perfection, but sometimes when you aren’t trying, you’ll open a new learning opportunity. I think it safe to say that I learned just as much from my students as they hopefully learned from me.

    I do feel like I am trying to find a good balance to help accomplish and conquer my fears in the classroom. I would greatly appreciate any tips of advice or tools that helped fellow educators achieve success through their early years of entering the classroom.

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  12. As an older teacher, I do not have trouble speaking up and giving my opinions. However, I do understand why new teachers would have this fear. Especially when it means going against your principal. That can be very intimidating. Many young teachers are afraid to stand up for themselves for fear of being let go.

    One of the main things that I am fearful of is all of the new initiatives that our corporation is pushing.
    The newest is personalization/customization. I am not afraid of change but often do not know where to start, so I don't do anything. I know that is the first thing that I need to overcome. I feel that if I could watch and talk to someone else that already uses these methods. I also need to realize that not everything will go perfectly the first time. I accept this, but sometimes I feel the administration forgets this fact.

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    1. You said some important things here. I think a supportive environment for improving teacher practice is necessary no matter where you are in your career. Communication is important. Having administrators and colleagues that encourage learning and are good listeners makes a big difference. Sometimes teachers just need a “sounding board” for effective problem-solving. Sometimes teachers are learning something totally new. We wouldn’t expect our students to go it alone. Support can come in many ways -observing other teachers, reading professional materials, discussing student data and artifacts, etc. The support needs to be ongoing in order to bring about change so there needs to be a structure for that. This could be time for collaboration, professional development sessions, coaching, etc. Taking a risk to ask for support isn’t always easy, but should be valued by administrators and instructional coaches in schools in order to improve practice.

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    2. Large meetings and professional development sessions can easily be monopolized by those that are interested, those that have strong opinions, and those that aren’t afraid to speak up. I see a big difference in meetings when the meeting is designed to encourage participation. This usually means that at least a good part of the meeting is spent with teachers doing something. This can be putting up post-its with comments or things they have learned. It can be working in small groups of 2-5 people. When the groups become grade level groups (8 or 9 in my building), I notice that people start taking on the roles you mentioned with some becoming silent. When the groups are asked to make a product (such as a chart, list, etc.) and present it, there is more participation on everyone’s part. There can often be groans about this, but it works as long as the presentations are short to keep everyone’s attention. I think the most effective part that encourages learning comes from the talk that goes on during the work on the product.
      Having common rules of conduct for meetings can be helpful. It seems like we don’t do this often enough. If these are developed as a group and posted, the leaders of meetings can remind everyone of what was agreed upon before you start. It takes an adept leader to pull off an effective meeting. We can all think of ones that were a waste of time.

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  13. I think you have to stick to what you believe in that's best for you and your students. I remember when I first started teaching 15 years ago I felt like I had to have the exact same room as my colleagues and do the exact same as far as curriculum goes. I now realize that's not the best scenario. I think it's important to arrange your room how you want as well as teach to your own strengths and interests. I was lucky to be part of a team that was so helpful and supportive, which was absolutely great, just remember to be yourself!!

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    1. I agree with this point, however, I feel it is necessary to stay open to new ideas and strategies. I want my weaknesses to become strengths at some point. I am approaching my 20th year of teaching and I feel like I have improved more int he past three years than at any other point.

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  14. I am the type of person who listens to the conversations at meetings and then I need time to process and look at details of the meeting from all angles. Once I process the information I then can add my views. For many people this is to late because the decisions have to be made on the spot. Very few times are we allowed to come back to the table with additional ideas.

    I have been accused of overthinking a lesson. I try to come up with all the possible scenarios when planning a class. For me I find there is less surprises but yes they do crop up from time to time. I also believe to be honest with students on if you fill ill or just having a bad day. I would want to know if my students are not feeling well or having a bad day. If you are willing to work with them on their concerns or personal life they are usually willing to do the same for you.

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    1. I operate the same way--I need time to process before I feel confident enough to respond. (Maybe it's in the name. :)) I know I tend to ramble a bit if I haven't thought it through for awhile, and I don't want to take up everyone's time as I get to what I'm trying to convey. Still, the need to express my ideas is important. As one of my college psychology professors used to say, "I don't know what I think about something until I hear what I have to say about it." So I do try, occasionally, to speak up and am astonished how my opinion sounds. Is that strange? I don't know, but it does help me refine my position on a few things.
      I'm sure you have developed some wonderful lessons by "overthinking" them. Don't let others decide for you what you need to do to prepare for your students. You know them and yourself best.
      Thanks for sharing!

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  15. As I read this chapter, I felt a 'devil's advocate' perspective. I believe that many teachers do not choose not to speak up due to the issues listed on pg. 62, which are 'fear' based. I know many teachers who do not speak up because they feel like they will not be heard and have given up. So many educators feel powerless in his or her own school. New ideas fall on deaf ears. I think many teachers do what he or she can in individual classrooms, but have given up on trying to make improvements or changes to a school as whole. I don't want this to come across as having a bad attitude, this is just something that I frequently see. These are teachers that still care about students and do great things in the classroom, but do not feel as though they have a voice in the school as a whole.

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    1. Thank you for your honest post! I identify with so much of what you said. This past year was the first year I felt somewhat comfortable sharing ideas with my colleagues, and many of those ideas fell on deaf ears, as you put it. However, after reading this chapter, I am going to challenge myself to not give up!

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    2. Quinn you said what I was thinking. I frequently ask teachers if they could have or do anything they wanted to improve their classroom, what would it be. I am amazed that I get very few answers beyond basic immediate needs (i.e., batteries for something). Initially I thought this was due to being overwhelmed or that the question caught them off guard, but I think in some cases it is the feeling of being powerless.

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  16. The teachers I work with have personalities as varied as the middle school students we teach. Some of them have similar traits to middle school students. This is usually a good thing, but sometimes not so much. At times, the "negative bunch" contribute to "Fear of Taking a Stand." Our principal is constantly looking at professional development opportunities for us. She is driven to make sure our students get the best quality education possible and then tasks us to explore and share. Then end result of exploration is often a need to change what we have been doing or thinking. It can be uncomfortable to argue/take a stand against the negativity. I think Start, Focus, Finish would be a good way to breakdown new tasks for the negative teachers. I need to stay focused on taking a consistent stand.

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  17. I struggled more with being authentic to myself as a young teacher. It was largely due to insecurity. I was hired to work in the same building I had graduated from. I was afraid to speak up or trying anything to innovative because I feared that my former teachers would not view me as a professional and would find me lacking. Of course, this was my issue, not theirs.

    As I have matured, I have begun to find my voice. It helps that I have an administration that treats the staff as professionals and is willing to listen suggestions and is supportive of curriculum decisions. Over the last several years, the people most likely to ask questions, speak their opinion, and take risks in the classroom have retired. I realized that as a school we had lost something vital in the loss of those people. It has been remarkable to me to see how our staff has evolved with their loss. We now have a number of people who are willing to take risks both in the classroom and in staff interactions. It has made our building a better, more student focused, place to work.

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    1. Angie, I was also going to mention that our building lost a lot of great teachers to retirement in the past few years. I also want to echo your point that we have a lot of new and some seasoned teachers who have stepped up and are taking more risks. Kudos to our administration that allows this to happen.

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    2. Thank you for your honesty in sharing that it was hard to be authentic as a young teacher and that was something you had to battle. I have a very supportive administration as well. I love how your staff stepped up to fill the void of the retired staff. I think it is important for all of us to step up to make our buildings better. We should not always rely on a small group of people to be the ones to speak their opinion and suggest changes.

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  18. While reading this chapter I found myself saying Yes! out loud quite a bit. I have worked in schools where fear has led to masking one's true voice as described on p. 63. I was once told that I "wear my heart on my sleeve" and was pleased to read that, "masking emotions prevents us from building a thriving classroom community. It is important for me as a teacher to be me in the classroom. I can show some emotion and continue to have a positive, professional relationship with students. It took a long time for me to stop listening to the negative voices around me and to begin to listen to myself in order to find alignment between my values and actions.

    This is important because, "It is only when the teacher is willing to be authentically connected to the students in the classroom that students can feel at ease and take true risks," (p. 68). Students who do not feel comfortable in my classroom are not going to want to read aloud or ask questions or write what they are really thinking and feeling if each attempt is shot down and marked as a failure. In order for students to learn, they need to be able to communicate with me and others in the classroom while being supported and encouraged.

    I have ruffled many feathers by doing something new and innovative, which can make staff meetings uncomfortable at times. Taking risks in this way has helped me to grow as a professional and helped to motivate and encourage my students to think outside the box and to pursue what it is they desire rather than sitting idly by and letting opportunity slip through their fingers.

    I have set myself apart by bringing an emotional honesty to school and the work I do with my students. I love the last part of this chapter, "When we begin to find the courage to embrace our vulnerabilities, we become a source of inspiration, not only to those who surround us, but also to ourselves," (p. 73). I enjoy what I do and am constantly seeking ways to learn more and to try new things in my classroom. I hope that I never see being a teacher as just a job. Being a teacher is who I am and I look forward to the opportunities that await me and my students as we face each new school year.

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    1. I love your third paragraph. I agree with that last quote from p. 73 also. If we never try new things, we are only hurting our students. Even though I am nearing the end of my teaching career, it has never been just a job…it's what I love to do!

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    2. I found that as I became more honest in my teaching, the more I loved it. The more I loved it, the more I wanted to grow! It is a great, empowering circle to be on!

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  19. Several years ago, I adopted a philosophy that has helped me decide when to speak up and when to just sit back and listen to the voices that surround me. I always ask myself…”is this something that you can do something about?” My philosophy goes something like this…”life is too short to worry about things that you can’t do anything about”. If I can make a difference, I will speak up and fight the fight, but if I don’t have a chance of making a difference, I will step back and let others make decisions. This philosophy has served me well…and I will keep following it throughout my career.

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    1. I like your philosophy! It sounds like mine!

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    2. Food for thought for sure. Like your filter and will be more thoughtful as I decide to share or not.

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  20. I really felt connected with the opening paragraph of chapter 4. As a younger teacher, I hesitate a lot to speak up. I feel that it’s hard to find your voice when you are new to a school and department. I also fear that the more experienced teachers will disapprove of or look down on my thoughts and ideas. I’m hoping that with each year of experience, finding my voice will become easier as I get more comfortable and confident with those around me.

    One thing that struck me in this chapter was the talk of showing students your vulnerability. This is something that I have found helps me connect with my students. I am not perfect. I am human. And I make sure they understand that up front. I think it helps them identify with me and open up to me in a way that they can’t with other teachers.

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    1. I wrote about the same concerns about speaking up as a younger teacher. Like you, I am hoping to get more comfortable and confident to speak up! I like that you show them that you are vulnerable and help them connect with you. That's one thing I want to improve on this year.

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  21. As I read Chapter 4, the two fears that I have had most often are: Fear of failure in the classroom and Fear of criticism from colleagues. I begin every year with the first fear. I never know how my new Spanish I students will perceive a new language class. Usually after the first day or two, I can tell how I need to proceed with the class and my fear is easily dismissed. Fear of criticism from colleagues never goes away. I am one of the more seasoned (nice way to say older) teachers in our school. I usually enjoy listening to our newer staff members’ ideas. I generally only chime in when I have something productive to say. In the past 29 years, I have seen and heard a lot of ideas come through…I don’t always agree with everything but it is good to hear new ideas.

    Reading the Myths, Myth 2 and 3 are most prominent for me: If you are prepared, everything should go as planned and Perfection is the goal. I have learned over the years that I would love for everything to go perfectly every day but on most days it is not going to happen (especially with technology!). I had to learn that I must be flexible and forgiving of myself. If something goes wrong or I say the wrong thing or know I should have said something, tomorrow is another day to start again. As prepared as I am for each day, something will not fall into its place for whatever reason…and I just have to accept it, live with it and strive to be better the next day.

    Lastly, Ms. Rami’s quote on p. 73 sums up the attitude that I see in my school. “I believe we all have that same kind of immense untapped potential, you will find a way to not only improve your own practice, but help those around you as well.” Since we became a 1:1 school, we all lean on each other to make improvements in our teaching everyday. I am thankful for all of this help!

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    1. Definitely relate to your 2 fears as they are mine as well! It is not that the staff I work with is not great, they are...it is more that I'm a chicken to share my thoughts out loud all they what ifs shower me and just quietly sit.

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  22. My tendency is to retreat during staff meetings. I do not offer my thoughts because there are bigger voices with more experience I have been out of the school in a teaching capacity for 11 years. I missed so much during that time. I feel irrelevant and unknowledgable. As an aide I had more time, so I tried to learn as much as possible to gain more current knowledge. Gaining knowledge will help my confidence in sharing as well as trying out what I'm learning will give me more experience to share. I gathered several books from our professional library at school and have been reading them this summer.
    This feeling of irrelevance has impacted my time teaching. As I began to relax a bit this year and trust what I had learned, I began to love what I was doing. As a resource teacher, I was seeing 7 groups a day, each one so very different that the other . One group would teach me about something another group was doing and I could use that to help a stuck student. When I really jumped in, my teaching became a real joy!
    I had the privilege of working with a teacher who was transparent in her true passion in the classroom. She created a community in her room with her passion and it was contagious. The students picked up on her passion and began to run with it. They were courageous and took risks. They began to own their learning. It was exciting to see! It gave me the courage to allow my true self to shine as it only can bless my students and set an example of how to be transparent. When I hold back my true self, my students will follow and hold back themselves and they miss the true beauty of authentic learning.
    Giving myself permission to fail and get better was an eye-opener. Working with students who are beginning readers, there is a lot of failure When they see me fail and share how I've learned from that and what I can do differently next time help myself, I'm teaching them to be lifelong learners. What true success!
    The steps to combating fear are short and powerful! I will write them down and put them in a place where I can see them as trouble will certainly arise during the year.

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    1. I had the same thought about posting the steps to combat fear somewhere close...in my case this would be on the visor in the vehicle.

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  23. One of my major fears in life has always been public speaking-maybe related to why I am not a teacher. However, I have pushed through that particular fear and have gotten more direct in expressing my opinions as I have gotten older and more confident. Unfortunately, because I am not the best speaker it often appears that I am more emotional about an issue than I actually am. I have been accused of being too direct and too emotional. I think the issues addressed in this chapter are common and perhaps not discussed openly often enough. This chapter is another example of shared issues that the educational team faces. If we do it "right" we face the issues together.

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  24. The section of this chapter that most spoke to me the section "Perfection is the goal." The quote reads, "The difference between striving for perfection and continuously honing your craft is that when you are striving for perfection, you are doing if for those on the outside. When you work toward improving your practice as a teacher, you are driven by an inherent need to do better than you did before. You are not trying to prove a point to someone else or trying to gain your self-worth from the opinion of others." In the very beginning of my career, I shamefully admit that I spent way too much time striving for some very superficial things...cute bulletin boards, adorable decorations in my room, the most innovative room set-up, but I am such a happier and more successful teacher now that I've reached that point where I feel confident enough in my own set of skills as an educator that I no longer need to do things just for "those on the outside." I still enjoy my bulletin boards and other cute stuff, because what kindergarten teacher doesn't? The difference now is that everything I do is intentionally for myself and my students, to help myself become a better teacher and to help my students become more successful learners, and not to impress someone on the outside looking in. I think many teachers are people pleasers (I know I am!) and we want everything to be perfect for everyone, but I need to always keep things in perspective. I have a daughter who runs cross country. She is small, but mighty. She may be the best runner on her team, and she frequently places first in races, but never once for her has it been about winning the race. She doesn't care what others are thinking of her as she runs. Her question after each race (even the ones that she wins) is "How'd I do?" She wants to know if she's improved since the last time she ran. She measures her success by that...not by how her run looked to others. I think of her attitude a lot as I measure my success in the classroom. I try to remember that what's important is whether I'm improving as a teacher and whether my students are growing as learners, not how things "look" to others.

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  25. I read the comments previously posted with great interest. Our opinions/ideas/fears cover a wide spectrum. My situation may be somewhat unique. After spending 25+ years in industry, I went back to school at 48 years old and acquired my teaching license. Therefore I am an old, yet young teacher. I feel that I bring an insight to my students and colleagues due to my industrial background.

    As many "best practices" in industry had to be followed, I have been trained to listen, process, then respond. As a result, I remain relatively quiet at faculty meetings while taking in all of the information. I would rather take the time to think, then respond one-on-one wtith administration. I realize that this may not be the best avenue, but it works for me. We also have a few teachers who are somewhat boisterous and will monopolize a conversation if given the chance. Rather than listen to their diatribes and become increasingly frustrated, I find it best to remain quiet and synthesize my ideas.

    As I have a self-contained alternative claassroom, I am at liberty to try many new ideas whether suggested by a student or one of my own. If they work, we may or may not publicize, if not, we try something else. This gives the students the confidence to try something new with the understanding that the idea fails, we simply re-think and try again. I also am not afraid to tell them I don't have all of the answers but will do virtually anything to find out. Risk taking is a good thing- not bad!!

    The part of the chapter that really spoke to me was John Spencer's profile. I also don't believe in "good kids" and "bad kids." I have variety of personalities in my classroom and I too become impatient, make mistakes, and have yelled at students. It is when I realize my mistakes and admit them to either the entire classroom or individual students that mutual respect is earned.

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    1. I agree with you that John Spencer's perspective was a good reminder. Often, I am quick to judge things on the surface, and I forget that inside each student there is a well of experiences that I likely will never understand fully. I have to see the genius each student brings to the learning environment, and I need to apologize for the times that I fail to recognize each student's strengths.

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  26. Ironically, after reading this chapter, one of my dearest friends (teacher in Delaware), sent me a link to one of the best articles I have ever read. It is far more profound than anything I could post. If you get a chance, take a look at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/peter-greene/the-hardest-part-teaching_b_5554448.html

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    1. Shannon, this is a great article. Thanks for posting the link.

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    2. This is a great article. This sums it up perfectly! "There is never enough.There is never enough time. There are never enough resources. There is never enough you."

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    3. I saw the article on facebook. It is so true. I can't think of anything over the last 5-6 that has been taken off my plate in teaching. more is piled on. We have to become masters of figuing out what is the MOST important things because there literally are not enough hours in the day/year to do all that is required!

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    4. I also saw this (not sure on which social media outlet) but I did find it to be a great read! Thanks for thinking of sharing this article with everyone in this group.

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  27. Reading this chapter was a little emotional for me. I'm going to let go of my fear and admit this to you all. Here's why: I am what they call a "passionate" educator, and my passion hasn't led to me getting famous like the Teach Like a Pirate guy. Instead, I've found over the years that it is often best that I temper my enthusiasm and passion for education because it can end up keeping people at arms' length. And sometimes it can lead to resentment. Oooh... I feel uncomfortable writing this but I want to say this because I've been acutely aware over the years about how my enthusiasm is received by other educators. I'm like a kid in a candy store when it comes to learning best practices, trying new instructional strategies and technologies, and reflecting on whatever recent failure I'm picking myself up from. I just like my job. I like the kids. I like trying new things. I don't distrust my administration. I'm eager for each school day and I talk through a tough day so that I'm eager again the next morning. These things can be a door closer by other teachers, though. I've heard that age helps and it has (I've been teaching 18 years), but I still make a deliberate effort to react to other teachers with more of a "oh, yeah, fine" attitude. But sometimes I can't, as my teacher friend Callista would tell you; a couple of months ago I jumped on her desk because she said something so great. She is a fairly passive person; I'm the Lavern to her Shirley, I say.

    Meenoo's statement on page 62 that "Students do not benefit from your true passion when that passion is hidden behind layers of doubt, insecurity about being ridiculed, or fear of failure." I have no fear of failure because, as English teacher Nathan H. in Avon said to me once, "What better teacher is there than failure," which has indeed been my most loyal teacher. But I do fear ridicule or just being different. Passion often has a negative connotation in education. Yes, I think so; you wouldn't know from Twitter talk but folks on Twitter tend to be enthusiastic educators, constantly growing and learning. Or speakers, administrators, others pay lip service to passion in education but seem to lack an energy force behind their passion that I have to force to be more subtle.

    Finally, I'm just amazed as I read this chapter and now reread my many annotations that Meenoo isn't a veteran teacher; she has great insight into these important topic of fear.

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  28. I have two of the four fears--criticism from my colleagues & taking a stand. I don't like confrontation & avoid it at all cost. On the flip side, I have no fear of failure in the classroom or having to do all the work. If a new lesson doesn't work, I'll try a different approach. I'm passionate about what I do & I won't improve if I don't try new lessons. I'm not afraid of work hard, if I feel strongly about making a change.
    Early in my teaching career I believed showing emotion was a weakness. I've embraced sharing my emotions with my students. The more real I am with my students, the better they perform. They don't want me to be disappointed with them. I believe my students care about working to their best ability for me, because I'm honest with them.
    I thought being prepared would ensure a fantastic lesson (again my 1st year teaching). I now know that's not always the case. Because I'm a lifelong learner, I know I'm not the perfect teacher. I know I have room to improve!!

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  29. This chapter was very validating. I found myself relating to several of her examples, specifically any that relate to having the courage to speak up. I am by nature more of a quiet person when in a group of colleagues. I typically take more of a listening role and only speak out when I feel that I have something meaningful to add to the conversation or feel really comfortable with the people in the group. I have noticed that with age, I have gotten better with speaking up, but could still improve.
    I did relate quite a bit to the section on page 62- the common fears of teachers. It is interesting to me that we as teachers act like our students when in a group situation. There are a select few that speak out, another group that is whispering in the corner about what "he or she just said", a few checking emails/texting/not paying attention, and another group listening intently taking notes and taking the conversation all in. Why do we take on these certain roles as a society?
    It is the fear of others' perception that makes me second guess myself on a daily basis.
    When dealing with this fear in my classroom, I always come back to this thought "What can I do to help my students master this concept?". Sometimes my ideas don't work for all students, which is frustrating. Learning from setbacks is the greatest teaching moment.

    We have a saying in my department, which is "the squeaky wheel gets the grease". If you want something badly enough, make it happen!

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  30. For most of my teaching career, the fear of critical colleagues and the fear of taking a stand were present. Some of my colleagues were very strong-willed and if you didn't follow their lead, you were an outcast. They defined what was "cool" among the staff, but their results in the classroom made it hard to criticize them. If you were creative or wanted to do something different, there were multiple reasons as to why your ideas wouldn't work.

    I gave up taking a stand against overly-strict discipline. My thoughts were that if my class was informative, engaging, and interactive, I wouldn't need to know where the referral forms were stored. In my 13 years, I think I've only "written up" maybe a dozen kids. I didn't want to waste my precious time with them on paperwork because they forgot a pencil, had chewing gum, or had to go to the bathroom (unless a behavior pattern appeared)!

    I have been blessed with amazingly wonderful and supportive administrators! All of them have given me the freedom to experiment and play. I just didn't always share my activities with those I learned wanted to question my work.

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  31. I agree with Rami’s position that showing emotion is important to “building a thriving classroom community.” As a somewhat private person, this is difficult for me at times. It’s probably one of the reasons why I feel more relaxed going into a lesson on grammar or style than a discussion of subject matter or themes in literature. But in helping students to make connections with and find personal relevance in literature, teachers have to model that process. The literature we read often explores challenging themes, and if I hope to get students to share their personal connections in open discussion, I have to be prepared to answer my own questions. However, one of the biggest sources of anxiety in my teaching is that my attempts to foster real and honest discussions about the kinds of themes you find in books like A Farewell to Arms or The Grapes of Wrath will backfire, so I err on the safe side. This is the pragmatic approach, but, in this sense, I am still struggling to find alignment between my values and actions.

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  32. This chapter really stuck a chord with me as I was reminded of a time in my career where there was no alignment between my values and my actions. I worked for two years in a district much like the one described by Katie McKay in the book. There was so much emphasis on test prep that my administrator asked me to give 6 reading practices tests per week. One each day and two on Fridays. When my response was, "But when do I teach reading?" My administrator informed me that if I was a good teacher, I would find a way to teach while modeling how to answer the sample test questions correctly. Coming from a reading workshop background, I was devastated. I am a bit of a rule follower, so I had a hard time not doing what my principal asked of me. I tried her approach, but I was bored and my students were uninspired. I can relate to Meenoo's statement that sometimes distance and silence are necessary when working in difficult settings. I quickly learned that questioning my principal was getting me nowhere and giving me a bad reputation. I saw that the few teachers I respected in the building didn't speak up, closed their door, and did their own thing. I ended up alternating between following the "required" test prep curriculum for a few weeks and then squeezing in a novel or some real writing. It was such a struggle between doing what I knew was right for the kids and not getting "in trouble" from my principal. I can safely say that during those two years I was the worst teacher I have ever been. I am grateful that I now work in a school that shares the same values I have. It's extremely difficult when they don't match up. I am certain that I would not have stayed in the profession long if I had been forced to continue teaching under those circumstances.

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  33. I have really struggled in the past with two of the fears: fear of failure and fear of taking a stand. By nature I am someone who is "a leaf in the river"...I go with the flow and try to keep everyone's opinion in my mind as I collaborate with my peers. What I have found in the past three to four years is that I am adamant about a few topics...and I try to focus my energies on taking a stand on those issues. As a professional it is important to recognize those ideas that you will "fall on your sword"...too many and you become an unreasonable employee...too few and you become a pushover. The strategies I have used are mostly intrinsic...knowing that what I do and what I stand for are all for my students...not for protecting myself. As I read this chapter I really sympathized with Rita Sorrentino's comments...I felt as though she was telling my story. I recently joined a new building and am happy to say that I have "ruffled some feathers"...but I have done so in a way that leads others to think in new and innovative ways. Many days I have had to pep talk myself and remind myself that what I do is more than just the summation of a battery of tests in the spring. It is the kid who says, "I finally enjoy Language Arts", "You made me think...it was hard, but I liked it" or "You are the first teacher that made me feel noticed in the classroom". Those comments are why I teach...not a set of scores at then end of a year.

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  34. This chapter discussed a couple problems that I do not find myself having. One of my personality traits, for better or for worse, is that I am an open book. This allows students to see my emotions. I could never pull off the "no smiling until winter break" thing. I couldn't make it an hour!

    It also means I rarely can avoid voicing my opinion in meetings or committees. My first school was extremely small, and that meant we always met as a whole faculty. Speaking up in this setting was easy (not always popular, but easy). At my new school, the faculty is much larger and it is more difficult to voice your opinions. I am very fortunate to have a wonderful math department to work with, a place where we can all voice our opinions. Our department is also lucky to have a department head who is not afraid to take our ideas to the next level within the school!

    I think in this time of public education, it is hard not to have a disagreement between some things you have to do as a teacher and your core beliefs about what is best. Just as the book mentioned, with the amount of testing that students go through and many of the "requirements" teachers face from many different angles, somewhere in the midst, I think we all end up needing to do something we may not fully have our heart in.

    When I switched careers, the thing I worried about most with teaching was being in front of the students and being able to make a connection with them. I have been pleasantly surprised that that has come naturally in the classroom. After four years, the fear I DO still have is things not going as planned. On a personal level, I am a planner. This carries over into my career. Teaching doesn't allow you to plan things without a doubt. Will I run out of time? Will I have too much time and lose the students at the end?

    Gaining more experience is probably the biggest solution to this. Also, just having some backup plans. Even just having an idea of some spots that I can put in a bit more discussion or take out something that may not be fully necessary helps a lot.

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  35. The quote at the beginning of the chapter was by Brene Brown. You can find her clips (TED talks and others) on youtube. In one (I think it is called Why you should not listen to critics that don't count), she talks about the fear that critics will shoot down your ideas or creativity. She said that she has come to the conclusion that there are critics you should and should not listen to. They are those that are "in your arena" and those that are not. Those "in your arena" are the experts, ones that have something to contribute that will stretch your thinking, those that are really listening to you, etc. The critics you should not listen to are those that don't encourage us, those that concentrate on things that are not important and don't have our best interests in mind. She does this with humor so it is worth checking out.

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    1. Thanks, Nancy, for the TED talks tip. I have watched Brene Brown on some of Oprah's
      "Master Class" episodes on OWN. Brene is able to soothe and challenge me simultaneously!

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  36. I think about the times I have planned a lesson and it didn't go as I expected. More times than not, it goes so much better. The students open my eyes to something I had forgotten, or something that I really hadn't understood and hadn't questioned before, and I learn from them even as I have to go back and research some more (especially in AP Stats.) I have come to actually enjoy when this happens--the questions I can't answer, the connections a student makes to some previously learned concepts, the arguing for their point of view. I never have such a strict schedule that we can't take the time to step back and consider what they want/need to know and it encourages others to speak up, too, when they know they will be heard.

    That's the idea for us, too, in PD meetings, isn't it. Maybe my thoughts hadn't been considered in all the planning for some new procedure or plan. Or if they had, maybe I need to understand why they were dismissed or bypassed. It's always a give-and-take, but if the culture is an open and caring one, it can be encouraging, too.

    I have experienced the open-to-suggestions atmosphere and the this-is-the-way-it-is atmosphere. Either way, there is no excuse for being disrespectful in sharing your ideas. Even in tough situations, an attitude of respect and being willing to apologize when you let emotion get in the way, goes a long way to achieving your goal. When politics get in the way, there's always the comfort of my classroom to retreat to when the battles are too much.

    Unfortunately, that can be very lonely and divisive for the staff. It is amazing to me that when an administration works so hard to keep faculty from congregating anywhere in the building, they also are the ones preaching collaboration. It can't be both ways. While fear can prevent teachers from being their best, as Rami writes about in her book; when it comes from the top, it can really tear the spirit out of the staff. We have to be courageous to fight this, too, as respectfully as we can.

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  37. Reading this chapter has further reinforced my realization that, while I often do not have a hard time sharing my thoughts and ideas with my colleagues, the fact that my ideas are often met with indifference has caused me to doubt myself and has stifled my identity and authenticity. By nature, I am a people pleaser and like to collaborate with others. Therefore, I tend to do what others say is “best” instead of listening to myself and making decisions based on what I think is best for my students. In addition, I yearn for collaboration to ensure that what I am doing in the classroom is “right” for fear of failure or not, instead of always listening to myself and taking risks. While I still try new things, I see the voice of resistance holding me back from being so much better for my students and FEELING so much better personally. I found the strategies to attack resistance helpful but something I will need to write down and remind myself of on a regular basis until they become habit.

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  38. For me, the notion of "inner voice" is an interesting one. Like some have already mentioned, there is a tendency to shut-down, turn off and sit back when you have experienced that your ideas, comments, suggestions fall on deaf ears. I think a lot of teachers just bide their time sitting through faculty or department meetings, knowing that whatever is brought up, most likely won't be acted upon or that the current status will remain--unchanged. Others have brought up the guiding philosophy that you should focus on what you can change or contribute to and develop your inner voice from there. I wonder if inner voices change throughout a career, a building, a district, a small grouping, etc...? Negative criticism of a shared idea or commentary definitely shuts down participation and creativity but this is not just relative to the education world--business follows suit. Maybe it has to do with the work environment, climate and mentality of your place of work? In any case, this chapter hits upon many scenarios through which many teacher pass and re-visit. The important thing to remember is how to turn it around and focus the positive energy into the connection with the students. Very stimulating posts on this chapter; I think this one may have been the most engaging for us, as a whole.

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    1. Rhonda. My inner voice has definitely changed throughout my career. I have worked in 2 different corporations in my 24 years of teaching. At my first corporation, I was a young, quiet teacher who basically stuck to my classroom and tried to stay below the radar. This attitude was fostered when a new director chose to use my evaluation as her "example" of how tough she was going to be on the teachers. (mine was the only evaluation she ever did while I was at the school, but the damage had already been done:(. It took me a long time to recover from this and to gain the confidence to start voicing my ideas. It was tough, but I can say that I came out much stronger for that experience. When I changed corporations, I was encouraged to share my ideas and to become a leader. This was great and exhausting at the same time. I had no problem voicing an idea and felt that I was listened to. When our administration changed, the atmosphere changed and it became more difficult to have an idea heard. When I voiced my discouragement to a colleague, she gave me some advice that was spot on...she said "we (teachers/staff) will be here much longer than they (administrators) will". This has proven SO true. In my career, I have served under 4 superintendents, 2 directors and ~ 6 principals. With every one, the atmosphere and politics have changed and that has determined how active I am in discussions. I have no problem voicing an idea but I have become more judicious in the choices I make. As I stated in my earlier post, I ask myself "is this something I am willing to fight for and can make a difference?" If the answer is yes, then I will step up and start a discussion.

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  39. This chapter made me thankful that I am in a building where my principal "gets it" that we have so much to do and not enough time to get it done. I have never had a problem feeling like I cannot share my thoughts or opinions. Of course there are times when things have not gone my way. but I have never felt like my thoughts didn't matter.

    The thing that is hardest for me, is that 20 years ago, creativity in teaching was valued and encouraged. Now the focus on test prep can suck the creativity out of us if we let it. Teaching can still be fun, but it takes more creativity in my opinion to find the fun in the mire of the assessments and demands that are placed on us. We still must teach kids to lOVE learning, or we are doing a disservice to our students, colleagues, and ourselves. Keeping quiet about what we know in our heart is best for kids does not improve the education for our students

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  40. In her list of common fears teachers share, Rami hits on a huge one for me -- fear of failure in the classroom. With each new group of students, I begin with deep insecurities about being accepted and respected. Part of it is because I am currently teaching students who are the same age as my own children. Many of my students are friends with my children and I have known them socially since they were small children. I often remind myself that my students probably feel the same types of insecurities when they enter my classroom as a student rather than a friend of one of my children. Rami has good advice about listening to one's inner voice and the myths involved with remembering to do that. I also appreciate the profiles in this chapter, it is helpful to read experiences from teachers all around the country. I have to conclude by saying that I feel very lucky that the other three fears Rami lists -- fear of criticism form colleagues, fear of taking a stand, and fear of having to do all the work -- are not really issues in my department.

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  41. I just finished this chapter, and I couldn't help but reflect back over the past week. I attended the EVSC eRevolution 2014 Conference which focuses on technology and how to use it effectively in the classroom. Although I wanted to learn about ways to improve the integration of technology into curriculum, the main reason I went was to hear one of the keynote speakers, Angela Maiers. I had watched her TED video "You Matter" and I had decided that those two words would be my theme and posted boldly in the front of my room this year. I was not disappointed by her inspiring words. In addition to the phrase "your matter", Angela spoke about the importance of empowering our young learners with the idea that we all have a responsibility to share our genius with the world and that to give to the world our best we must "BE BRAVE".

    When I read this chapter, her words ran through my head again. So often, I feel differently in a staff meeting, but I stay quiet so as to avoid a conflict. I tip toe around issues to make sure that I don't step on people's toes. Although, I do not regret being respectful to each person I encounter, I must trust myself and listen to my conscious when I am asked to speak out on behalf of my students and their learning. I want my colleagues and the community, but especially my students, to think that I "have it all together." How can I have a safe environment for students to take risks and push themselves if I don't model how to handle crashing into the hurdles of life right there with them? This chapter spoke very clearly to me that it is ok to take a risk. I can only become the best teacher I can be if I am willing to do what I ask my students to do.

    I was meant to hear the message Rami stated so eloquently on pages 66-67, "The difference between striving for perfection and continuously honing your craft is that when you are string for perfection, you are doing it for those on the outside. When you work toward improving your practice as a teacher, you are driven by an inherent need to do better than you did before. You are not trying to prove a point to someone else or trying to gain your self-worth from the opinion of others." I always start with the correct mindset at the beginning of the year, but as time passes, I get caught up with what seem to be urgent matters and deadlines, that I miss the big picture and spend the time reflection on my instruction and what the students I am working with need from me to be able to flourish, not just as learners, but as people.

    To see the TEDx (the twenty minute time investment is worth it) and learn about the organization, check out this link: http://choose2matter.org/ or follow them on Twitter @Choose2Matter.

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  42. As I was reading this chapter, I was definitely able to relate to some of the struggles that I face as a teacher. I am reluctant to share my opinion sometimes out of fear. As a new teacher, I am not sure that my opinion will have value or be considered good. I am hesitant to stick up for things that I want to stick up for, partly because I don't want to cause controversy and partly because I am not sure what will happen if I do something or speak up. I have at one time or another felt the four fears talked about: fear of failure in the classroom, fear of criticism from colleagues (even though I work with a very supportive team), fear of taking a stand, and fear of having to do all the work.

    After reading the chapter, I want to commit to taking more of a stand. I want my true voice to be heard. I realized in that past year of teaching that I was striving for perfection and expected everything to go as planned. I did not want my teaching or lesson to fail. I expected that I could be in control of every situation and if something did go wrong that it was my fault. I was hesitant to show emotion to my students as I didn't want them to see me vulnerable.

    As I enter my second year, I am ready to face the challenges of the classroom with a new light. I want to "work toward improving my practice as a teacher, driven by an inherent need to do better than I did before" and not to pursue perfection. I want to bring my honest true self to the classroom. My goal is to not be afraid and to step up for myself and my students. If I can do this, then hopefully my students will be able to do the same!

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    1. I'm so glad you joined this group and have a new attitude for this next year. As a literacy coach, I so enjoy working with new teachers. Everyone has something to offer and I learn a lot from those experiences. I'm always interested in what they have learned in their college courses and how their philosophies of teaching fit in with what is being done in our building. It helps keep me current. There's so much to process in that first year. I think as long as everyone approaches teaching as lifelong learners, teachers and students will benefit. Best wishes for a fulfilling year!

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  43. This really makes me think...I remember when I first started teaching, I was so full of ideas and fire! I couldn't wait to collaborate and engage with others, I loved sharing ideas, part of that was belonging to a building climate that embraced fresh perspectives. With a different principal and a very poor building climate, I learned to sit back and think about every word before I said it. He was overly critical and the a Staff seemed to see participation as "kissing up." The hostility of the work environment really made me hold back. Now I'm in a bigger building with too many people to successfully get to know. I do not feel confident expressing myself to the group as a whole and I feel judged by others in our dept. Meetings--there is a clique atmosphere and I just don't fit. I have flourished with the two other teachers I work closely with but I feel as though my over all enthusiasm...my fire has dimmed significantly and I want it back! There Is always so much red tape and road blocks in special education that I have grown weary and often expect an uphill battle when I want to try new things, especially if it involves any monetary commitment. My students and the their parents embrace new strategies and activities whole heartedly, which is awesome. However, with the focus on the Rise Rubric it is very intimidating to try new things--failure is not an option because that will go on my evaluation. There is an incredible amount of pressure to only do tried and true teaching methods. Paperwork and data tracking is also another huge factor; due to the intensity of the Rubric every thing we do is supposed to be planned, tracked and reflected upon in triplicate it seems. Every idea, every lesson and all of the work involved makes me immediately weigh and measure the impact on the students immediately and long term. If I am going to spend a lot of time and energy on something it must have a significant impact that is measurable for the Rise. I feel like my wings have been clipped. I genuinely care for my students, many of them have been in my care for 4 or more years. Seeing them and experiencing their success makes it all worth it. Everyday my kids are happy to come to school and happy to see me so I feel the same. I have to focus on that at all times. Tools I use are faith and friends. I pray all the way to work, as needed throughout the day and each evening. My gal pals at work are faithful women and we pray for each other as well. We reflect together and when one of us is down we use humor and genuine kindness to lift each other up. Also, at the end of the day I go home to two beautiful little children whose smiles erase the frustrations I feel.



    Sent from my iPad

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    1. It seems like you are making the best of a very challenging situation. As a literacy coach that does RISE evaluations, I find your experiences with it sad. I have observed teachers try new methods of instruction. What is most valuable is not that it was perfectly successful, but how the teacher responds to the students during the lesson. What I look for is a clear goal and instruction, student engagement, and a reflective teacher after the lesson that can evaluate what went well and what could be improved. I appreciate teachers that try out what they have learned from professional development. Every day should be a learning experience - even if it is an evaluation.

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  44. One of the most effective ways I know to reinforce the alignment between my values and actions is to review texts of mentor teachers. This reminds me of my direction and reinforces my confidence in what I am asking students to do in the classroom. Nancie Atwell's work is my go-to mentor text. She puts state testing in perspective. She focuses on what she feels most strongly about: cultivating lifelong readers, writers, and thinkers. Whenever I feel my confidence wavering or am unsure of my next step, I grab one of her books. Another author I highly respect is Kelly Gallagher. Reading about any of the work he is doing in his classroom motivates me to push forward with curriculum that I may, at times, question. The book Focus, Elevating the Essentials by Mike Schmoker is another text that is always within easy reach. This is the book I pull when I am overwhelmed. I feel that Mr. Schmoker brings clarity to my vision. His book discusses what is really important and effective for students - what work matters. I completely agree with his beliefs and rationale. I love this book for a reality check!

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  45. Do you have a hard time listening to yourself over the other loud voices and opinions around you?
    I tend to not have difficulty listening to myself over "loud noise" around me. However, I feel at times it ends up isolating me from those I teach/work with. Sometimes, if you really enjoy your job/class and put it a lot of extra time/money/effort, you can feel like you are judged by those who think you're wasting your time/money/effort. Yet, most of the times, my faith in knowing I'm doing what I'm called to do to the best of my ability will let me ignore those noises.

    My beliefs both professionally and spiritually shape what I do. When decisions are made that affect my teaching which I don't agree with, I speak up. Well, I usually "write" my disagreement and submit it to the administrator who is or has made the decision. By using e-mail, I'm able to read, revise, and reread my "stand" before submitting it. I find I'm too reactive to do so orally. Sometimes, it has been beneficial, and sometimes it does not. However, if I'm not willing to speak up when I disagree, then I have no business saying anything to anyone about it. For instance, currently, our master schedule dictates when we teach all subjects. I do not agree what the placement of math instruction, so I had asked if I could "teach" the lesson during "content area" and then finish it during the assigned time. Then, take the last section of the day to teach social sciences. My reply shared that, as of now, I must stick with the master schedule. I shared my disagreement, but in the end, I will abide by my administrator's decision. However, that doesn't mean during our evaluation conferences I won't try to alter my schedule again. I hope my students feel the same way. If they don't agree with something, they should share their thoughts, but they must realize in the end, as the teacher, I make the final decision. Likewise, I may not agree with every decision made my administrators, but I respect their position and must in turn allow the final decision to be theirs.

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  46. I don`t feel as if I typically struggle with being overly influenced by what I hear around me, other than it can occasionally make me feel uncomfortable if I feel as if I`m not doing things the same way that others are doing them. Teaching special education life skills classes, I teach very different content from what the other teachers in my building do. Because of this, most of the time I need to be willing to do what I feel is best for my students and not necessarily worry about how other teachers are doing things, as it doesn`t always apply to me. I do lack some confidence, though, that I am doing everything I should be doing in my classroom. I want to do the most that I can for my students, but with the class that it is, I struggle at times with helping them be engaged in a topic and truly learn it. However, I realize that if I have taught a concept and my students weren`t engaged, that is the time to either reteach it the next day, or revise that lesson for the next time the concept is taught.

    At our school, sharing what we`re doing in our classes and fun or useful things that we create or find to use is highly encouraged. This does make me insecure because I always figure that whatever everybody else is doing is probably better than what I am doing, especially since it is so different from what I teach. Also, most of what I do in my classes doesn`t apply well to the regular academic classes. They`re on a much different level than my students, so I simply assume I don`t have much to share that would be useful in the regular classrooms. This is an area I greatly want to work on. I would like to be more willing to share what I do and what I find, even if it doesn`t always apply to what the rest of the teachers in my building are doing.

    When this chapter talked about resistance, that is something I can definitely relate to. It`s not that I don`t want to try new things and attempt things I don`t understand, but it`s a very scary concept. I put off trying things that I don`t feel comfortable with, when instead I want to be one of those people who is constantly trying new techniques and things that my students might be interested in. I need to take up that challenge and try everything I can try. I know that if something goes horribly wrong, I can fix it or do it differently next time, but sometimes knowing that`s how something works and doing it can be two very different things.

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    1. Your last sentence is very true. That's why teachers need ongoing support from curriculum directors, coaches, colleagues and principals. Why would we expect the first time we try something to be perfect? I encourage you to solicit help from others, try things, and reflect on what you have done. It's the only way we get better, I think. It's also O.K. to tell your students you are trying something new and want their feedback. Good luck!

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  47. I think that sometimes experience helps you to become more confident in your abilities as a teacher. I have not been real confident in my self as a teacher until the last few years. It is easy to loose confidence in yourself as it seems everything is constantly changing in education, especially in Indiana. I just want to do it "right" and I think that I have came to realize that what is "right" can be different things for different people. I have been fortunate to have support principles but overall I feel like our district would like for everyone to be reading for the same page, at the same time, on the same day!

    This book has really opened my eyes in terms of how I view myself as a teacher. I am so happy to have read this right before schools starts!

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  48. I had never really put the word “fear” to the different aspects of my working day so this made me think and then I found myself talking out loud…and my daughter saying what…what…what (she teaches too). We should have a few good conversations when she reads this chapter. It took me too many years to learn to be true to myself when teaching so it is nice to see someone opening up the conversation and hopefully young teachers will benefit. There are highs and lows in any career, self-doubt and mandates from “above” influence our days. But there is one thing I’m learning and trying to teach my students and that is this: Failure is okay. It is your response to the failure that makes the difference. So as a new year approaches may I learn to be patient (wait without grumbling), find joy in the moments of the day, give grace, and trust myself.

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  49. Emily Ohland here, my wordpress sign in is being difficult! As a "veteran" teacher who has returned to the classroom after being a stay at home mom and business owner I still identify with many of the concepts addressed in this chapter. I am impatient with the pecking order that is very present in the public school hierarchy. Thankfully, last year I was very fortunate to have colleagues and administrators who were not entrenched in that system. I am moving buildings this year and have high hopes for my new placement as well.

    That being said, one of the clear hurdles I have faced is the concept that Menoo addresses on page 62 "Fear of having to do all the work". I am an idea person, implementation is possible but it is work. I am great at generating ideas and even addressing the process for implementation but I am very happy to hand those things off to someone else so I can work on the next idea and implementation. The phrase "that's a great idea, why don't you get right on that" is a big bubble buster for me. I can already say that I know I'll be keeping ideas to myself this year in a new place specifically because I will not have time to work on implementation. Developing curriculum and prepping for 3 classes not previously taught will take every moment of my time and mental power.

    I also resonated with the final statement by John Spencer. I approach my job as a servant and through my faith. While I can not overtly share that faith in words with my students, I can and do share it in my treatment of my students and colleagues. I believe that every student has something to contribute no matter what their personal circumstances and they deserve the best that I can give them each and every day. Part of that process for me is helping my students be aware that I am an actual person and I believe in them and want the best for them. This requires giving a little of myself and also being willing to know my students as people. When I approach my teaching in this way, I believe authenticity is inherent and then teaching becomes part of the relationship rather than something I "do". Rather, it is who I am.

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  50. During my 1st year of teaching I found it difficult to voice my opinions to my coworkers, staff, and or administrators because I didn’t want to step on any ones toes. Over the past few years I have learned that I can voice my opinion to my coworkers and administrators. I found that it was helpful to talk to veteran teachers outside of my building first to gather my thoughts and opinions before I would approach an administrator or staff member. Through their help and advice I have learned how to overcome the fear of voicing my opinion. Don’t get me wrong I can still find it hard at times to speak up for what I believe is right for my students but it has slowly become easier. I hope I as become a veteran teacher this ability will come more natural, and I will feel less self-conscience when discussing my thoughts and opinions about decisions being made in the work place.

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    1. It is great to talk to colleagues outside of your building. They often have a fresh perspective, and it is important to have honest conversations in a safe environment with people who will understand the education world. Keep the networks you have created going!

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  51. One of my personal fears is that the emphasis on change and technology may often be a commentary on the quality of my teaching. That is my issue and I need to trust my 26 years of experience teaching high school English. I have been successful in the past and I will be successful in the future. The cliche "Don't throw away the baby with the bath water" holds some truth for me. I need to find the balance between what works and what can be changed to become better. This is no different from the reflection that is part of every teacher's regime.

    Last week, I mentioned my concerns about going into this school year without an approved curriculum and the all-digital requirements for my English class next year. The section about combating fear (page 69) was very timely for me. After reading about pushing past the anxiety by getting started, I have begun working up my first all-digital units. I am going to stop resisting the idea of no textbooks or approved curriculum. I am making a resolution to stop dreading the amount of work this next year is going to require and to start seeing it as a challenge. AND because I am a major science fiction nerd, I can not help ending this section with the quote "Resistance is futile" from Star Trek.

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    1. Cathy, love the quote "Resistance is futile" from Star Trek. This made me laugh; your humor is part of what makes you a great friend and teacher. I also agree with your cliche, "Don't throw away the baby with the bath water." Sometimes it feels like we're being asked to embrace too much change, too fast. But, teachers are resilient, and we always find a way to take on additional demands. We're in this together, and I know we'll help each other get through it!

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  52. I don’t know if “fear” is the word I would use for myself as far as overcoming restraints in the classroom or to myself. I have always welcomed administrators and other teachers in my room whenever they want. I have even e-mailed particular people about something I am doing in the classroom and invited them to come in.
    Just this year I invited administrators in during an activity. The day I had invited them was supposed to be the “final” activity. As it turned out, the student’s needed more time to finalize their project. I could not just cancel my invitation. I didn’t feel right telling those people that they were no longer welcome on the day I provided. (Administrators have their own schedule and cannot just change plans to come to my room whenever it is good for me). As it turned out both my principal and superintendent came in and they were able to see my students discussing, planning, and developing a “dance’ that would be taught and performed by the other students in the class. They were able to see more of student collaboration and interaction with me than they would have if they came to see the final project.
    I would say my “fear” is more the need to “let go with the plan” and allow myself to know it is okay to not always stick to the plan. Use that plan as a guide, and know that it is not set in stone!!

    The author states “It is better for our students to see our authentic selves, the selves that are impacted by the emotional hurdles in our lives, than to imagine us as people without any actual troubles.” Wow….this statement hits hard in particular this past year. I had some changes in my life this past year that affected me emotionally and ultimately my teaching. I tried to hide my feelings and continue on my teacher as I should, but the kids know. They know when we (teachers) are not feeling well or upset. They are not afraid to ask what is wrong, or why we look like we are in a bad mood. It is funny to me when students come in and tell me that a class period earlier in the day said I was in a bad mood. I then have to look back and figure out why those students thought I was in a particular moon. They sure hold you accountable. When I talk with the students about “why I am in a bad mood” or why I am “just not myself” or even why do I seem happier on a particular day, the students listen. They want to know we are people too. They even share their day, frustrations, happiness. My students in particular this year, were always asking me how I was doing. I would get a random email telling me I was being thought of. Students do care, students do want their teachers to be their for them, students will work for you especially when they build that semi-personal relationship with the teacher.

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  53. I admit it; I'm definitely one of those silent-during-the-meeting types. But as someone mentioned before, occasionally I need time to process the information before I can offer a worthy response. This might require me to mull it over for a few days or even to discuss it with colleagues. It doesn't mean I'm fearful... just cautious with my thoughts. There are times when I've been left with the impression that some people's opinions are valued more than others, though, so that might be encouraging my hesitancy.

    I am far less restrained with my emotions, at least in the classroom, as any of my students will tell you. I've shed tears freely in front of them during units on the Holocaust, To Kill a Mockingbird, and even Fahrenheit 451. I smile and laugh just as readily. The department chair at my first school told me I shouldn't smile for the first term so that the kids would know "I mean business." I didn't make it the first week, and we survived.

    I can definitely identify with the section on fear leading us to mask our "true voice." I would like to say that I'm adventurous when it comes to content and practices, but in the past few years, I've become fearful that I might offend someone's hair-trigger sensibilities. Rami's words on page 63 really hit home with me: "When we teach in environments where authenticity and mutual trust are a rarity, there is often an unspoken code, based on our collective fears, that gets embedded in the system." It's rather difficult NOT to mask one's true voice when we live in fear of the "unspoken code."

    In the first entry for this chapter, Krisanne Roll stated that her attempts to start an LGBT discussion group at her school had met with a wall of silence. That brought back some powerful memories. Several years ago, a gay student came to me and asked if I would be willing to sponsor an LGBT-tolerant group (but open to anyone) that would give the kids a place where they could meet and feel accepted. I agreed, and this was the start of Diversity Club. To members, it was simply a group that focused on learning about other cultures and increasing tolerance for everyone. They raised money and donated it to charities. They went to dinner together and had fun. To some students in the school, though, it was the "Gay Club," an object of ridicule, and everyone associated with it -- students and teacher -- MUST be gay and worth of harassment. There were even a few other teachers who made snide comments. It was a horrible, ugly experience. It shouldn't surprise anyone that Diversity Club ceased to exist or that some of the kids eventually transferred to other schools.

    I'm not fearful about showing emotions, about being prepared for class, or about being imperfect. But am I fearful that I'm make that one mistake that crosses the invisible line and violates the unspoken code? You betcha.

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  54. At times I find it hard to get projects started. I would not attribute this to a lack of motivation, instead a list of doubts. One has to combat this list with a stronger list of goals or outcomes. Oftentimes, I find myself fearing the task before I have even started it because I worry about the outcome. Meeno recommends looking back at past initiatives to guide how to start future projects.
    As a first year teacher, I know I will need to hold very strong in my values for my classroom. It is difficult to feel confident in your ideas as a first year teacher. I have been overwhelmed with wonderful information, curriculum, and advice. I greatly appreciate every piece I have been given. However, it is difficult deciding if these new suggestions match up with my values and teaching style. I find that it is best to go back and review my teaching philosophy. This philosophy outlines my goals and purpose in teaching. It’s only a paragraph long, but it is the heart and soul in everything I do in my classroom.

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    1. As a younger teacher (going into my third year) the best thing I have learned about starting big projects is having an understanding with your administrators that you are tying new things! Accepting that some things you will do might blow up in your face, and knowing that they know it as well really eases your fears. Another thing I recommend is asking the vet teachers about certain aspects of your projects and things to look out for. For example, how long do you think it will actually take them to complete, how they should turn it in, what if it is late and how do you deal with it? My biggest advice is ALWAYS MAKE A RUBRIC FIRST! This really helps student know what to expect, wha you expect and their parents!

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  55. "When we let someone's title keep us from working collaboratively with them, we not only set up power struggles....we also may edit or censor our own actions in anticipation of what the boss might think or do." I feel fortunate to work for a corporation that doesn't hide behind titles but listens to and encourages ideas. The principal in my building encourages me to align my teaching to my values in my alternative self-contained classroom. I lose confidence when my students don't respond to the plan that is set up to help them succeed. It rejuvenates me when I hear back from students who have graduated, gained employment, and made a difference in their community.

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  56. It is harder to incorporate the activities in my gym class the last few years. With the standards including now language arts and math. I only have the students for forty minutes per week and because of holidays and special school activities I sometimes don't even have those forty minutes. My students enjoy my classes and activities more before having to incorporate the additional activities.

    I encourage my students to come up with new ideas in the classroom. This allows them to show their creativity and involvement in the class. Some of my lessons I have the students create games that they vote on to play in the class.

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  57. When I read her four common fears around the country I chuckled to myself as I have thought that or been there/done that. Whether I was that young teacher or where I am now an experienced veteran; it is a difficult to take a stand in a small school corporation. I worry about young teachers just starting out being able to sort out what is important over the loud voices that “appear” over-polished in our profession, negative, or waste time talking over their intentions or burdens to many. Young teachers need to ask themselves if these are worthwhile conversation or should they look for mentors that are motivated/dedicated to education and not those just drawing a paycheck.

    A few years ago many teachers emotionally/fearfully reported to what appeared to be work and not education of students. The fear of many new expectations and I might be evaluated today with our new system,, did not always allow them to be themselves and connect with the students on a level where as Meenoo said, teachers and students are both co-creators. This was the case in many school corporations.

    When you have mentors you are in contact with, you soon learn whom you can trust and whom you can’t. Some you can’t trust can still be mentors but be careful what you say. As far as networking it lacks that personal touch, people can write one thing and their classroom is not as such. Having talked with our parents and my neighbor lady while working on this chapter makes me realize even more they are still important mentors, they have lived through a depression and a time when you did not have a television, indoor plumbing, let alone a phone in the home. The neighbor lady does not even own a cell phone. Young teachers should not overlook special mentors like this, which allow me to use their life experiences to connect and accomplish even more with my students.

    Not always do young teachers seek out the wisdom from experienced teachers, they to find their group. It takes “patience” not only in your classroom but the hallway, working with co-workers and administrative staff. Sometimes the lesson I have spent hours on may not go as good as plan B or C,I had to come up with at the last minute, because of things did not go as planned or of situations we cannot control. Young teachers, preparing is still a better idea. Remember your goal is not to impress your colleagues with you “cute” ideas but to create an environment where your students are engaged and take things they can use in life. I found over the years Administrators often will listen, but may not hear what you actually are capable of doing and what their decisions/limitations are doing to your students. As Meenoo mentioned, sometimes we should not be so fearful and take a stand. Often taking a stand has moved a class of students forward and sometimes it has created more personal stress and limited my students.

    I still put my values, standards, and student accomplishments high on my priority list, but often find there are obstacles that interfere. When faced with interfering obstacles, you have already used networking, some of your best resources and mentors and had great support; your hands are tied and compromise is not an option. Maybe it is time to move forward and realize “it is what it is”; just try to stay focused on the positive impact you can be and make the best of the situation for your students.

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  58. The biggest fear I had as a first year teacher because I was often referred to as "baby teacher" was that my ideas were not good enough because I just didn't have the experience to contribute to the conversation yet. That older teachers would just whisper "oh that's cute, but it will never work". After that first year and mostly keeping my mouth shut I learned to speak up a little more through out my second year. What I did learn that there are a lot of vet teachers who really like to comment on your ideas rather than come up with any. I also learned that if I had an idea the only way people would take it more seriously was if I had collaborated with a vet teacher. As surprised as I was by this, I was also not that surprised. I am in no way saying that vet teachers should not be utilized they have tons of experience, insight and their brains should be picked for their knowledge and skills they have acquired. What I hope that some vet teachers who may read this will hopefully realize is that no matter how much they hate it, education is changing, and younger teachers are usually more in tuned to what that change is. For example, when my school went 1:1 there were a lot of resistance from older teachers for the technology whereas the younger teachers were used to technology being stressed in our education. So even though we had not had any training, we knew this was coming and jumped on board more easily. I am not saying this makes any younger teacher a better teacher or vice versa, one thing I hope I never lose as I become a vet, it too stay up with the times so I do not have the sudden fear of huge change and am too scared to look too younger teachers and pick their brains as well.

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  59. I have now read and reread this chapter. Had I not listened to my own voice, I would not even be in this profession. I never dreamed my first job would be in an inner city school with rough kids that I went home and worried about, that I would have colleagues that resented me and the "new" insights and ideas that came with me (they also resented that the children cared for me), or that my first principal would threaten me and belittle me the way she did. I survived though. I still cannot totally let go of the hurt and heartache that my first teaching job brought me. However I have learned that I must believe in myself and the reason that school didn't work for me is because they were not yet ready to be innovative, to learn and grow with other professionals. That is why they were a failing school. I needed to find other places to share my gifts with, to take in their gifts. Other lessons to learn. I have found on my journey that listening to your inner voice and reflecting on each experience taking the best of it you can is the key to surviving.

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  60. Reading the top four fears of teachers immediately made me relive a lot of teaching experiences. The fear of failure in the classroom, fear of criticism from colleagues, and the fear of having to do all the work have all been manageable for me through the years. The toughest fear, by far, that I've had to overcome is the fear of taking a stand. Two events stand out that have helped me with this fear. The first involved discussing a past maternity leave contained in my district's contract. To sum things up very briefly, after much research and work to become an expert in this area, I felt a lot of resistance from superintendents and an assistant superintendent; I was hugely unpopular for awhile. The injustice of the situation made me determined to take a stand and see the issue through. I did not personally gain much from correcting the situation. It took a physical and emotional toll on me, took seven years of my time, and ultimately involved the EEOC and a lawyer from Washington, D.C. Younger teachers are benefitting from my stand, and that has given me a wealth of personal satisfaction and confidence. The second stand involved standing up to censorship. A small group of parents wanted certain novels removed from English classes. After a lot of discussion with other English teachers, parents, administrators and the School Board, the novels teachers in my building suggested were defended and retained on the reading list. Wise parents know to choose their battles with their children instead of being picky about everything. The same is true for teachers, and I'm very proud that I took a stand on these two issues. It's not easy, but sometimes confronting conflict is the healthiest - and most necessary - option. I try not to sweat the small stuff.

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  61. Being true to yourself is often hard as we are our worst critics. After completing a lesson or project, I look back and think first, how did the class respond to it. Then I consider how other adults in the classroom worked with it. Last, I examine how I felt about it. There have been times when I have been less than successful with what I had planned on accomplishing, but everyone else has been very pleased. I am afraid the opposite has also been true but that is life. I am fortunate to work in a school where the staff and my supervisors are very supportive. This year as a new test is developed to replace the old ISTAR there has been a lot of debate about the test itself. I will wait to see the test myself before I form an opinion. People like to talk, some of it is worth listening to some is not. Once you stand up for what you think is right for you, it starts getting easier.

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    1. It is really nice to work for a school where everyone is supportive. When I read about the 4th grade teacher in Houston who could only use test prep materials, I could hardly believe it! And I agree that we are often our own worst critics.

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  62. Wow....now I know what everyone else has been dealing with when having to re-write their response 3x's! How frustrating! Okay...third times the charm. Right?

    Being a substitute I have felt that my voice, thoughts, and ideas have been somewhat overlooked at times. I understand, to an extent, that I may have been seen as a temporary addition to the school and how would I know any better than someone who has been teaching for years. However, there were a few instances where another teacher would approach me, asking for my thoughts and/or opinions on a matter. I believe that these few cases helped me to keep my voice and not shy away, fading into the background.
    As far as, overcoming any fears that I may have as a teacher or finding alignment between my values and actions; I feel that I have been blessed to work for a school corporation who puts the needs of their students first and believe whole-heartedly in the Kid's First Philosophy. I also believe that being a student, from Kindergarten to graduation, for this very same school district that my values are nearly, if not completely the same as theirs; therefore, I am not certain a time will ever come where this will be a challenge for me.
    Although I will not completely know what challenges I will face until I obtain my own classroom, this chapter has made it very clear that there may in fact be a time when I feel as if I am losing my voice amongst much more prominent ones. Fortunately, I am aware and prepared to take Meeno Rami's suggestions given to us in this chapter, to prevent losing my voice and to continue listening to myself, regardless of what obstacles await for me.

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    1. I thought I was the only one! I have had to retype responses so many times! :-/

      Substitute teaching is difficult-- kudos to you for getting out there and doing your best for those kiddos, and for listening to your own voice.

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  63. Many times I have a hard time listening to myself over the loud voices and opinions around me, often because I don't trust myself to have a better way of doing things than anyone else. I like Rami's discussion of the different fears that can prevent us from listening to ourselves-- the main fear for me is tied to perfectionism, that I will not be good enough. The discussion of perfectionism and the three steps to overcoming resistance were very helpful. I know these things in my head but often struggle to put them into practice-- this chapter was very encouraging to help me do that.

    I have seen the power of being vulnerable with students in the classroom-- I think the students have an internal "authenticity meter," and every time I've gone out on a limb to share something, students have responded very well. It definitely helps create a beneficial classroom culture. One way I try to do that consciously is by trying new expressions and asking questions about usage in Spanish. When I make a mistake and the students giggle, I laugh with them. It's so important to be willing to make mistakes in language learning, and I want to model that for my students as much as I can. It's not always comfortable, but even being vulnerable in this little way helps students feel comfortable to try new things and make mistakes themselves. I hope I can continue developing my classroom culture this year, and I like the suggestions in this chapter.

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    1. It sounds like you are very vulnerable. You are correct that the kids needs to see us make mistakes. That will give you automatic respect. It also lets them know that you are real and care about them as students and as people.

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  64. I certainly do have a hard time listening to myself over other loud voices and opinions around me. I have three different counselors and three different principals that offer suggestions and advice, much of which I solicit. In addition to them, I have my faculty on my team, my supervisor from the central office, my aide, and my students. While I think that I’m often pretty strong in my convictions, I also quite often find myself conflicted with what opinions to listen to and which to put on the back burner. I always heed the advice of others as I appreciate their opinions, but some of their voices are not as feasible. It’s certainly not their fault because they aren’t in my classroom every day, so it’s difficult for them to always offer solutions that will work. However, their voices often help to guide me in making a sound decision.

    I constantly am evaluating myself as a teacher and how I present myself with each student and parent. Am I treating each student/parent equally and honestly? When I don’t agree with what the student/parent believes, does that hinder my ability to work with them objectively? In situations like these, I seek the advice of my colleagues to help me assess my handling of situations. I find that I can take their advice more easily in these types of situations. I think that knowing that they often face the same situations as I do on a day-to-day basis, it’s easier for me to take solace in their advice.

    One other thing that I often do is take some time to evaluate the situations that I find challenging. I often find this time to reflect quite powerful because I will sometimes modify my response/reaction after having some time before reacting.

    I know that I can always do better about listening to other peoples’ opinions, and I could certainly listen to myself more often. I often question my own initial judgments when I realize later that I shouldn’t have done so.

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  65. Out of all the chapters, so far this is the one area I really struggle. I am my own worst critic. In the past I also had a supervisor who was very critical of what I was doing and was not afraid to tell me everything I was doing wrong. I also taught at. Faith based alt ed school. I loved it. I could share my faith while I was teaching, when the situation presented itself. Now teaching in the public school,I have to be very careful what I say and when. My students (75%) are on free lunch. The situations they bring with them to class is heart breaking. I want so badly to hive them hope through Jesus. My alternative is to live out my faith, and pry for them. I am also in a great position teaching Read180. I have daily opportunities to see growth. I love to connect with other Read180 teachers and exchange ideas. Pintress is another place that I can gain inspiring ideas. My family is a huge support as well. This kids I work with needs lots of encouragement. Sometimes when I spend all day all week pouring into my students I need someone to encourage me to keep fighting, because no one else will fight for them

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    1. It sounds as though you are doing a great job and doing what is best for your students. I understand how hard it is to see how hard your students are struggling and always wanting to do more to be able to help them. I too have this issue often times. I teach special ed. at a high school and I often find that I never feel as though I am doing enough for them and that there is always more that I can and should be doing. It gets very frustrating! This is truly where out faith comes in. We just have to pray that we are given the knowledge to do what is best for our students and the things that we can control while they are with us and an understanding that we can not control what they go through outside of our walls. It sounds like you are doing a great job so keep up the good work!!

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  66. This is actually one area that I feel I have gotten much better at over the years. At the beginning of my teaching career I was never confident enough to voice my opinion for much of anything. I moved school every couple of years for many years so I never felt as though I belonged anywhere that I was. However, after going through some things in my personal life, I was able to make a huge growth spurt so to say. I now feel as though I can express my opinion and share my ideas with my colleagues/ parents/ and administration. I feel more confident that my ideas are being excepted and that people even come to me for advice. I do truly feel as though I have a lot to offer and I am no longer allowing myself to hold back where my students are concerned.

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