EP10: New standards, new assessments, new leadership, and more…just when you think you’ve mastered the game, there’s a brand new set of rules. Listen as Education & Tech Innovation Specialist A.J. Juiliani shares how constant changes are impacting teachers. You’ll learn 3 practical tips for managing change, and discover how to channel frustration into innovation.
This post is based on the latest episode of my weekly podcast, Angela Watson’s Truth for Teachers. A podcast is essentially a talk radio show that you can listen to online or download and take with you wherever you go. I release a new episode each Sunday and feature it here on the blog to help you get energized and motivated for the week ahead. Learn more about the podcast, view blog posts for all past episodes, or subscribe in iTunes to get new episodes right away.
A special thanks to this podcast episode’s sponsor, SnapLearning. SnapLearning is a provider of fantastic digital reading resources, including materials for close reading. You can get a free demo of the product at snaplearning.co.
Specifically, I’d like to hear your thoughts on the podcast so far–is it too short, too long, too formal, too informal, are there any topics you’d like me to discuss…let me know what I can do to make this a really helpful resource for you. And for those of you who read the blog post transcripts but don’t actually listen to the podcast: I would love your feedback, too.
Are you finding these posts useful, or would you prefer to see more non-podcast blog posts? Would you prefer that the podcast posts be shorter–maybe just a “show notes” format with a link to download the transcript if you’re interested? I’m hoping the podcast content is relevant for you, but I don’t want to make that assumption. I really value the fact that many of you have been subscribing to this blog for years, and I want to make sure this new content I’m sharing meets your needs.
So today’s episode is going to be a little different. Up to this point with the podcast, it’s only been me, sharing my truth. I thought that was important for the first six weeks or so to establish the tone of the show, help you get to know me, and get a feel for what Truth for Teachers is all about.
What I’d like to do now is introduce a guest once a month. So every fourth week, the show will be someone else sharing their truth for teachers. I have selected friends of mine who have inspired and encouraged me for many years, and invited them to come on the show so they can inspire you, too.
I didn’t want to do an interview–that might change later on, but for now, what you’ll be hearing will not be a back and forth conversation or get-to-know you kind of questions. I’m asking my guests to record themselves sharing their truth just like I record myself. It’s going to be 6-8 minutes of them just speaking directly to you straight from their hearts, just like I do. No interruptions. No small talk. Just inspiring, encouraging words.
I thought a great first guest for the podcast would be my friend AJ Juliani. A.J. is one of those guys that just really gets it. He’s inspiring, encouraging, and has a really timely message for you today. Here he is.
Hi, I’m AJ Juliani. I’m an Education and Technology Innovation Specialist right outside Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. I’ve been a middle school and high school language arts teacher. I’ve written a few books including Inquiry and Innovation in the Classroom, The Teacher’s Guide to Tutoring and Learning by Choice.
I am someone who really continually tries to push forward in education and wants to be an optimist. I want to look on the bright side of things. But these “Truths for Teachers” are really about those feeling of desperation and frustration that many of us, including myself, have had in and out of the classroom.
Imagine if you’ve been teaching for 15 years. And in those 15 years, you’ve grown as a professional, you’ve learned new technologies, shifted with the standards, had new initiative after new initiative started in your school, and seen the way that you have been evaluated move from observations to data back to observations and data.
In those 15 years you’ve had 6 principals, 4 superintendents, 3 Directors of Curriculum, and many special education leaders. You’ve seen some of your best friends and teachers leave the classroom. Some have gone on to administrative roles. Some have left the school together. And some are completely gone. The curriculum has been turned inside out over four times and you are starting the fifth revision…complete with a new shift to core standards. The schedule has changed three times. You’re required to have common unit-based assessments. You’re part of a school data team that looks at all of this “stuff” and tries to make sense of it. And everyone is excited because students are now able to bring devices into school, or maybe your school is giving them devices or thinking about it— you kind of worried because this gonna change everything…again…and it’s not gonna be easier.
And you are exhausted. Not so much by the students, although they’ve changed in 15 years. Not by the parents, who have definitely changed in the past 15 years. But mostly you’re exhausted by managing all of this change, picking yourself up every day, and believing you’re doing good work, with good people, for the right reasons.
I asked teachers and school leaders what they were struggling with a few months ago, and this is a compilation of their story. The two words used most in email responses to my question were “frustrated” and “desperate.” In the wake of a new year, I wrote about how pumped I am for education moving forward. But I can’t help to notice the sighs of desperation and frustration inside many of our classrooms.
Most of us got into education because we wanted to make a difference, right? We want to make a difference in the lives of our students. Education is the bridge to so many opportunities, and we know how many avenues we can open up and how hard it is for some students to overcome personal circumstances without the help of teachers who care to make a difference. It seems that change frustrates many of us, and leaves us desperate for some consistency in the teaching profession.
I wouldn’t argue that point. Yet, change (like anything else), is not all bad and it’s not all good. It’s kind of a mixed bag. What is true is that change is constant. It’s also getting exponentially quicker.
This is not only true in education, but in many fields of work. It took a while for the change and speed to pick up in the classroom, but it has always been there and now it moves faster.
So, how do we handle this? How can we keep the frustration and desperation from boiling over and hurting our progress? I think we can start with these three guiding beliefs and these are three truths that I have for teachers.
First, change is constant: let’s focus on how we manage it.
We may not be able to influence what types of changes are made in schools. Some of us are gonna love and support what happens and others are gonna disagree and oppose. But we can’t control how we manage change as an organization and as an individual. Start with yourself. How are you talking about change? How are you managing the process?
The second truth is: Don’t wait for training. Be a learner; go out and seek it. There are resources everywhere. You’ve got resources online, on TeachersPayTeachers, and books. Find those resources and grow. Use the internet to your advantage.
Third, focus on the important things (many of these do not change). Are students engaged? Are we challenging students and supporting them through various learning activities? Is the classroom a student-centered experience? Are we focusing on the whole child? I get that curriculum changes and technology changes. New initiatives are always around the corner. But the best practices of “how we learn” are focused on student-centered experiences with the right amount of challenge and support for all learners.
Let’s focus on what we can change on the midst of everything going on right now, and that is really our students. If you are feeling frustrated in your current situation…or desperate for some help in managing all of this, take a step back. Take a moment to breathe and look at the big picture.
I found this to be true when I did the 20% Project with my students in my classroom. I was frustrated that all they cared about was grades. And I searched and searched online for different opportunities until I stumbled upon this 20% project. It comes from Google, where they give their employees 20% of their time to work on what they are passionate about. When I did that for my students in my class, it revived their education experience and revived my teaching career.
So even though you may feel frustrated, and even though you may feel desperate, and even though that frustrations and desperations comes out of really good reasons, think about the big picture. Think about your students, and how we can manage all these and make the best learning experience for them regardless of the situation that we are currently in.
If you like what you heard today, I have good news for you–on March 9th, A.J. is launching a podcast with John Spencer called Classroom Questions. It’s going to be a short podcast produced 5 days a week. So if you’ve been wanting more podcasts in your life, definitely head over and check it out!
Next week: How to keep teaching when your personal life is falling apart
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