Change in any aspect of life can be challenging but it can also be a powerful agent of growth. As educators, we recognize the many lessons we can learn from embracing change in order to develop professionally as well as personally. As the 2017-2018 school year began, we both, Lorie Lyon and Dora DeBoer, found a chance to learn and grow by changing. Even though we are both teachers in the same grade, we have our individual takes and stories worth sharing.
I began this journey just about a year ago, a journey that has allowed me to break down barriers and face my fears. A. Voscamp states that “Fear is something that we feel. Brave is something we do.” After ten years of teaching fifth grade at the same school, I decided this past fall to let go of the fear of change and be brave. I quickly realized that my knowledge and skills could be taken to new heights. I was living in a place that was comfortable where I was accomplishing great things, but I knew there were greater things to learn. I decided, as George Couros says, to “embrace the challenge and see it as an opportunity to move forward.”
While the curriculum and standards are very familiar to me, I have had to fully embrace the challenge of working with a different demographic of students, get to know a new team, learn all the ways of a new school, and find my place in this new spot. To be completely transparent, it has been the hardest thing I have ever done. I have had to face the hurdles head on and not all days have been full of smiles. However, creating relationships with educators that share the same vision as me has been priceless. No one can mentally prepare you for the journey, but if you are wondering what it is like to challenge and change yourself, then jump in and don’t look back.
This journey in adapting and transforming my teaching has sparked a flame that I hope has created a path for my students to learn on a new level. I have never considered myself a risk-taker, but I have placed myself on a campus full of them. I know that this journey is giving me the opportunity to expand my knowledge and reach. My journey has not been without setbacks, challenges, and failures, but the amount of growth outweighs the negatives. I have consistently reminded myself that this is a journey. My hope is that my journey positively affects my students and their learning.
When I found out I was going to change roles for the new school year my first instinct was like of a caveman; “fight or flight”. Going back in the classroom as a self-contained (Yes! I teach it all) 5th grade Bilingual Teacher made me want to flee and hide.
After the initial shock, I look back at the beginning of the school year and realized I see things differently now. The change has been challenging but I see the growth that has taken place in me and in my perspective as a teacher and a learner. I’m glad I didn’t fly away from the challenge. I’m glad I left the comfort and security of my previous position to embark in this adventure. These are some lessons Change has taught me so far..
Embrace Being A Beginner
Although I was constantly learning in my previous role, I had a sense of “knowing” my stuff inside-out. Going back into the classroom to teach a new grade wasn’t easy.
I had to learn, relearn, and unlearn some things. It was humbling to be a newbie again; trying to figure everything out and also not feeling good at it. I can’t deny that my pride took a hit but being a “beginner” helped me. I teach differently because it kept my mind open to trying new things. It helped me put myself in my students’ shoes, especially the ones who struggle. My kids saw first-hand my own change from a fixed to a growth mindset. It built a learning community in my classroom because the kids and I overcame obstacles, learned and celebrated our accomplishments together.
Over the past 11 years, as a bilingual teacher, a K-2 interventionist, and an ELD teacher, I’ve learned a great deal about foundational reading and math skills, second language acquisition and effective English instruction. As an Interventionist, I began to make connections and used these insights to guide my instruction. I explored different ways to teach and engage my students, and I started to see things differently. All of these roles have given me a wider view of teaching and learning and I use them now in my classroom with my bilingual students.
I now strive to create learning experiences and not just deliver the content. I think of ways to make my lessons engaging, relevant, connected, personal, developmentally logical, and language rich.
Rediscovering my Passion
Going back to the classroom reminded me of my passion, my kids. Their stories have made my life richer because I got to know them more than I would have in my previous position. I love to witness their academic successes, encourage them through the struggles, but mostly, I love the “Very Big Moments”. A VBM is when my most quiet girl who also happens to have dyslexia advocated for herself for the first time by asking for extra time to complete her work. A VBM is when my boy, a math genius, struggled to communicate his understanding using academic vocabulary but wanted to share first because he wanted to practice using “The Language of Math”. A VBM is when my most resourceful and driven girl, who at her young age has seen and lived more than any kid because of her journey to this country, asks me to correct her when she mispronounces a word in English.
These are the moments that fill my heart with infinite joy and that remind me my passion for teaching. The passion of helping my kids unleash their talents and discover the power they have within themselves.
Lorie Lyon is a 5th-grade teacher at Sigler in Plano, TX. She has a passion for instilling the love of reading in her students. You can read more by Lorie at lorie.lyon.blogspot.com and follow her on Twitter @lorclyon.
Dora DeBoer is a 5th-grade bilingual teacher at Sigler in Plano, TX. She is passionate about language learning, global education and teaching the whole child. You can read more by Dora at dora.deboer.wordpress.com and follow her on Twitter @DoDeBoer1
Tags: Challenge, Change, teacher leadership