Monday, August 19, 2013

Your "One Amazing Year" Begins Now

An example of Doc Klein's photographic inspiration: "Footprints
may fade as will our history, but your life on the other hand
 is a source of energy that lasts forever.
What life will you send forward?"

A daunting, yet delicious, question, if you're up to the challenge:

What would it take for you to create One Amazing Year for yourself?

This is precisely what I, along with 20 teachers from across the state of North Carolina, from Wilmington to Asheville, set out to determine 2 years ago. Each year now, I reflect back on that One Amazing Year, and begin to plan how the upcoming school year can be amazing, too.

As I reflect and plan this year, though, it’s important for me to share what I learned so that others, too, can think consciously about how to make these next 12 months amazing…read on.

Through NCCAT support and inspiration direct from Doc Klein, author of the upcoming One Amazing Year, our activities provided space and support for the inquiry, reflection and prioritization needed to undergo such a task. Yet that is not where the story lies.

The story lies within teachers themselves, and despite our very different teaching circumstances, home lives, and personal goals, despite the freedom to narrate and live whatever story we desire in these 12 months, there is a resounding realization.

Dedicated teachers’ personal lives are inextricably linked with their professional ones.

In that initial year, each teacher’s One Amazing Year intriguingly required some sort of balance, whether related to time, relationships, energy or attitude, whether in the emotional, spiritual, and/or physical realms. As teachers we give freely of ourselves to others, we attend to the emotional affect of our individual students, even when it drains us. We have the tendency to minimize our feelings in order to keep the peace, suppress our potential knee-jerk reactions when faced with tiresome behaviors (students, angry parents, colleagues, politics) and to fill in the emotional gaps along with the intellectual.  

Your goals can relate to anything in your life. Not just teaching, although I like to reflect on each school year as a new "chance" to try again, set new goals, and dream new dreams. It just happens to be good timing for me.

Small goals—and indeed, goals are all relative—along with their successes and redirections, are what lead to greater energies, honesty with ourselves, and nurturing the loves we brought with us when we began teaching. It is certainly daunting to think about and plan an Amazing Year, but even moreso when we realize that teaching is probably the only profession where the ideal is to work ourselves out of a job… as students take control of their own learning, make more and more choices and mistakes and take the responsibilities we expect of them. Create your own accountability/ support group as you divulge, then pursue your goal(s).  It will help make those small goals a reality, and push you to do more.

We and Me
As teachers ensconced in the lives of our students, we understand that to address the “me” before the “we” may sound selfish at a certain level, but we know it is crucial. We learned as a group not only to give ourselves permission to say no, but also to take leaps of faith and find ways to do things that renew us mentally, spiritually, physically. At the same time, we also realized the power of the “we” to maintain motivation and continue on toward our goals.

Honoring change
By embarking on One Amazing Year, extend invitations to Risk, Vulnerability, and Questioning, among others. Doing so will help you gain a crucial understanding of the process of change, and become more adept at honoring it. Importantly, we can relate it to our students within our classrooms—the risks we ask of them, the vulnerabilities they may feel, the power of their (and our) community, as well as the questions we both ask and need them to ask of themselves. Be receptive to the challenges that accompany change as you let them strengthen you.

Conscious laughter and success
We consciously remembered to include laughter in our learning, the necessity of such a reminder acting as a solid indicator of the pressures we now feel amidst the ebb and flow of curricular and testing demands. As we reflect upon our practice and re-commit to success daily, we grant the power of that success to the students and grow with them. This serves to reiterate a vital need to shift what is now intense public scrutiny of the negative, onto even the smallest of these successes, because these gifts are cumulative within the greater journey of even our students’ Amazing Years, and it would behoove us to honor each step.

Big dreams, small steps
If you were to plan and execute your One Amazing Year, would it, like mine, also include 70 growing minds as well as your family? Or just you? Would you give yourself permission to make mistakes? To redirect? To invite the power of community as support? Would it require depth, breadth, or both? How much risk, if any, is involved? Are you willing to help others along the way?... What other curiosities burn within? What questions poke at you, and move you?...

As teachers, we ask ourselves these questions explicitly; in doing so, we extend our boundaries and allow ourselves to not only ask the hard questions, but to answer them, and to shift perspective and course when needed.  For, as we well know from our classrooms, the story lies within each of us, and also, in the words of our co-facilitator, Doc Klein, “the story offers us the possibility…that who we are is not permanent, and is constantly changing.”

And that possibility, with all of its interpretations, is what One Amazing Year is all about.

Imagine yours.

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