Survival Guide to the Second Half of the Summer

An Open Letter to Myself:

Dear Andrew

In case you haven’t noticed, summer vacation is exactly half over.  The fact that you are reading this (and that I am writing it) suggests that the first half of the summer was not fatal. I know you have plenty to do, so I’ll keep this brief.  The following is a recap of what I have learned this summer and some suggestions to help you wind up to the start of the Fall semester successfully.

1. Daniel Pink is right.  Since teachers are people, they ARE highly motivated by autonomy, mastery, and purpose.  How else do you explain the fact that the teachers at Rock Quarry Middle School spent the entire last day discussing, exploring, and unanimously ratifying the RQMS Grading Manifesto and attending the inaugural EdCampRQMS voluntarily.  If it wasn’t the sense of immense value in the work they were doing, what did motivate them to describe it as the “best last day ever”?  Don’t forget this as you plan for next year.  Don’t give into the temptation to seize control. Make protecting your teachers from bureaucracy a priority.

2. This technology thing might actually catch on.  In the past four years I have gone from an accidental “tech guru” to place of fanatical belief in the role of technology in learning from now on (at least until the Apocalypse and/or the cylons attack).  I’ve been integrating technology into my instruction since the first year I was a teacher, but I believe it is simply foolish and irresponsible to ignore all the ways that technology can amplify the learning is already happening in our classrooms.  I’ve specifically become convinced of the value of social media as a professional learning tool in the last year – particularly Twitter.  The impact on my own learning was so great that I made joining and starting to use Twitter a strong recommendation on the RQMS Faculty Summer Reading list.  I don’t have any particularly unique ideas to share.  What I do have are experiences that are different from other educators.  I can learn from them and let them learn from me.  As you continue to plan this summer, keep working to make the case for this kind of dynamic, self-directed (and almost always) very powerful approach to professional development.  Get more educators around you connected; keep modeling the best practice  you know; above all, keep sharing and learning.

3.  This just in: you are a human being too.  You make a point of always keeping in mind the fact that the students and teachers and parents and even folks you report to are people before any role they have.  You’ve done no better than mediocre at remembering this about yourself over the last year or two.  When you get tempted to think that the work you do is indispensable, recall that human learning and even formal education got on just fine without you for several hundred years (or many thousands).  You matter, but don’t burn yourself out trying to do everything at the same time.  Don’t stop exercising when the school year starts (again).  Don’t stop reading yourself to sleep at night.  Don’t stop doing crazy yard work just because.  Tickle the girls just a few seconds longer.  Spend time with (just) Lori more often.  Get those jumping stilts.  Check off a few more summits.

As everyone knows, all great lists are supposed to have either 10 or 101 items.  Make up the other 7 (or 98) yourself – you seem like the kind of guy who might have an idea or two to share.

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