I Can Do Hard Things

This week was hard. It was hard in so many unimaginable ways and also was sort of predictable. I knew that there were going to be long days this week – I had quite a few meetings after school and a workshop as well. But I wasn’t prepared for the amount of “hard” that was going to occur this week.

You might be asking – oh wow Lizzie, what was so hard? I mean, you aren’t working directly with kids, how hard could it be?

My response to this is… it is nowhere near as hard as working with kids – it was different hard, without the pleasure of working with kids.

I went to a meeting about accountability and MCAS results. I listened to someone speak about how the state has shifted the way it will compare results and how they’ve added other indicators into the accountability “equation” – the word average was thrown around so much I wish Todd Rose had been there to school everyone on this inaccurate way of looking at data. I began to understand the inequitable ways in which testing and comparisons and something pretty new to me – percentiles – work. (Sidenote: I’d love for someone to explain to me the rationale behind using percentiles when using human data. I might be able to be convinced to use a percentile when comparing favorite foods or restaurants or something less obviously human – but data around actual kids? Hmm.. I would like someone to explain that to me please.) In this meeting, my head hurt, I was angry, then so sad, then confused, rinse and repeat for an hour and half. Some of the accountability things I thought to myself, of course we can improve some of these things with more focused PD, more support around instruction, more mindset shifting. And then other pieces of the accountability, I was baffled at how we could affect these things given the racist systems that are in place – housing inequities, food deserts, homelessness, and immigration among them.

I went to the PLCs I am working with this week. I have listened a lot and have been working with the amazing department heads. I jumped in this week in a few ways but I didn’t ask enough questions, I assumed things, and I felt like I really messed stuff up. I’ve never been to these sorts of meetings before in my career, my department meetings have always had at least 12 people in them and oftentimes they have at least 25-50. Those meetings are carefully and intentionally planned to maximize our time together since we only meet monthly. These PLCs meet weekly, are very small groups, and they are planned and organized but in a different way. The urgency that has existed in my career is different in these spaces, it exists, it’s just different.

This difference is very obvious to me but is the air others have been breathing. I’m unsure of how much I should push in the direction I would want or do I wait?

I wanted to see everyone in their classrooms with students, everyone. I knew that that goal was a lofty one and I knew I couldn’t spend a ton of time in rooms in order to meet this goal. But I knew it was important to begin to have an understanding (even if it’s just a tiny slice) of what is happening in the building. So I started. I got into almost everyone’s room – I’m missing a department because of testing and few other teachers. This was probably one of the most interesting aspects of this shift in my roles – being with other educators in their space with kids that are ours. I saw so much and all of it made me excited – folks are working so hard with and for kids and there is so much more we can all do together to really impact our students.

We had a visit from an outside agency and DESE to give us some information about our school in order to jump start our turnaround plan writing. Folks were on edge but also sort of excited. They wanted this group to see how far we had come since last year, they did want a pat on the back, we didn’t get that per se. The group noticed some dramatic shifts but also noted the shifts that are still needed.

All of these pieces of my week have hit me over the head at the amount that I have to learn in order to do good work with other educators. And it’s hard. But. I can do hard things. I’ve run marathons and done half ironmans; I trained for an ironman and started it, got hit by another cyclist, rode 25 miles with a broken tailbone before finally stopping; I changed grade levels even when I was good at what I did; I said yes to this position even though I knew I was doing great work in my classroom. By saying yes to this position, I am saying yes to the broader community. I am saying yes to all the kids.

I can do hard things.

I can put in the work and the time in order to build the relationships; I can ask more questions; I can read more; I can ask for forgiveness more; I can set my ego aside more. This week I also thought many times that I could just go back to my classroom where I know exactly what to do – I am not dismissing the difficulty that occurs in there – but there is comfort in that difficulty.

Right now I’m fully uncomfortable every minute, everywhere. I am unsure when or where I should speak.

I am unsure what I should even be doing most of the time. I am unsure of how much I should ask what to do, or if I should just make decisions and apologize later on. This uncomfortableness is also a sign of the importance of this work, that I am learning and can make an impact.

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