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  • Pam Koutrakos

Reflection as Celebration

It’s June. At least here in the Northeast, it has been a more mild spring and we haven’t had too many days of sweltering heat in our classrooms. However, even though the steamy start to summer seems late in coming, classrooms everywhere are already bustling with the nonstop hustle inherent in the last weeks of school. Fieldtrips, assemblies, picnics, orientations, summer birthday parties, end-of-year assessments, class placements, teacher paperwork, class paperwork, district paperwork: teachers everywhere are in overdrive- and still live with the nagging feeling that although they can’t imagine having to do anything else, they are somehow forgetting something….

The something I feel may have been forgotten is celebration. Although I am passionate about incorporating celebration into all aspects of classroom learning and celebrating our students, right now, I am choosing to focus on celebrating teachers!

I recognize that for some, this may be uncomfortable. Teachers are altruistic, often stepping back to let others shine. In general, educators are not a glory-seeking crowd. Even when others share their honest observations, many teachers deflect these compliments by adding on a “but…” or “next time, I would….” or “It’s only because….” I am proposing that instead, teachers could take more time to pay themselves heartfelt compliments and regularly celebrate all they do that makes a difference. If taking the time to celebrate yourself seems awkward, I have some advice to help you acknowledge the wonderfulness of you!

  1. Ask your students! This method is a “soft start” into the world of self-celebration, but it may open up your mind and get you thinking about yourself more kindly and boldly. Here’s what a few students recently told me about their teachers:

- “She likes me- not because she has to- just because she does. I know if I had a problem, and not with homework or a test or something like that, that I could go to her. She would listen. She would help.”

- “He’s so funny. Seriously, I don't even like math, but I can't wait to get to his class everyday. Everyday I walk into that room, I see him smiling and I start smiling too. Who knew you could laugh so much in school… or in math!”

- “She smiles and says good morning everyday when I walk into the room- like she’s actually glad to see me. She gives me a high-five when I leave- even when I’ve been a handful.”

- “When I don't get it, he never makes me feel bad. He helps. Not only that, he makes me feel like it’s totally normal to get frustrated or even to mess up. I don’t give up so quickly anymore.”

2. Look at your students…. What are your students now doing that they were not doing at the start of the year? Yes, their efforts were absolutely essential in this growth, but so were yours. Here’s a few examples of what you might notice or how you can begin to see your role in your students’ feats:

3. Start small. Give yourself some feedback.

- I read many of the books in my classroom library. I was able to make thoughtful recommendations to my students.

- I kept my own writing notebook. I became a member of the classroom writing community and better understood the processes (and struggles) my students faced.

- I went to the optional professional development class offered after school. I met new friends, learned new methods of instruction, and experienced a much-needed spark of excitement about teaching.

- I did the science labs that are messy, require a lot of prep, and take a lot of time to complete. I created meaningful, real-life, wonderfully noisy, fun, memorable learning for my class.

I am going to be honest and say that I have been accused of being humble to a fault. It is much easier for me to celebrate the amazing feats of others than recognize some of my own personal triumphs. In an effort to “walk the walk,” I will go first...publicly- and try not to cringe as I type. (The cursor on my screen has been blinking for several minutes as I stare, think, and feel my stomach twist). I was brave when I left my beloved classroom and school community to take on a new role as a staff developer. Because of this, I was able to extend my reach and impact the learning lives of countless students in several states. Now, it’s your turn….

Happy June, teachers. Thank you for all you do.

To the teachers I had the opportunity to meet and learn alongside this year, thank you for your openness, risk-taking, humor, professionalism, and acceptance. See you in September!

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