At one of the desks where I write for this blog, I've got three index cards taped to the wall. Each card has a single word on it, all caps: ENCOURAGED. EQUIPPED. UNDERSTOOD.
First, I want you to be encouraged — to literally have a bit more courage infused into your heart. If you leave an encounter with something I've made and all you feel is more overwhelmed, more hopeless, more of the oppressively insane expectations that society and policy place upon us, then I messed up. I've had plenty of professional learning experiences where I receive the message loud and clear:
Do it all.
Do it perfectly.
It's all important.
The pressure goes up, and my fire goes out. I'm at the wrong end of Yerkes-Dodson. That shouldn't happen here, but I'm prone to mistakes like anyone. Let me know when I mess up.
Sentiment alone won't do the hard work of teaching, though. I've read plenty of articles, heard plenty of speakers, and been in a fair share of PDs that were big on inspiration and small on substance. Encouragement isn't enough — we need equipping, too. Sometimes, I'm hoping to equip you with a better way of seeing the work we do — ways to remind yourself that you're a professional, that work-life integration matters, that it's dangerously possible to teach for me and not for my kids. Other times, I try to give you practical strategies, like Conversation Challenge or pop-up debates or purposeful annotation. And still other times, I want to give you the tools it takes to really focus — things like satisficing, saying no, and ending your inbox addiction. Without focus, this job will drive you crazy.
And those are all reasons why we need more than mere encouragement — we also need to be equipped.
And finally, I want you to feel understood. It turns out that the problems you face aren't just faced by you. Things like the increase in student anxiety or “new-for-the-sake-of-new-itis” — these aren't just you. A central human craving, I think, is to be seen, known, understood. Our students crave it, so do you, and so do I. And that's why I find that the people who read this blog the most faithfully tend to be the ones who feel like, “Yes — it's as if he wrote this for me, it's as if he sees what I'm going through.”
Yes. I mean, I'm not omniscient, but yes — I am writing for you, and I do see what you're going through because I'm also in the thick of it right now with this school year's classes and kids. So, if I ever write or make something that seems distant or aloof, just let me know.
Those three words guide the work I do for colleagues like you. What words guide your work in the classroom? What words guide your work at home?