Saturday, June 14, 2014

Cycling Through Another School Year

Yikes. As one who taught high school and middle school English for years, published several books, written several blog posts, book chapters, and a dissertation, and--much more importantly-as one who simply loves reading and writing--I am embarrassed to say that it has been far too long since I have written anything of substance (beyond, of course, the thousands of 140 character Tweets I have managed to share over the past few years). Thanks to "gentle" prodding from several PLN pals (in particular, Daisy Dyer Duerr and Maria Galanis) recently, I have resolved to get back on the bicycle--or the "writing cycle"--and hereby resolve to blog regularly again, starting now, with the re-boot of my blog, Teach. Learn. Lead. Repeat., which, in itself, refers to a cycle of teaching and learning as I experience it most often. Although the cycle of effective teaching begins with a great deal of intentional planning, I have found the cycle truly kicks into high gear for many great educators by actually teaching something. Whenever great educators set out to teach someone something, they invariably leave the experience having learned something in return. After first teaching something of significance and learning something in the process, these great educators often move to leading, sharing what they have learned with one or more colleagues, who, in turn, engage in this cyclical process themselves. Educators who are passionately engaged in this noble profession called teaching then repeat this process hundreds of times during the course of any school year until this cycle of teaching and learning has played out--albeit temporarily--as we reach the last day of school.


This past week, I experienced my 32nd "last day of school" as an educator (it should be noted that I began my teaching career when I was but nine years old!). As is usually the case, I look back on the year just finished and find myself thinking, "Wow; that went by fast!" I have always enjoyed the cyclical nature of our profession: each school year we start the cycle anew with a fresh chance to make a difference in the lives of so many. Throughout the year we have many traditional  "mile markers," along the way, from holidays, to report card marking periods, to parent conferences, to winter concerts, to sports seasons, to annual testing windows, and then--before we know it--to the end of another year. During each stop along this cycle, it is important to find time to reflect on how we are doing, while at the same time looking ahead to see what awaits as our most important next steps. At this time of year, it behooves us, of course, to look ahead to next school year to make sure the cycle of teaching and learning is even better--not only for our kids, but also for us, as educators--than the one suddenly, but quickly, beginning to fade in our rear view mirror. 

In our school district, we are extremely fortunate to have scores of teachers and administrators who are willing to devote a portion of their summer to growing professionally--both by attending district wide professional learning events we have scheduled and by agreeing to meet in content area and grade level PLCs to revise our curriculum maps and common assessments. As but one small example, our final day of student attendance was last Tuesday; the next three days, all twelve of our middle school science teachers and two instructional coaches met off-contract for full-day planning sessions in preparation for teaching to the Next Generation Science Standards in the future. The remainder of summer in our district is equally action-packed; although we all must find balance between our personal and professional lives and we all must step away from our jobs completely at times in order to refresh, I am proud to serve in a district where so many are willing to do so much above and beyond what is merely required. In speaking with PLN colleagues around the world who I respect greatly, I find that this passion for teaching and learning is not limited to our own district, but is, instead, widespread. Our very best teachers and leaders never stop learning and are always finding ways to improve from one year to the next.

Whether you are concluding your 32nd school year like me, or your very first year, or somewhere in between, I hope you will find time between now and the start of the next school year cycle to engage in these three actions:

1. Read. Hopefully, you will read early and often this summer, including all types of literature. I also hope that your reading includes at least one full-length professional book on a topic you are hoping to learn more about. In our district, we offered to buy one book for every teacher in the district who was interested in learning more about educational topics on which we are focused. They could choose among: Fair Isn't Always Equal by Rick Wormeli, A Repair Kit for Grading by Ken O'Connor, or The Leader In Me by Stephen Covey. I am thrilled that so many teachers took us up on this offer and look forward to learning their insights upon their return!

2. Reflect. In addition to reading, I encourage all educators to reflect on the year just concluded. Find some private time to intentionally consider what occurred in your classroom, your school, or your district office. What is one thing that went really well that you want to continue doing? What is one thing that you did not do but have learned about that you want to start doing? What is one thing you are currently doing that is no longer working or is no longer relevant that you may want to stop doing? Reflect on what you need to continue, start, and stop doing.

3. Relax. Although I encourage all educators to keep learning and growing year-round--including throughout the summer--there is no better time than right now to slow down, rest, and engage in an enjoyable activity completely removed from work. You have earned it. We are in a rewarding, yet very demanding, profession. We must take time to find fun in other areas outside of work.

If you are an educator reading this blog, thank you for your efforts this school year, for making a difference in the lives of students and colleagues with whom you interacted. Thank you for teaching, learning, and leading--and for your willingness to repeat the cycle again next year!

3 Worth Reading:

1. The Goal Should Be: Not To Finish by Drew Frank




16 comments:

  1. Always a pleasure to read your publications Jeff! Honored to lead with you and learn from you every day!
    ML

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Mike; I appreciate you serving as a role model for bloggers everywhere!

      Delete
  2. Always enjoy reading your stuff. Continue to reflect and relax, the more we grow and feed our soul, the more we can nurture the souls of others.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Barry! You are leading the way in nurturing others--both students and other educators.

      Delete
  3. Heeeee's Back! Well done Dr. Zoul, you have the unique ability to blend teaching, learning, reflecting and relaxing. I'm grateful to learn from you and to call you a true friend.

    My big takeaway from your post was, the power of reflection. I agree, reflection is essential in the growth process. I salute you my friend!

    -Ben

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Ben; reflection is key. So important to look back and identify what we need to start, stop, and continue doing. Sometimes, stopping what is not working or unnecessary any longer is the hardest part.

      Delete
  4. Jeff I look forward to reading your thoughts and learning from your experiences. This is a great list and your district sounds very highly motivated. I will check out the articles you suggested. I have read Drew's and always enjoy reading his work. I have begin reading blogs so much that I have backed away from books. I do have Jose Vilson and Eric Scheninger's new books and look forward to reading them. I continue to try to reflect through my writing and I am definitely going to force myself to relax more. This requires unplugging, which isn't always easy for me, but must happen.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Jon, thanks so much for this. Like you, I find myself reading so much stuff--including blog posts--that I find via Twitter that, at times, I fear I am not reading as many books as I did previously. Need balance in that area as in every other area. The importance of unplugging periodically cannot be overstated. Thank you so much for reading and commenting.

      Delete
  5. Jeff, what a pleasure to read your thoughts; so much of what you've written resonates with me. In particular, after a busy June and approaching the end of another fast school year, what recharges me as a leader are those around me who consistently work "above the contract". Educators who do this, do this for one reason: we love what we do and thrive on learning with one another. This behavior is what inspires others to strive to be great.

    Reading your thoughts has me yearning for July 1...when I can officially recharge my own batteries for learning and professional growth. Thanks for sharing your words of wisdom, Jeff! It's great learning from you.

    ~Dennis

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dennis, Thank you so much for reading and weighing in! Like you, I am re-charged by those in our profession who go above & beyond because of their passion for kids and the profession. So good to learn with you, Dennis!

      Delete
  6. Great insights Jeff and couldn't agree more. Thanks for sharing some great ideas and keep up the great work in your district. I look forward to tackling one of your books this summer. Keep on blogging my friend.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Tom, Thank you for taking the time to read and comment; I learn so much from you and am fortunate to be able to call on you when I need ideas.

      Delete
  7. Great advice from an amazing role model in education! Thank you for being a school leader who continues to learn and share resources. I have learned so much from you! Have a great school year.
    Kayla Pipkin~Clovis, NM

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Kayla,

      Thank you so much for your kind comment! I have learned much from you as well, my friend! Keep leading with passion!

      Jeff

      Delete
  8. Jeff, you continue to positively impact educators in Clovis, NM, as well as world wide. Thank you! Although you coached us for a short time, you taught and inspired us deeply! Again, thank you! I look forward to following your blog. (Thanks to Kayla, she shared your blog with me this morning!)
    Mitzi Estes-Clovis, NM

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Mitzi,

      Thanks to you and Kayla for following and taking the time to comment so kindly! I appreciate you both and miss working with you in Clovis. I hope we can connect in person again some day soon. Lead with Passion,

      Jeff

      Delete