A week ago, on a trip to visit colleges with our son, we stayed at a school converted into a hotel. It was cleverly renovated — the cafeteria now a restaurant, the detention room a bar, classrooms now guestrooms, and the auditorium an intimate movie theatre.
The school smell is long gone, but the “sounds” of school persist. The hotel halls echo and bang like school corridors despite their new purpose. Adorned with photos of former students, teachers, and PTA presidents, the hallway walls leak stories to guests walking from room to room. The sound of learning continues with evening lectures and discussions, and showcases of local artists. In each guest room, walls are still lined with chalkboards and chalk so guests can resurrect those iconic sounds.
However, what this hotel does best of all is honor long-retired teachers. The voices of teachers and teaching fill each room, with a framed story about the teacher who once occupied that space. In reading the narrative in our room, it was easy to imagine the power of a former teacher’s practice, her dedication and impact on students, families, and colleagues. I loved thinking about hundreds of hotel guests reading these stories as they drifted off to sleep.
I left teaching when I realized I felt more passionate about changing the conditions for teachers than I did about teaching history. I’ve been on a journey to do my part in building a profession that honors, supports, models, and catalyzes professional learning. How and why we deepen our practice to an art form is an all-consuming passion. And over the years, in the quest to change conditions and create invigorating experiences and communities, I keep relearning the same lesson: the power of each other.
When I meet teachers in my travels, they tell me stories about their colleagues who inspire them. I’m lucky to see first hand, teachers taking huge leaps forward in both teaching and leadership because of each other. Research proves what we know — that teachers stay and grow because of the role we play in each others’ lives. For example, in Meenoo Rami’s book Thrive, she describes the many different types of mentors who have shaped her, mentors who:
- see what’s possible in her practice
- help her fine tune her instruction
- dare her into new work
- help her find a community
- help her share her work publicly
- help her stay balanced
At this time of year, when we pause and fill ourselves and each other with gratitude, I love thinking about who was on my “Meenoo” list, and I’m eager to tell them so. To my fellow teachers, while you’re surrounded by thankful students and families this week, pause and think about your list. Who has given generously to show you what they see in you? Who inspires you to try? Who went first to open their door and welcome in colleagues to study teaching together? Who would you write about, just as we found in the school-turned-hotel? Who is thinking about you as that person who shapes them as a professional, or kept them in the field?
While you’re pausing to recognize those who make you feel strong, glad, and grateful, at Tch, we’re also pausing to say thank you to the teachers who participate in our community in so many ways — from watching each other in video, to discussing practice together, to sharing stories in our blogs, to being filmed by our crew. It’s always been up to us to shape the profession, and your participation in shaping our networked community tells us that you believe that, too.
Happy Thanksgiving Tch community. May you be filled with peace, gratitude, stories of kinship that revive you, and of course, sleep.