I find myself enduring the after-work traffic with the same internal conversation I have had for 29 years: what should I do tonight? Grade papers? Relax so I’m fresh tomorrow? Study and improve my lesson plan? Or reach out to a colleague who can improve my thinking? My internal struggle is eased when I hear NPR’s Terry Gross greet me from the radio waves.
Reflecting On Our Practice
I am drawn to Terry’s “Fresh Air” program because I am captivated by her famous and noteworthy guests. Terry is known for getting her guests to articulate what drives them, their creative process, and their work, in revelatory ways that even the guests themselves didn’t know was possible. I feel a kinship with her guests — though representing different crafts, we are united by our quest to create. We navigate complexity and external roadblocks beyond our control and in so doing, we develop quirks and processes that help us find our voices and create beauty and purpose.
Enter Teaching Channel. This week, we unveiled a new mission statement. Over 600,000 teachers are making Tch their intellectual community — and saying yes, to getting better together — and we’re here for you. We view videos earnestly to see teachers who provide us with inspiration and conversation. As Terry Gross so aptly understands, we teachers are creators of magic, and we need examples and thought partners along the way to create the best versions of ourselves.
Finding Thought Partners
There’s a key moment in Anne Patchett’s account of how she became a writer in her memoir, This is the Story of a Happy Marriage, that sticks with me: fellow author Jane Hamilton lies on a couch and reads Anne’s entire book out loud, helping Anne smooth out the sentences and story. An artist helping another artist with their process… it’s what we all want and need.
I have my own version of Anne’s “Jane on the couch.” Although my role has shifted over the years, I remain a teacher at my core; and therefore, I need constant thought partnerships and critical friendships, to be at my best. I don’t know what I’d do without colleagues who get me and what I am trying to create with my students. My “couch sitters” listen to my passionate-but-rough sketches of vibrant professional learning events, and they help me see flaws in design while encouraging and pushing me to be bold. We are more courageous together than we are alone.
Following a Simple Process
When I was a younger teacher my “couch” was empty, and the complexity of teaching was even harder because I had no roadmap for how to get better. Day in and day out, I tried to find my way amid more voices than I anticipated: students, parents, colleagues, my own philosophy, administrators, the district, the state, neighbors, educational thought leaders, subject matter experts, publishers, testing companies — all with persistent messages urging me to be perfect before my time. So many voices filled my mind as I tried to make sense of how to move my students from point A to point B.
Sometimes, a simple process provides the right nudge we need to be brave with each other, like Anne Patchett and Jane Hamilton’s couch reading from the book’s beginning to the end. At Teaching Channel, our getting better together process looks like this. We call it the Theory of Professional Learning, and it’s a process for reflection, analysis, practice, and feedback, and it illuminates the essential steps to mastery.
Teaching Channel has resources to support your learning at every phase. Post about your ideas, attempts, and questions in our Q&A feature, or in the discussions below our videos and blogs. Or watch a video and share your notes with a colleague. Our collective daily conversations, inquiries, and discussions make Tch a place to try out new ideas and gather perspective on things that puzzle us.
Because we are artists at our core — molding powerful, transformative learning experiences out of competing messages and pressures — we are stronger because of our colleagueship. So when you find yourself craving to grow with colleagues near or far, yet not sure where to start, take a step along this path and make Tch your community — your “Jane on the couch.”