Preparing My Brain for a Break

As we look ahead to a blessed few days off, what things would you like the luxury of time to think on in more detail?

Just before I packed my bag to leave the building on the day before Thanksgiving break, we were informed via the intercom that we were on a lockout, which meant that no one could leave the building.

While my first responses were bitterness and a wave of exhaustion, I realized that perhaps it was a boon to have this forced extra time in front of my computer to download all the information, emotions and reflections clogging my brain.

Thanksgiving break is unique because it comes after DEVOLSON, an acronym coined by one of my new favorite teacher bloggers. The long and painful stretch to vacation free time between Labor Day and Thanksgiving often feels like a marathon. I am absolutely giddy with excitement now that the break if finally here.

However, before I left school (which ended up being about an hour after I wanted to leave school), I thought I should take a minute to share my top three long-term thought processes that I hope to spend some time thinking about over the next few days.

Growth Mindset:

In September, I had the privilege to be apart of an ECET2 conference hosted by the CTQ-Colorado. It was a day created by and for teacher leaders and it was AWESOME!

The focus of our time was growth mindset thinking and how to use this to approach the world (and specifically teaching). I have tried a few things with my students that I will write about when I have more observations to share, but in the meantime, I plan to take some time and read up on teacher strategies and ideas so that I can gather some ideas for the dreaded three-week sprint of December.

Critical Thinking and Cross-Content Literacy:

Our state implemented the new teacher evaluations about a year ago. Part of my position this year is to work with teachers to make sense of this system and to support growth through teacher-directed and designed professional development.

This has been a huge focus area for our entire staff. We collectively decided last spring to write a goal stating our intent to bring more analysis and synthesis thinking into all content areas.

So, for the past three months I’ve tried to make sense of what analysis and synthesis thinking looks like in my content area and in others. It really is fascinating how much overlap there is when you look beyond the tasks to the thinking required for success.

For example, the skill of interpreting and/or analyzing evidence occurs in almost every high school classroom in our building. Helping teachers to develop a lexicon for teaching these skills and helping students to know when and how to utilize them has been rewarding work.

It has also been challenging as I’ve had to adjust some of my practices to help my students be more metacognitive. I’m looking forward to my end of semester finals so I can quantify how these changes have impacted student achievement.

Being Human:

It seems that all teachers struggle with finding the balance of work and life outside of school. This is a perpetual area of study and thinking for me and I don’t know that I’ve had any epiphanies this fall.

I will say that I have embraced the truth that having a community of friends and family outside of education is invaluable. They keep me in check when all I want to do is talk about school and help me to explore my interests outside of the classroom.

To that end, I climbed my first 14er this fall and am looking forward to taking some time for myself over this short break to read, see a few movies and catch up with friends over a cup of coffee.

This is probably the most important area of reflection for me to focus on and I know that taking some time to think about what it means to be a human who teaches by has other interests too will make me much better suited to being the educator that I’d like to be in the coming weeks and months.

I hope for all of you that these few days off can be a time of rest and reflection too. Please share what your big categories have been this fall so that we can learn from one another.

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