New Year’s Wishes

New Year’s Wishes

Welcome back! One of the benefits of working in education is the opportunity for two new years: September and January.   As we return to school rested and recharged, I am reminded how fortunate I feel to learn and work at Lawrence School.  I hope you feel similarly about your children’s experience.

Last summer, in preparing for the new school year, I happened across a New York Times piece from 2008 by Daniel Goleman, a psychologist and journalist best known for his work on emotional intelligence, entitled “It May Be a Good Job, But Is It ‘Good Work?’” This notion of “good work” has resonated with me throughout the fall.  In the piece, Goleman quotes Harvard psychologist Howard Gardner, who poses three questions to assess if our jobs meet the criteria for “good work.”   I would argue that Gardner’s questions could be applied to schools as well.

Does the work (school) fit your values?

Lawrence School is indeed a place that fits the core values that many teachers and I hold: a strong caring sense of community, a commitment to meeting the diverse learning needs of students, and a culture of reflective practice.  How does Lawrence fit your values as parents for a “good school?”

Does the work (school) evoke excellence; are you highly competent and effective at what you do?

Whether visiting classrooms, observing teaching more formally, participating in meetings or professional learning with teachers, I am reminded each week what a highly competent and dedicated faculty we have at Lawrence.   I observe evidence each day of their skillful work with students. How does your child’s learning experience evoke excellence?

Does the work (school) bring you that subjective barometer of engagement and joy?

Walk through classrooms at Lawrence and one will find ample evidence of children engaged – and often finding pleasure – in their learning. December’s various classroom events for families served to highlight children’s engagement and joy in learning.

For teachers, engagement is unavoidable. Students require our full attention all the time. And working with children provides lots of opportunities for joy.  That said, I believe the joy barometer needs to be reset. Good teachers are often their own worst critics as they strive for continuous improvement. Teaching is complex and it can be easy to be hard on oneself.  In addition, this fall teachers have been faced with multiple state mandates  (a new system for educator evaluation, a new requirement to complete a full graduate course in teaching ELL students, and curriculum shifts to align with new standards). Each of these changes has positive elements, but their convergence this fall has been challenging.

So how do we bring back more joy in our work? We can start by remembering to pause and savor the moment when a lesson clicks or a student “gets it.”  Parents, you can help, too. When you see “good work” happening for your child, take a moment and let your child’s teacher know.  In the words of David Steindl-Rast, “It is not joy that makes us grateful; it is gratitude that makes us joyful.” As we begin 2014, let’s resolve to celebrate learning together – and find more joy in doing so.

Happy New Year!

Rick Rogers

rick_rogers@brookline.k12.ma.us

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