The things I tell my students

I’ve found myself repeating a lot of the same phrases and actions to my students since I started working in school back in August. I say “does that sound good?” when I check for their understanding. I wave really big to them if they seem disengaged in class. I use the word “maturity” a lot (a tactic I took from one of my partner teachers) to remind them that they always tell me they’re grown and they need to prove that to me in the ways they interact with the world.

But I’ve also started repeating some mantras to myself. I wanted to share a few below:

See the victories. Celebrate the victories.
I used to say “little victories” a lot but I’m trying to just say “victories” now because maybe sometimes we should treat the seemingly tiny things like they’re super big and isn’t it fun to celebrate any victory like it’s the biggest deal in the whole wide world?

Believe in renewal at every turn.
Renewal feels like the theme of this year. After watching my partner teachers for two months now it seems like to practice teaching you have to practice renewal. You wake up every morning reminding yourself that these students deserve our confidence and trust, renewing the hope that they will reach their fullest potential.

Exhibit “critical hope.”
I’m the biggest fan of the idea of choosing optimism and talk about it a lot when I talk about education work. When I mentioned this to a friend of mine, he said the pedagogy that might resonate more for the work is “critical hope.” I loved it (thanks Sam!). Being critical and being hopeful are no longer at odds and instead become perfect partners in justice work. For example, I was listening to a podcast last week where an education reporter – when talking about the glaring problem of segregation in schools – said that “this is not a time for collective responsibility.” He implied that our culture as a whole hasn’t taken ownership of our education systems, of the daily injustices shown in under-funding, segregation, and the ways we measure student success. I can be incredibly critical of the city that surrounds me, a city that sometimes feels like it’s avoiding responsibility for ALL of its young people, lifting up fraction of them and not ALL of them. This year I have tried to process and share this criticism alongside hope and action steps. It’s helped and feels integral in practicing in the field of education.

Gosh. I am so excited to see where this year [and this work] goes. It’s been an exhausting blast so far.

Also, thank you for reading! I hope you have the happiest of weeks and you enjoy fall and all the pumpkin blessings it brings.

Yours in Hope,

If you want to hear some brilliant/infuriating/heart-wrenching stories about students in Chicago Public Schools and urban public school systems in other parts of the country, I really recommend listening to two podcast series.The first is from NPR’s This American Life and is called Harper High School (it’s from 2013 and still so relevant and SO moving).The second is The Problem We All Live With, also from This American Life.
Of course I always try to listen with a critical discerning ear and have read a few criticisms of the reporting, but goshdarnit these narratives are so powerful. I sincerely encourage listening.

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