I recently found this graphic from the TCWRP Facebook group on teaching students the true meaning of what strength is. Strength does not come from what you can do, but doing things you previously thought were not possible.
Even though this meme was focused on students, it certainly applies to our work with teachers as well and finding it was quite timely. Today, I am co-facilitating a meeting with a group of literacy leaders who are connecting around the Units of Study in Reading and Writing. Together, we help teachers implement a workshop approach in their classrooms and do things they previously thought were not possible: managing a workshop classroom, conferencing effectively with students, raising the level of writing and making it all work within a single school day.
Part of our jobs as literacy leaders and coaches is to give teachers strength. Strength to change instruction in their classroom and accomplish things they did not think were possible rather than staying stagnant. And how do you build strength? We can take a few lessons from building physical strength and apply them to building instructional strength:
Define your goals. Name what you want to accomplish. Is it to better manage a workshop classroom? Effectively conference with students? Make your goals visible and refer to them often.
Find a work-out buddy. Connect with others to fuel your motivation. Seek out colleagues who are working on the same goals and help each other.
Start small and celebrate progress. Big changes are not made overnight, at least those that are sustainable. Start small and work up to the larger transformations you would like to see in the classroom.
Vary your routine. If you want something you have never had, you must do things you have never done. Step outside of the box and try something new. If we do the same old routine every day, we will never work new muscles and gain a new kind of strength.
Engage in some heavy lifting. Small changes lead to big changes, but only if we continue to challenge ourselves. When things become easy in a physical workout, we increase our weights or time spent working out to continue making progress. As you reach your goals, set new ones. Learning is never complete.
Fuel your body. To build physical strength, we must nourish our bodies to give us the energy needed to keep up with our new routines. To build instructional strength, we must nourish our minds. Read widely, watch videos of classrooms that practice what you hope to achieve and stay positive.
Record your progress. Just as we record our workouts and physical measurements over time, we must record our instructional accomplishment in the classroom as well. Help teachers celebrate the changes they are making and document them. A quick email acknowledging their efforts or a picture of the changes made in the classroom can go a long way in maintaining motivation.
Remember, strength comes not from what you can do, but from doing things you previously thought were not possible. Let yourself imagine the possibilities of what you could accomplish, if you only let yourself try.