The Thrive blog tour arrives here!
Thrive: 5 Ways to (Re)Invigorate Your Teaching by Meenoo Rami
When I first began teaching, I collected inspirational quotes about what I envisioned would be my teaching life. Among my collection was this one:
“[Kids] don’t remember what you try to teach them. They remember what you are.”―Jim Henson,It’s Not Easy Being Green: And Other Things to Consider
I remember puzzling over this one, turning it around this way and that, sometimes “getting” what Henson was trying to say, sometimes not. It was years, really before I came to fully appreciate its wisdom: we can plan the most imaginative lessons and projects, and we can infuse the most up to date technology into every aspect of our planning, but our students experience of learning is shaped by what we are – the depth of interest, commitment, and joy we bring into our classrooms every day. Our kids can sense this, they pay attention to this, and they remember this.
Cultivating this interest, commitment and joy is perhaps harder than ever these days, when we are up to our eyeballs in creating and carrying out all sorts of mandates to test and gather data even as we struggle to teach content; for many of us, this is the new paradox:
Meenoo Rami’s thoughtful new book, Thrive: 5 Ways to (Re)Invigorate Your Teaching, offers us pathways, however, to do just this. Meenoo writes of her own “slow evolution as an empowered teacher”, and what led her to develop and embrace “a paradigm of teacher leadership…for those who want to see their practice through new eyes….to continue to grow their practice.” Each chapter focuses on a pathway and offers classroom practices and resources to inspire educators to go beyond surviving the teaching day to thriving in our chosen profession.
Chapter 1: Turn to mentors
Mentoring can be a tricky business. Most of us are assigned a mentor in our first year of teaching, and this is often a strictly bureaucratic relationship, a matter of checking off the number of times you’ve met to go over the way things are done in your building. I think this is one of the saddest things about our profession, for just as a new teacher arrives ready to go at it with a first timer’s energy and idealism, he or she is often paired up with someone who has long lost that energy and idealism. It does not make for a good beginning, and these young teachers reach a sense of jadedness from which it is often hard to recover. Meenoo offers us a new vision for mentorship, one that is varied and looks beyond the four walls of our own buildings. She writes: “You do not have to rely on one mentor alone. You can have a team of supporters and have different mentors for different areas of your professional life.” The examples she shares from her own teaching life allows us to see how building a network of mentorships can enrich our practices.
Chapter 2: Join and Build Networks
I think this was my favorite chapter, because I came to doing this in mid-career, and was stunned at how transformative it could be. I underlined, starred, and highlighted these lines: “An accomplished teacher must be connected. If we expect our students to be active, responsible, and independent digital and global citizens, we need to be models for them. If we are striving to create a system where the role of the teacher is no longer the lone expert in the room but a co-learner, we need to model that for our students as well…connected, responsive, and welcoming online learning communities empower teachers…”. Amen! Meenoo highlights many ways in which we can participate in networks as varied as Edcamp to the National Writing Project and NCTE. Better still, she shows us how these networks, often interconnected and interrelated, can become lasting sources of intellectual nourishment and inspiration. This has been the single most important factor in keeping me in the classroom and in the teaching profession, for I was ready to walk away from what I was beginning to perceive as a stunted environment before I discovered an incredible network of passionate educators ready to welcome me on board for collaboration and support.
Chapter 3: Keep your Work Intellectually Challenging:
We all know teachers who recycle the same tired old lessons year after year, and there are times, I confess, when I see the appeal of having the security of the tried and true, when beginning a new unit is simply a matter of opening the filing cabinet to pull out “the packet” for copying and distribution. Creating curriculum is hard work, so once it’s “done” and up on the curriculum map, why go back to the drawing board and spend more time re-vamping it? Meenoo reminds us that: “In our work, mastery does not mean perfection: we are not programming droids, but rather we play an essential role in shaping the learning lives of young people. However, it does mean we must continue the deliberate act of reflection on our actions and relentlessly pursue improvement. We will never reach a fulfilling end point in our work because our craft will continue to evolve.” Although this may seem like daunting and pointless work at a time when we are being asked to do more in the name of test prep and generating data for a wide spectrum of evaluations, Meenoo shares resources, ideas, and examples of how to keep our work intellectually challenging and the positive ways in which this practice impacts our students.
Chapter 4: Listen to Yourself
This was a chapter I found myself reading and nodding my head in agreement to with every paragraph. How to “creatively carve out a space between mandates and authentic practice that supports students” is a challenge we all face – every day. Meenoo addresses the internal and external issues at the heart of listening to our best teaching selves beautifully, through examples from her own practice and those of other teachers. Recently, Meenoo wrote a post about visiting a high school in which asked, many times: “ how do you do what you shared with us and “cover” the curriculum?” – Chapter 4 shows us how, and why.
Chapter 5: Empower Your Students
Meenoo begins this chapter with these inspiring words: “Our work as teachers is akin to the work of architects. While we may not build physical structures that we can visit and admire, I would argue that legacy lasts longer in the ways our students will change the world. In your class, right now, there is a future filmmaker, scientist, senator, and social worker. Your legacy, the true value of the work you do, will be measured by the way your students make a difference in your community. When they find creative solutions to problems…you can take pride in helping nurture the next generation of change agents.” Thinking about our teaching this way, envisioning our students as being capable of much more than just being able to highlight information and answer guided questions and prompts, frees us to make our classrooms centers of meaningful learning and collaboration. Meenoo shares some amazing ideas she has put into practice in her own classroom, and reaches out to other teachers for other ideas and resources.
Thrive is an empowering book, one that should be shared with veteran teachers and “newbies” alike. It will inspire those of us who have been teaching for a long time to look at our practices through wider lenses, it will reinvigorate us. And, it will inspire those of us who have just begun teaching to begin to think anew about cultivating the habits that are sure to invigorate our professional lives.
The Thrive Blog Tour Stops – much to read and learn from each of these! Leave a comment to share your thoughts and the chance to win a copy of Thrive.
4/9/14: Teach Mentor Texts!
4/10/14: Franki Sibberson and Mary Lee Hahn at A Year of Reading
4/11/14: Alyson Beecher at Kid Lit Frenzy
4/12/14: Kira Baker Doyle at Kira J Baker-Doyle, Ph.D.
4/13/14: Sarah Mulhern Gross at The Reading Zone
4/14/14: Christina Cantrill at Digital Is (National Writing Project)
4/16/14: Beth Shaum at Use Your Outside Voice
4/17/14: Linda Baie at Teacher Dance
4/18/14: Troy Hicks at Hickstro
4/19/14: Joy Kirr at Genius Hour
4/20/14: Tara Smith at A Teaching Life
4/21/14: Antero Garcia at The American Crawl
4/22/2014: John Spencer at Education Rethink
4/23: Kellee Moye and Ricki Ginsberg at Unleashing Readers
Meenoo can also be found on these social media networks:
About Meenoo :Meenoo Rami is a National Board Certified Teacher who teaches her students English at the Science Leadership Academy in Philadelphia, PA. Mixing moments of joy, laughter, risk and encouragement, Meenoo pushes her students to think critically about their connection to the word and the world. Meenoo did her undergraduate work at Bradley University in Illinois in areas of Philosophy and English and completed her Master’s degree in Secondary Education at Temple University. Meenoo also contributes to the work of school-wide events and professional learning communities at SLA. Meenoo works as a teacher-consultant for the Philadelphia Writing Project. She has shared her classroom practice at various conferences such as: NCTE, ISTE, ASCD, EduCon, Urban Sites Conference for National Writing Project, and #140edu. Meenoo also runs a weekly twitter chat for English teachers called #engchat which brings together teachers from around the country to discuss ideas related to teaching of English. In her free time, Meenoo can be found on her bike, on her yoga mat or in her kitchen tinkering with a vegetarian recipe.