Who are your people?
Recently, I wrote a welcome back letter which we included with our yearly summer mailing. It was challenging to convey all the things I wanted to say, so I narrowed my focus: asking, how will you be transformed this year? I am always inspired this time of year because as teachers we can reimagine and reboot. We have a unique opportunity every year to reimagine what we do, how we inspire, how we lead, and how we teach our students.
Two summers ago, I was to teach a new English class; one I hadn’t taught for a while. I asked one of my colleagues for guidance. I started with a simple yet critical question, “What is your goal for your class?” Her response resonated with me in a way that remains profound: “I want my students to rediscover their love for learning much like they had in kindergarten. If I am going to send them to college, I want them to be inspired to learn, to explore the beauty and power in learning, in art, in literature, in all that we create and has been created.”
That was quite an undertaking. Each time I developed a unit, assignment, or project, I wanted my colleague’s feedback. It was also an opportunity for me to affirm how her message influenced my teaching approach.
In my previous post, I challenged us, “How will you be the best you? What gift or talent are you not actualizing? What fear is holding you back from trying?” For me, it was crafting my thoughts and clicking publish. However, there was a critical step in between: asking someone to read my draft, which is almost as hard as the writing itself.
I can write a research paper, an argumentative analysis, a formal report, an email, but when I have to be more informal or creative, I tend to be wordy and write the way I speak. Creative writing is a craft honed over time with much practice and, when you ask, requires help from someone who knows.
Why do we sometimes resist asking for help? If we ask, are we admitting vulnerability? Inexperience? Other times, we may not want to bother the person. Yet, when we ask people in our lives who are invested in us, so often the answer is, “Of course I will help you.”
We have people in our lives who support us in many ways - school, home, family, activities, work. When you imagine how you will work to be the best version of yourself, I want you to consider, who will be the people you will ask for help, for guidance, for support, for mentoring, and for affirmation.
As educators, some of the best moments we have are when a student asks for help, when parents ask for advice on how best to support their child, or when a colleague asks for teaching ideas and strategies. We live in a world where it isn’t just “a person” but, more importantly, “your people.” Identify your people, surround yourself with them, and enlist them in your journey.
Now for the extra credit portion of this post, how will you respond when someone asks you for help?
- Nancy Barkan