Last week, our school based literacy team was led on a Walk Through by Jessica Mazzone, our TC Staff Developer. Our team has representation from every grade level K-5, special education, library and of course literacy. Prior to heading out, Jessica set the tone, the vision, and the purpose for walking.
“Let’s notice and begin to rally around the work. Let’ spread the good”
“Let’s notice what is amazing? What feels great?”
“What’s the most prevalent need – what feels important?”
“We want to empower people that feel really good about something.”
That last comment stuck with me. As a classroom teacher, I always believed that every member of my class was an expert at something I was not. I believed that it was part of my job to recognize the expertise in the room and set up time and space for the expert to shine. These days, without a classroom to call me own, I see expertise in my colleagues. They are experts in areas that I am not. As a member of the school community, when an expert shines and is empowered, it call for celebration.
Today, I walked into a second grade classroom to pick up Matt and Winny. I sensed right away that it was not a good time. The entire class was on the carpet surrounding a pile of garbage. The garbage was intentionally dumped onto a plastic blanket. Ashley, our Workshop/Math teacher, was sitting before the garbage, holding a pair of tongs.
“Recycle or garbage?” she asked the kids as she held a piece in her tongs. “Garbage.” kids would respond. I watched as this went on for about 10 minutes. She picked up plastic straws, tiny plastic toys/prizes, paper and more. With each item, there was a decision as to whether the item belonged in the garbage or the recycle bin. With each item, there was conversation. “Should we use plastic straws? How can we compost at home?” These second graders were involved in more than sorting garbage and recyclables. Ashley had set up a structure and time for them to think about what they could do about the plastic problems, about embracing a zero waste mindset!
Ashley was about to sort her last piece when I heard Hannah, who had been watching and listening intently, blurt out, “Oh wait! I’m going to camp! Maybe I can make a difference there.” Carolyn, the classroom teacher and I looked at each other and smiled. Ashley was making a difference and is helping kids see that they, too, can make a difference.
Ashley has been a passionate about reducing our waste at school. This year, she has created a Zero Waste Team and now, we have kids sorting their lunch garbage, she brings leftover, unopened food to a local shelter, and now she is working in classrooms to let kids discover what they can do. She is empowering them with ideas that can lead to action.
When teachers feel passionate and empowered about something, anything, it can contribute to the whole school community. Today was just one example of the impact an empowered teacher can have. Let’s empower each other and celebrate our expertise.