Where do beliefs come from?

Scrolling through my Twitter feed early Monday morning, I came across the above tweet from Cathy Mere.  With the #summerPROFrereads, I gather Cathy is combing through beloved books as a piece of her own summer learning.  Her Tweet lingered in my head as I took Maci on her morning sniff stroll sniff through the neighborhood.

When I was little, I believed in Santa.  My Mom and Dad worked to keep my belief alive.  The anticipation of Christmas was fed with their shared belief in the Jolly Man and in the innocence of their children. My older brother and sister worked to keep the magic of believing alive by joining in on the Christmas Eve letter writing.  Lucky for me, when I was older and I questioned my own beliefs, I had a younger brother who deserved to feel the magic of believing.  So I followed the example of my Mom and Dad and my brother and sister and worked to feed Darren’s belief in The Man in The Red Suit.  It was the families collective work to keep the belief ongoing and alive.

As Maci sniffed and sniffed, I thought about where my teaching beliefs came from?  How did they grow?  When I started teaching 27 years ago,  I can’t say that I had any deep rooted beliefs in teaching and learning.  So how did they grow?

Maci and I strolled and I wondered.  As I strolled and wondered, I began to remember.

As a new teacher, I remember being invited to be part of a teacher research group, The Community of Teachers Learning.  These once a month meetings surrounded me wiht colleagues sharing their voices, their stories of success and struggle.  This was where I began to experience the most important tool I would use – my journal.

I remember reading professional books, Donald Graves, Writing: Teachers and Children at Work, Jane Hansen, When Writers Read, Maxine Greene’s, Releasing the Imagination.  These professional texts affirmed the structures and work I was doing in my classroom.  These professional text gave me ideas to grow the work I was already doing.  These professional texts made me take pause and write.  I wrote to make sense of what I was reading.

I remember being invited to write proposals to be a presenter at multiple NCTE conventions.  Writing the proposals, being accepted, presenting, and then getting feedback from colleagues from all over was humbling.  That humbling feeling affirmed my belief that I had a story to tell.  A story told through the work of the children in my class.

The Teacher You Want to Be is a collection of essays on teaching and learning.  The essays are rooted in 13 Belief Statements “regarding the type of education that all children deserve.”  The Belief Statements came from years of work.  Matt Glover, Renee Dinnerstein, and Kathy Collins formed a study group to learn about the Reggio Emilia approach to teaching and learning.  Their study group took them to Reggio Emilia, Italy where they were immersed in the ways “of tried-and-true child-centered teaching and learning.”  It was the collective work of sixty plus teachers to find and clarify the 13 Belief Statements.

Whether it’s Santa, or teaching and learning, beliefs take work.  They need time to develop.  Ongoing conversations and questions with colleagues nurture beliefs.  Beliefs need experience and reflection to be seen and felt in the work that we do.  Nurturing beliefs, clarifying beliefs is what can help us to manage curriculum and know children.

Teaching that is rooted in beliefs is the most meaningful work we can do.

9 thoughts on “Beliefs”

    1. Beliefs have are becoming the talk and I think sometimes we just throw out the word without really thinking about all the work that goes into having, knowing and nurturing beliefs! I’m curious about your explorations!


  1. Love this post, Dawn. Have you ever watched Simon Sinek’s Tedtalk? He talks about how the most effective leaders start with WHY. It reminds me of the graphic in your post. I wish we spent more time on beliefs in PD, and you have me thinking about different ways to start sessions. Might be with shared (or even not shared) belief statements. Thanks for this post–it’s an important one.


  2. I like how you structured your post with such personal stories of Santa beliefs and walking your dog, both of which I connect to. Our beliefs become part of us and often we aren’t really sure where they came from. I have similar beliefs, too, but they were formed differently. I love having a community of teachers I can freely share my beliefs with.


  3. First of all, I enjoyed the way you crafted this slice, with walking Maci and wondering – about Santa, about your family, about your teaching and learning. I think this is the value of summer: time. You have pushed me to consider a similar journey. My beliefs also developed along with a group of educators who were constantly reading and asking questions. I’m thinking we need to get back to more of that – walking and wondering and asking why?


  4. You made me realize my teaching beliefs keep growing, and how our beliefs impact so much we do as teachers. I’m not the same teacher I was a decade ago because of working with others who helped me to keep developing my beliefs.


  5. I believe I need to be more productive on my daily walks with the dog. I do believe that a daily walk (with a dog or with a human) is a very good way to begin a day. A little more wondering should also be a part of my day. I remember writing these grand statements of my beliefs when I was a teacher in training. I think some of it would probably still fit, but I also think it’s something that we should do at many stages of our careers, not just at the starting line. I think Melanie’s right, we should talk about it more at PDs and staff meetings. Everything else grows out of what we believe. And good things come from questioning our beliefs and hearing other people’s beliefs.


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