Maintaining the 180 Spirit Cycle—Part 1: Take Time for You

We are at the beginning of August, and another summer has come and gone. Now, we begin to prepare for another school year. Goodness! Do you feel the same as I do? At the end of each year, the 180 days seem to rotate faster and faster even though a day is still made up of the same 24-hour cycle. I wonder now if I preferred those first few years—plagued with self-doubt and failure as they were—because they seemed to last forever? Or do I like it better in the here and now, even though it seems that everything flashes by way too quickly?

The answer can be found somewhere between the two chunks of time—the beginning and the here and now. In the beginning, I learned key takeaways that continue to shift me along the teaching spectrum from good to great. Through my 25 years in education, I have been lucky enough to be matched with some of the most phenomenal mentors, coaches, and professional learning instructors. In June while attending the 26th Annual Model Schools Conference with the 180 Educator Award winners, I have summarized the value of what I have learned as the 180 Spirit Cycle. This is a cycle that keeps us not only going but also giving: It flows along through professional borrowing, professional learning, reflection, feedback, and celebration.

Professional Borrowing

I chuckled out loud. I am pretty sure everyone looked over at me, but when Doug Lemov shared during his talk on Practice Perfect at MSC that a strength of a master teacher is stealing, I could not help myself. My first coach encouraged me to visit other teachers’ classrooms. She shared that it was important to not only observe student interactions with the teacher, the content, and each other but also to look at the walls. My coach encouraged me to take in everything from the environment, deconstruct it, and then synthesize what I noticed to create my own space. Yes, this is a form of borrowing, but practitioners must observe, test, refine, develop, and teach to ensure that what we use yields a high effect to impact learning.

Because I started way before Pinterest and camera phones, I drew everything with annotated notes, then prioritized what I found to be most aligned to my delivery. My next step was to star what I needed to practice or get help creating because it was neither comfortable nor natural. This was my second priority because I noticed that students were extremely engaged, but I knew it was going to take me time to get it right. I had already experienced my students laughing when I attempted non-specific praise. Heck, even I laugh recalling them asking, “Miss, why don’t you just say, ‘Good job?’ You’re using a lot of words if that is your point.” Come to find out, adding praise bubbles around the back of your wall and asking students to share how they would like to receive feedback does help create authentic moments. My friend and colleague shared celebration applauses with us this week, and yes, I’m stealing it. I know he will be flattered.

Read It!

Practice Perfect has been ordered and was part of my summer reading. Doug reminded hundreds of us earlier this week that teachers “go live” four to five times a day. Any other performer, athlete, or surgeon that has to go live would have practiced every moment for hundreds of hours to perfect the movements to ensure the optimum results—a win, a standing ovation, a world record, a life saved, or a World Cup. In this book, he and his co-authors share 42 rules to not simply go from good to great but rather to “get better at getting better.”

When by Daniel H. Pink was another summer read. I’m beginning Chapter 2. I didn’t feel guilty about how I read this book: in chunks to observe and think. Plus, the chapter “Afternoons and Coffee Spoons” is perfect for summer. Remember, summer reading is judgment-free. Next, I casually picked up one of our new books, The RBG Workout, by Bryant Johnson. I appreciate Justice Ginsburg’s last words in the foreword, “This book, I hope, will help others to experience as I have, renewed energy to carry on with their work and days.” However, if you need more encouragement, check out page 10 and make a poster of Bryant’s introduction message. “Whatever you do, do something.”

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This post originally appeared on the 180 Educator Community blog on July 9, 2018. The next post in this series will focus on professional learning and reflection.

MSC 2018 has come and gone, but you can hear more thought leaders and speakers at our Leadership Academy 2018: Leading With Vision in Atlanta from Nov. 2–4, 2018.