In the past week, I've spent lots of time thinking about the things in my life for which I am thankful. The list is pretty long, but when I considered the things in my professional life that I would include, I kept coming back to one thought.
I am so thankful to be back in the classroom this year.
At first, it was just that, but when I kept coming back to it--just that one thought--I took the time to ask myself why. And what I realized is that it goes deeper than the joy of being with my own class full of little learners, though that would be reason enough. Yes, I am so happy to have my own classroom again, to be greeted by 23 little smiles each morning, to be there when a kid gets that "oh--I get it!" look on his face. But there is something even more professionally satisfying and energizing that makes me thankful for this year.
During my time out of the classroom, I learned a lot--a tremendously huge bunch of stuff--about teaching and learning and literacy and teachers and kids. I'm thankful for all the experiences I had and for all I was lucky enough to learn. But in returning to the classroom, I am reminded that, for me, the real learning comes when I am applying and trying and adjusting what I've learned while I'm engaged in the real work of my classroom.
What I've found is that real learning--understanding, deepening, extending, modifying, even innovating--comes when I am engaged most closely with a school, a grade level team, and mostly when I am immersed in work with kids day after day across time. To join in classroom work for short blocks of time is powerful; to do it as all teachers do, across whole days with multiple contents areas and other duties to juggle, is to really begin to understand the work teaching and learning more deeply.
When I think of professional leaders whose work I study and admire, I find there is a balance--those whose work is done mostly at the university/research level or in the capacity of coaching/consulting and those who still spend most of their time working in the classroom with their own students. I am thankful to have had the opportunity to do both, but after a time in the world of coaching and consulting, it feels good to take the things I've learned and helped others learn and put it all to work with my very own group of kids.
I'm learning a lot, and for that, I am very thankful.