What a loaded question, right?
There are days when I am traveling from home to a work destination on which my answer would be, "Just let me make my connecting flight and not let me sit by someone stinky." Sorry, you knew you were going to get honesty from me, right?
Other days, all I want is a big 44 oz. Diet Dr. Pepper (is that REALLY my heart's desire, some of you are asking?)---YES! I need it!
Other days, my desire involves intimate time with Dave, as we spend a bit of time apart due to my work. No, you don't have to warn me to "get a room"---I just mean I need TIME with him.
But the last few days, I have had the distinct pleasure of working with some of the most dedicated school leaders. For four days, I spent time talking about what good teaching looks and sounds like and becoming better and more objective observers of teachers. We talked, in depth, about how trust is built and maintained between teachers and administrators, and we had some tough conversations. I might add that, two years ago, this same group made me a t-shirt that said "Best Group Ever!" because I kept telling them that. Despite the long hours and the difficult cognitive work, they continued to persevere in an effort to hone their craft of assisting teachers in being the best they can be.
Meanwhile, I am teaching three online courses at Grand Canyon University, and I keep walking (not literally, of course, but that would be funny) into the students' conversations and poking my head in, asking probing questions. They are thinking deeply about their own work. I adore being a part of their conversations as they journey towards school leadership in their own districts.
I get a chance to go work with one of my favorite schools in NYC in another week, and I am over the moon about the deep conversations we are going to have with teachers after doing some paired/guided walkthroughs in teacher classrooms.
So, WHAT IS MY HEART'S DESIRE? Honestly, every morning, I get down on my knees and I ask God to direct me in the way I should go, to let my will be His will (and not the other way around, but wouldn't that be cool and SO very selfish of me??), and simply to let me be the Shelly that God intended me to be.
Personally, for me, it means being the best wife and Labbie mom I can be. Honestly, when I lose my temper with Dave, a day later, I am questioning my sanity. He is my rock, my best friend, and my forever-partner with Christ.
Professionally, my heart's desire is to continue to do EXACTLY what I am doing right now----work with amazing groups of educators to spread the good news that education is the single best profession in the entire world! No offense to any other profession, but as Charlotte Danielson often says, "Without teachers, what other professions would actually exist?" Certainly, we can talk and debate that (and I would love to, because I love having my own thinking challenged---it always opens my mind to diverse views), but that would fall within my heart's desire too. I just want to keep learning and growing as an educator. The more I learn, the more I want to learn.
So, what about you? What is your heart's desire? Please share with me via commenting here or on Twitter: @shellyarneson, LinkedIn (Shelly Arneson) or on Facebook (Shelly Armstrong Arneson)
I cannot wait to hear your thoughts.
In the meantime, Happy Communicating!
In working with teachers, one of the frustrations I hear quite frequently is, "I want to teach my students to be more self-directed learners, but I feel like all they want me to do is tell them the answers." We know how that scenario goes. Due to time constraints, we then often end up doing exactly what we know NOT to do, which is answer the question for the student or give them so much support, we have done much more than we intended to do. As Charlotte Danielson (personal communication, 2012) says, "So, who's doing the learning? Not the student, right?"
Well, I must admit I struggle with this same scenario when teaching master's and doctoral level students. So many times, students (in most cases, teachers who are pursing their degree in Educational Leadership and who will ultimately and hopefully become administrators at some point) ask for help with assignment directions. If the written directions are truly unclear (as sometimes happens in online courses), I will be certain to give some helpful tips at the beginning of the work week in the form of an Announcement, something like, "Be sure to use the XYZ form to answer the essay question" or "Be certain to check the rubrics for this assignment as they have helpful hints for what you will want to include in your paper."
But in order for the directions and my helpful gems to work, the students actually have to read them. Every once in a while, I get an individual message from a student asking a question I literally have just answered in an Announcement. That is an easy one, in my opinion. I simply direct them to the Announcement section and say, "You'll find the answer there." If it is an APA guideline they are asking about, I might direct them to the Student Support Center which houses the APA guidelines (if they don't already have the APA manual, which is my right hand when writing or grading APA required papers).
In the same manner, when I teach face-to-face workshops, a participant will sometimes ask a question that I just answered, and that is an easy fix, as well, as I almost always have the directions that I just SAID also WRITTEN on a powerpoint slide. I will simply smile and point to the slide in every attempt to model what effective teachers do in their own classrooms.
I have the blessing and honor to observe good teachers in so many areas of the world. I watch how they handle questions from students in a way that allows the student to be a bit more self-directed than spoon-fed; methods such as:
1. See three before me ("ask up to three classmates before you come to me for the answer to a question")
2. Pose the question back to another student to clarify for the whole class (because what if someone else has the same question)
3. Challenge everyone to find the answer to the question in their text and be prepared to share it aloud in some type of creative protocol
But every once in a while, I have a student who simply does not want to do the work for themselves. They want me to give them a simpler task because they are going through honest-to-goodness trials and tribulations or perceived problems (that are likely everyday hiccups for the rest of the class). I have struggles with how to respond when a student who is taking a six-week course says, "I am balancing a lot of things right now and I don't really have time to interview a coworker" (or principal, or superintendent, or whatever the task is).
What I WANT to ask is "Why in the world did you sign up for a course when you knew it was THIS six week period and you KNEW you were going to be beginning a new job at the same time?" I believe if I asked that question, the honest answer would be, "I was hoping you would go easy on me." No way! Being an educator and being a school leader is hard work, and I truly believe if I don't prepare my students to become the best they can be without being coddled, I have failed at my job.
So...I got an email asking something to the effect of, "How am I supposed to find a lesson plan when I am taking a week off of work?" Ummmm....email someone? call someone? find a lesson plan on that elusive thing called the internet? You're in education. I'm guessing you know someone. But no. I'm guessing she wanted me to give her an alternative assignment or feed her a lesson plan myself. Instead, I prayed. Hard. Really hard. Then I composed an email that came from God, definitely not from evil Shelly the professor who is frustrated with senses of entitlement. The email gave her the suggestion:
"Consider that a teacher who you were coaching told you she couldn't come up with any creative lesson plans. What would you suggest for her to do? "
The next day, she posted a really great lesson plan (and the assignment that went with it) that she had gotten off the internet. She even said, "I found so many great ones, it was hard to choose from them!"
And the angels sang, and the chorus shouted "Amen!"
What happened? Two things: I didn't write a snarky email and I didn't give in and spoon-feed her.
What are some ways in which you help your own students, co-workers, teachers, spouses, children become self-directed?
I'd love to hear some ideas from you!!
I say the Serenity Prayer a lot. And by "a lot", I mean a lot! I have to, as things in life shockingly don't always go my way. So, I have to pray a bunch. I don't pray for things to go better for me or for other people. In fact, if I tell someone I am going to pray for them, I am not one who prays for cancer to go away or for a loved one not to die. I believe God has all of that part taken care of. What is going to be is going to be. Instead, when I pray, I ask for God to give me (and others in need) a sense of peace and serenity. I am asking for God to hold each of us in the palm of His hands while we endure whatever it is we are going to go through anyway.
Many of us have heard the saying, "Pain is inevitable. Misery is optional." I truly believe every single one of us is going to go through our share (I won't say "fair share", as that doesn't quite sound right, does it?) of difficult times. Loved ones die. We are diagnosed with cancer. Politics disappoint us. People we love disappoint us (and by the way, we disappoint loved ones too). We may not have a choice in any of those matters. What we do have a choice about is how long and to what extent we are going to allow that pain to control us.
Our priest preached about Job today. She said that Job had it pretty good in his younger years, lots of cattle, lots of kids, a loving family, etc. Job was living the dream. In other words, it might have been easy to believe that God was alive and well during those times. But what about once Job's oxen were killed and his fields were burned? What about once all his children died and his body was plagued with sores? His wife even tried to say, "Dude! Maybe it's time you agreed that this God you believe in might not be there for you!" But Job still believed. Our priest asked us how we can receive the good from the hand of God without accepting the bad will sometimes come along as well?
I look at it like this: life is all about acceptance. The stuff in life is going to happen whether we gripe and complain and live our lives in worry and misery or whether we see life as sunshine and rainbows. Stuff is going to happen.
Acceptance doesn't mean I have to like every single thing that happens to me. Acceptance means (for me, anyway) that no matter what happens in my life, I am still going to live a life of integrity and conduct myself the way God intended me to do.
Just for today...I will try to remember these words of wisdom.