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Leaping from Four Corners to My Own Corner (Just One Reason I’m Grateful for My Sabbatical)

September 2, 2012

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Over the past year, I’ve been coached, challenged and supported to gain a new level of proficiency of the Responsive Classroom® approach. Through carefully designed training, our cohort learned how to take what we know innately and from our years of honing these teaching practices so we can train other teacher-learners.  This is a task more complex than espousing the best of Responsive Classroom or uploading years of theory and practice into another teacher’s brain.  Like any curriculum design, it takes into account the needs of adult learners, thoughtful curriculum sequences, and draws from the wide range of experience teachers bring to their own learning.  The training was intense, but like many endeavors, yielded benefits that far outweigh any struggle necessary to get to this point and wouldn’t have been possible without the dedication of many.

It quickly became clear,  as this certification process unfolded, that the opportunity to do more with Responsive Classroom had finally manifested.  Parts of me had been yearning to dig deeper into this work for years and now I was staring it in the face. But… there were immeasurable aspects of teaching which could not imagine the absence of in my life. I was standing in my own little Four Corners as I straddled the diverse aspects of family, teaching, writing and yoga.

Rather than continuing to bestride these four areas like a Navajo Nation, I needed to narrow my position so I could grow (and maintain some level of sanity!).   Sometimes we need to shake things up and view them from a different vantage point so we can take some risks and grow.  Right now  my calling is to spend time focusing on writing and working from a different perspective with Responsive Classroom.

Taking that leap wasn’t easy, but as soon as I did, I knew I landed in the right spot.

Last month, I worked with teachers from St. Anne’s School of Annapolis to provide training in the Responsive Classroom Level 1 course.  Any misgivings about giving up the final weeks of summer vacation dissipated as the privilege of working with these teachers resonated.  We settled in with opportunities to share about summer adventures and connect with each other.  We talked about our past experiences inside and outside of the classroom and how these make us who we are as teachers.  We looked ahead to what we would come in this thirty-hour course, which supports and furthers the mission of the school and add to each teacher’s repertoire.   As we each made the transition from summer to work, it was clear that this cohort had much to share this week and beyond.

Most of the participants had witnessed or explored parts of Responsive Classroom or had similar approaches to teaching.  This captive audience was philosophically on-board.  They were here out of a desire to better learn how to put their beliefs in practice.  None of these teachers had officially taken the course, but were eagerly awaiting the content and the time to explore how it would play out in their classrooms. The consistency in training and dedication to the fundamental beliefs of both Responsive Classroom and the school’s mission once again gave me reason to pause and reflect on what a privilege it is to work in this setting.

NOTE: By the end of the week, nearly 98% of our faculty have completed Responsive Classroom Level I and/or Developmental Designs Level I (middle school compatriot).

I expected to be inspired and impressed by sharing Responsive Classroom with these like-minded teachers.  I considered myself lucky to be able to share this work with others and to learn from consultants and Responsive Classroom staff who are so passionate and knowledgeable about their work. But the net-effect of this week exceeded my expectations.   What an amazing gift to get to know others and to share some tried-and-true teaching approaches. Each person has a new appreciation for the context Responsive Classroom plays in the mission of the school and their teaching arsenal has been amplified.  The by-product is a shared commitment that makes it safe for adults to take risks, refine relationships, and synthesize information.   If this is what we are striving for with our students – all the better if we can set up this climate and environment for the adult learners in our school.

Now I sit perched in my own corner, excitedly unwrapping this gift of time to narrow my focus and gain a new perspective, with deep gratitude for all who have made this leap possible.

Stop back in two weeks to find out more about our experience in Responsive Classroom Level 1. And if we’re not already friends on Facebook,  shall we? From this page, you’ll get more frequent updates and resources, so go ahead – take your own leap!

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