OK, what on earth have I been talking about? Well, in a nutshell, I completed something I have wanted to do for YEARS. In the educational world there are very few moments where we can truly pull inward and do something that will totally allow us to regroup as a person and as an educator. Regrouping requires time and money….which is what this moment is doing for me. I just sent in a $10,000 grant for a true educational journey like no other.
To explain the journey you have to understand a few things about me and my world as a teacher. First of all I am a rather unconventional teacher living in a very unique classroom I designed myself. My classroom is a living breathing diner, in terms of appearance, feel, and style. The kids sit at actual diner booths, at a luncheon counter with stools, and at diner tables. There are condiment containers and flowers in vases in the center of each table. There are even some comfy couches to add to the joy.
As far as my teaching “style” goes it is a bit more complex to explain. I guess the best way to describe my style is to look at the goal I have each day for my students, independence. I want my students to be in total control of their learning and to cloak them in a blanket of comfortable independence. I want them to learn the joy of being responsible for learning, not waiting for someone to spoon it into their souls. What does that look like? They come into each day knowing these things:
- During each subject area they have a lot of control over “when” and “what” they are doing within the framework of what we are learning.
- Learning is their career.
- Each moment in the diner counts and they need to be doing their job ALL day (i.e. if it is Math Workshop they need to be 100% into math, no exceptions).
- If they are interested in learning something I will totally support them.
- If they have something to share they know someone will listen and care.
- When they are struggling they know they can get help immediately.
- If they are unhappy they will be heard and supported.
- They sit where they want in the room, we have no assigned seats.
- They can take their shoes off and get comfortable.
- They know I love them.
Yes, I am still teaching and they are still learning, but I am very conscious of their time. I want every minute to count. It is important that I do not waste their time. My goal is to do bursts of teaching, no more than 10 minutes at a time.
OK, now we are back to the original point of this writing…What letters…What grant…What am I talking about? The grant is basically a creativity grant that is designed to rejuvenate teachers. The sky is the limit and all you have to do is come up with an idea that would take you to a new level. Diner Diaries is the name of this grant. My dream for years has been to travel up the east coast and visit the heart and soul of where diners began, talk to the owners, talk to the workers, sit in seats that have been sat in by many, and simply soak it all in. My Grandmother started me on this journey many years ago when we would spend endless hours chatting over a shared meal at local diners in my community. She has been gone for several years now, but the memories we made will live on for a lifetime. THAT, is what I want to bring back with me….those feelings. I want my students to feel those feelings and reap that joy, from their diner experience.
In the end, I will have a documentary of my journey created by my son, I will write and publish a book from the actual diaries I am already working on, and have an experience of a lifetime.
The letter of recommendations….I can’t even express how they made/make me feel. I am still bubbling over from all three. The first one was from a former student (I referred to it in my first blog post) and his mother. He is an adult now, but his memories of his life in my world is priceless. He remembers such intricate details of so many things we did together. His love of my time with him is beyond anything I could have imagined. His mother’s thoughts were as incredible. She is truly a difference maker in my world.
The second letter was from someone who has watched me daily, my principal. He supports me, pushes me, and ultimately allows me to do what I do…without making me conform to the norm. Without his flexibility I would not be who I am today. It is funny that during this journey of teaching he has been a rock for me. His encouragement is there even when I have “different” teaching ideas and methods, and he respects me professionally.
The final letter was from a man who has supported me for years. He is a former parent that I had the honor of having several of his children in class. He has been more than generous through the years on several levels. Ultimately his is the person I have bounced ideas off of, shared educational dreams, and he has been a dear friend. In reality he has been a dream maker for me. He has taken some of those dreams and made them a reality for me….what a special person and family. His daughter is even going to be a teacher after her experience in my room….what an honor.
Now I wait. But as I wait I am going to keep pushing forward. This grant, win or lose, has already changed the game for me. Whether I receive it or not the diary has begun, this blog is up and running, my personal diary is purchased, my Teacher’s pay Teacher’s site is up, and I am already starting to save money just for this trip. Win or lose, I have already won.