Friday, August 10, 2012
So, I have this dream. I hold out hope that I have secret talents that I don't yet know about, that I am secretly amazing at something and it's a complete mystery to me what it is. It might be for something that exists that I haven't yet tried: badminton, robot-building, flying a helicopter. Maybe my secret talent is in a sport or game, possibly one that hasn't been invented yet, like sky-dive speech-writing. Or lawn-mower food preparation. Perhaps blind-folded tree climbing.
When I try something new, I sometimes wonder: "Is this my secret talent?"
For over a year, I have been undergoing the certification process to become a consulting teacher for the Responsive Classroom. With this certification, I will be able to teacher Responsive Classroom Level 1 to other educators. As someone passionate about the Responsive Classroom approach, this has been a welcome and exciting challenge. It is an intense and rigorous process involving a lot of being observed in one's own classroom practice, a lot of writing and reflecting, which then culminates in a lot of practice presenting to other adults.
Apart from being excited at the idea of becoming certified, in the back of my mind, I thought I might find my secret talent. Armed with my homework and bags under my eyes (I'm a first time mom of an infant), I arrived at part one of our adult seminar in May, really raring to go.
During those busy three days, we learned a lot, read a lot, and had the opportunity to give a very short presentation. We all left that seminar with a lot to read and a lot to prepare. In part two of the seminar -- in July -- we had four presentations to give.
I spent a lot of my sleep-deprived hours at the end of June and beginning of July working and reworking my presentations. I practiced on my 4 month old daughter, who thought I was quite funny. I practiced in front of the mirror, which told me nothing. I practiced in the shower, in which I sounded amazing (of course, I also sound amazing singing in the shower and you'll notice that I'm not a famous singer...).
I arrived at part two of our adult seminar in July, laden with binders and books and notecards and posters and markers, even painter's tape. I was exhilarated and nervous, excited to see the other members of the seminar again. It was great to be back together again, to catch up, to hear about how everyone's summer was going, to learn more about each other. We also began our many presentations on Monday and Tuesday of that week.
As it turns out, presenting to adults is not my secret talent. Alas.
I don't mean that I lack skills in teaching adults, but rather that I was not instantly and immediately a Master of All Skill. In fact, I'm not even bad at it. I'm just not quite as amazing as my secret fantasy had imagined. After that realization, I had a bit of a mourning period. It can be disappointing to discover one isn't quite as good at something as one had (secretly) hoped.
Once I got over the initial mourning period, the time I had with my coach was absolute gold to me. In fact, I got so focused on being given the gift of feedback, of places to improve, that I almost didn't want to waste any of that valuable time on what was going well. I remember feeling a little bit like: "Okay, cool. Yes, okay, but FIX ME! How else can I get better?"
This got me thinking about my students (as many things do), and I wondered if any of them have similar experiences. Six year olds often jump into things with enthusiasm and gusto, for them it's about the process, the beginning. They often lose steam partway through, or when they realize that something is hard. For me, as their teacher, their coach, this can be a rich opportunity to reinforce their enthusiasm, to help them see what they are doing well in this new learning. Maybe I can help them through any mourning period they might have so that they can then reapply themselves with the same enthusiasm I had when I realized that my new endeavor was as rich with opportunity for new learning as theirs is for them.
And as for me...? Well, I've still yet to discover my secret talent...