People Matter

It took me years to commit to writing blog posts. I shared about a year ago in a conversation with Sarah Caban, (an amazing person, blogger, and colleague that I felt like blogging had rules. Sarah reminded me recently that a blog is a space to write and that I am free to write about whatever moves me. With that, this is not a post about professional learning or teaching yet it does have strong implications for the relational part of learning.

The last of my paternal grandmother’s sisters passed on this past year. I attended her funeral just before writing this post. The 2 weeks following this were filled with trips to Massachusetts, Utah, and Chicago for professional learning. In between these trips I was in Virginia at the side of my father who fell ill all of the sudden. Needless to say, it had been a hard 3 weeks.

There is something beautiful about an African-American funeral. My cousin spoke at my aunt’s funeral and reminded the family that we are charged to celebrate the life of our loved one in the midst of our mourning. My aunt’s request in life and death was simply “don’t leave anyone out.” Her message to the family beginning with her children was to make sure that everyone knew that she loved them, that they each mattered to her and that she understood that everyone pays respects in a way that makes sense to their needs.

This outward focus on people is such a huge thing for me. It’s one of the reasons I have such a hard time with Twitter. I love Twitter, don’t get me wrong, but I struggle with leaving people in a space where they are engaging with me and I virtually walk away for days or weeks at a time. I realize this is not actually the case but I cringe when I think about it feeling this way for someone.

I rounded out my travels this week in Chicago conducting a leadership academy for Illustrative Mathematics. One of the sessions was focused on PLCs. A lingering question from the group was ” how do we engage resistant teachers in the PLC process?” I see connections between this question and the life of my Aunt “Phe”.

I believe that people engage when purposes are clearly defined. I also know that some people engage easily with no purpose at all! I can be both of these people depending on the situation. I remember team meetings with regimented schedules that left me feeling anxious about what I needed to get done or figured out before returning to my class. In fact, I still feel this way outside of my classroom. I have little mental energy for processing new information when I cannot see the space to process new learning and questions. What I am getting at is “people matter”. Checking in with seemingly resistant teachers to uncover the resistance is so important.

I believe we all are resistant against something. Some of us call in out when the frustration hits us and others cope passive-aggressively by multi-tasking when we should be focusing. That’s not for me to judge. My calling is to understand first and to try to make sure everyone knows they are needed in the learning space because it’s the people really do matter.




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