At a recent team meeting of K-12 cross-curricular educators dedicated to improving writing instruction, we discussed the Calkins and Ehrenworth article entitled “Growing Extraordinary Writers: Leadership Decisions to Raise the Level of Writing Across a School and a District” (The Reading Teacher, Vol. 70, No. 1, July/August 2016). While takeaways included the need for a shared vision of good writing and good writing instruction, as well as a need for shared expectations and ways to track growth – the reason for the formation of this team – what struck me most was this line on the transformative power of professional development: “It should be focused on strengthening teachers’ methods and spirits.”
Yes. Spirits must rise, I thought. Before we can raise the level of writing, before we can raise the students at all, we must first raise each others’ spirits.
The truth is that professional development is so seldom inspirational. For the last year, when I planned professional development in writing for teachers, my driving question was, How can I inspire them? How can they tap into the wellspring of their own power, their own voices, all that matters to them?
When I spoke on this at the meeting, a colleague chimed in: “We have to be the rising tide. If we rise, we’ll raise others with us.”
“Yes – a rising tide lifts all boats,” I responded, recalling those words associated with John F. Kennedy.
I grew up in the Tidewater region of Virginia. I have been on the Chesapeake Bay-Bridge Tunnel when the tide was high, in a storm; as I descended into the tunnel, waves crashed above the entrance and spilled over the car. A layer of salt remained on the windshield when it dried. I’ve seen boats grounded when the tide was low, making the would-be sailors push and pull that much harder to get them afloat. I’ve walked floating docks of marinas on sunny days, feeling the sway of the boards under my feet as boats rocked with the incoming tide, the metal of their moorings and buoys clanking softly, rhythmically, as if coming to life with with the rising flow.
When the tide rises, it lifts everything with it – everything rises.
When our spirits rise, we lift others around us – everyone rises.
That’s so needed in education today.
It’s so needed everywhere.
The power lies within you. Tap into that inner wellspring; let it flow.
Note: The one word I chose for for myself at the beginning of this year is Rise. If you’re interested, here’s my little poem: Rise.