Rooted in Reality

Though I am not posting this until today, I actually wrote this post a couple of months ago. In finishing my thesis for my MFA in poetry, I have unfortunately neglected my blog, but I am now coming back to it, at least once per week.

August 31, 2014

Some Rights Reserved by Celeste

Last week, as a faculty, we developed Norms of Collaboration. As part of the exercise, we looked at Adaptive Schools Seven Norms of Collaboration and PLC Collective Commitments. The exercise was positive and we used a collaborative summary and priority stickers to whittle down our collective lists. As I was typing up the final norms for the group, I noticed that “rooted in reality” was one of the main priorities. Somehow, this phrase struck me as less than positive, not quite fitting with the other priorities such as respect, keeping a positive attitude and being engaged. I wondered, what does “rooted in reality mean?”

As it was the weekend, I engaged in a really productive virtual dialogue with the group reporter and found that they had meant…Yet, I wondered if that was the collective understanding of the entire group who had tagged it as a priority.

Last week, we also discussed an excerpt about expectations from Robyn Jackson’s Never Work Harder Than Your Students. She discusses the Pygmalion Effect and notes that it is not our “dogged belief in our students….” In our context, I noted that if we say, “they can’t,” we are really saying “I can’t.” We are saying “I don’t have the skills and strategies to help this child,” and if that is the case, we need to engage in collaborative inquiry together and find the strategies.

I have spent the weekend thinking about the phrase. I hope that to some it doesn’t mean there are students we can’t help, who can’t succeed. I’m all for being “rooted in reality” as a means to understand the present. But I want to do more than remain rooted.

Let me highlight my thoughts with a parenting example. I have spent the weekend rooted in the reality of my stubborn two year old who is learning how to listen well.  Additionally, both my girls are in a bickering phase that is somewhat new and completely grating. This weekend has been particularly challenging, and my patience has worn thin on numerous occasions. I’ve engaged in lots of deep breaths, positive self-talk, exercise and journaling. I’ve been compassionate in my discipline and modeled positive behavior. Yet, I’m still frustrated.

Despite everything I’ve read about toddler behavior and sibling rivalry, I’m experiencing the same issues again and again. That is my reality. It’s important that I recognize it, so I can move forward because I do believe we can learn how to get along, practice kindness, listen without losing ourselves and all the other goals I have for my girls. Yet, I also have to recognize that I need more strategies and support. Thus, remaining rooted in reality is not helpful. Recognizing reality is necessary so that we can become un-rooted.

Present reality does not have to become future reality. That is entirely up to us, and we have to believe, whether as parents or educators, in our own abilities to help our children learn and grow past challenges. Rather than remain rooted, I challenge us to imagine the possibilities and then think up solutions. As I used to say to my students:

Remember to always float on the aura of positive energy.

We must remain positive in our belief that all children can learn and want to be successful.

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