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CAG Blog: Powered by Optimism

"Powered by Optimism" captures my reflections of life in and around an all-girls' school and highlights the values of C.A.G.: leadership, global citizenship, wellness, and teaching and learning. Underscoring it all is a deeply ingrained sense of optimism that we are preparing a generation of boldly creative women who will help change the world. 


may is the longest month- 5.23.17

For all of us who work in schools, May is, indisputably, the longest month. Days and evenings are jam-packed with special events; there are papers and final exams to be graded, comments to be written, and concerts and championship games to attend. As celebratory and joyful as these events are, students and teachers alike peer bleary-eyed, toward what appears to be the elusive final day of school — convinced, like they are every year, that the end will never come.

This is also the time of year when we realize that, despite our best intentions, we did not get to every single item on our to-do list. This is the list we adults made last August and called our “annual goals” or our “success plan.” At the time, we were brimming with optimism and energy that our goals were more than manageable to achieve. Then life set in, of course, and snow days, and flu season, and, despite our best efforts, we did not get to check off each of our goals as having been accomplished. For many of us, what we did not accomplish weighs heavily and we are disappointed by this perceived lack of progress.


Let me argue for all the teachers out there, the following: even if you did not achieve every last item you set out to do, even if you feel like there was still so much work to be done, reflect on what is, and let what isn’t go.

Each year, when I speak to our new cohort of colleagues as part of their orientation, I share Peter Gow’s Letter to New Teachers with them. There is a permanence and truth about his words that is worth revisiting now, at this time of year, when we are a lot more tired than we were in September. Peter writes:

...teaching isn’t about content and it’s not about technology. It’s about kids, about building relationships with them, about believing in them, about finding out what they can do and then providing opportunities for them to do it. And it’s about seeing them goof up and giving them chances to try again. 

Just ask yourself if you accomplished this core part of what it means to be a teacher this year. Ask yourself whether you believed in your students, and gave them the opportunity to reach high, and whether you gave them the chances they needed to try again.

Another quote from the same letter speaks to the responsibility we have as educators to grow — and grow continually.

Think of doctors, who spend their lives learning even as they practice. The best teachers do the same, and you should try to emulate that—if for no other reason than to stay on the right side of all the disruptive change that’s coming along.

 Ask yourself how open you were to new ideas. Did you try a new technology, a different approach to an old assignment? Did you read about your educational practice or visit a colleague’s class? 

If you answered “yes” to most of these questions, feel satisfied that you have been true to the core commitments of teaching. You have, by default, touched the lives of children and made their experience better, or more interesting. You have figured out how to cajole, support, push, and inspire. You have instilled, ingrained, and motivated. That is a lot to accomplish.

Everything else is icing on the cake. And of course, there will always be next  year.

Posted by alison on Tuesday May, 23, 2017 at 03:25PM

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