We’re Back!

August 1, 2022

When it was time to head from the English Department office to the classroom, my former Gunn HS English Department instructional supervisor, Tim Farrell, would stand up and say, “It’s time to make the donuts” – a reference to the Dunkin Donuts commercial from the 1980s. It always made me smile. We all got up and walked on into our classrooms for the day ahead.

It’s August. Onward we go again into our schools and our classrooms. In rain, and sleet, and snow, just like the Dunkin Donuts donut maker. We enter our classrooms to learn with and from our students. It’s an amazing profession in which to work. And often, we do it solo.

Yet, as much as we do it alone at times, we are also a collective of educators all doing great work together. And together we need to be two feet in the present with each other. Acknowledge that we are a collective, that we are in it together, and that we need to re-member ourselves to the collective as the school year begins.

Early in the month many of us are heading back, checking in with each other and doing that ‘re-membering.’ In my professional learning workshops, I am asking participants to share their answers to the following questions.

  • How are you?
  • Who are you (now)?
  • How have you changed since we finished our last school year?
  • What surprises you about how you are seeing the world these days?
  • How might I have to ‘update’ the way I make sense of you?

Taking the time to check in to see how people are (now) and to show a picture or two from our summertime activities is important. Our personal and professional connections with one another matter. Bryk and Schneider, authors of Trust in Schools: A Core Resource for Improvement, contend in their research, “schools with a high degrees of “relational trust,” as they call it, are far more likely to make the kinds of changes that help raise student achievement than those where relations are poor.” How we re-member into the collective is essential.

This time to ‘re-member’ into the collective and its importance is deeply aligned with work on Collective Efficacy, discussed in books by Donohoo, DeWitt, Fisher and Frey, and others. How we work with respect and personal regard for each other matters for building a positive school climate and influences student achievement and wellbeing. While we have much to do in order to ‘be ready’ for the students, one of the important pieces of our work to be ready for the school year is to re-member to the collective.

With developing psychological safety an essential building block of our groups and teams, we need to ask ourselves

  • What do we need from others to feel safe working and learning here?
  • What conditions do we need in order to feel brave in our groups as learners and as colleagues?

Timothy R. Clark in his book, The 4 Stages of Psychological Safety: Defining the Path to Inclusion in Innovation, says we need to have less social friction in our interactions as it allows more intellectual friction to take place. Please join me in doing some individual introspection and ask yourself

  • How can I be a colleague who doesn’t contribute to the social friction of our school?
  • How can I continue to develop my collaboration skills to become an better colleague and group member who helps others feel safe and hopefully brave enough to challenge the group to innovate and adapt?

It’s time to ‘make the donuts’ and to be in community in purposeful and meaningful ways.

P.S. My book, Stretching Your Learning Edges: Growing (Up) at Work is out in the world to help all who want to embrace our growth as individuals, colleagues and bigger and better human beings. Let me know if you’d like to work together.

Have a great start to your school year!

If you have any questions, comments or topic suggestions, please feel free to email me at jennifer@jenniferabrams.com. I look forward to hearing from you.

Cool Resources

I wrote the first two articles which connect to being an effective group member and the other two blogs are terrific reads as well. Check them out!

Culture of Collaborative Inquiry is my starting point for Learning Forward’s The Learning Professional

Take Responsibility for Your Interactions for The International Educator

The Principal’s Guide to Teacher Motivation: Beyond Jeans Passes & Other Extrinsic Rewards by Principal Center’s Justin Baeder

How to Show Up For Your Friends Without Kids – and How to Show Up for Kids and Their Parents: aka How to be in a Community by Anne Helen Petersen