Thrive, by Meenoo Rami

There is a rambling post in my drafts folder about how hard March is.  It is, for me, the most challenging time in the school calendar, and usually not for the amount of work it involves.  It's right around par for the workload, but the thing about March is that it tries its absolute darnedest to beat the stuffing out of you.  The things that are the most frustrating and trying and genuinely confusing about teaching come to the surface; every year I reach a point where I question this career path.

I hate admitting that.  I just reach a point where I'm spinning the wheels and it feels like I'm going nowhere.  And the changes I need and want are not even on the horizon.  And I want to think about next year but I'm so deeply stuck in this one.  And I'm utterly pooped by all of these thoughts.

March wants me to burn all the way out.  Oh, how it tries.

I never published that post about March because the month passed and I was too busy getting beaten down by March.

Last weekend, though, I sat on an airplane with my freshly arrived copy of Thrive.  And I read it, all of it, only stopping to write notes --mostly exclamation marks and the word YES in caps -- in the pages.

I tweeted that Meenoo's release date on this book couldn't have been better timed.  I plan to set the book aside and pick it up every year at the end of March.

Let me tell you.

This quote appears in the introduction.  I knew it and have thought it before, but I needed to see it again.

The teaching profession is such a weird beast: you're left alone a lot but are still under a ton of scrutiny, you're supposed to come up with creative solutions, but you're being handed scripted mandates, and you're doing work that is allegedly the most meaningful there is, but you don't see any immediate results.

Thrive is a reminder to teachers of the agency and the responsibility we have to shape our professional lives, for ourselves and for each other.  It's about finding mentors and sharing feedback and inspiration with others in our buildings, our local and national organizations, and online.  It's about the needs of teachers to connect and be heard, and about how we need to always seek an environment that fosters this as well as create it.

Besides feeling completely rejuvenated and having a notebook full of classroom ideas from awesome educators, I take away three major points:


Thrive mentions Ron Brandt's characterization of teachers as "managers of complexity," and I love this.  It becomes easy to lose sight of the three things that motivate a person through creative work such as ours: AUTONOMY, MASTERY, and PURPOSE.  Sometimes I'm so bogged down in the things that I don't even realize that these are my needs.  And I can do everything about that.

I can seek autonomy by constantly evolving my curriculum and choosing the best use of my time.  I need to do a better job of seeking professional growth opportunities for myself, instead of hesitating and waiting for permission to make a move.  I can keep in mind that mastery is not perfection, and that I am always challenging myself to meet new goals each year.  I can be aware of the intellectual challenges that my work creates and how complex it really is.  And I can see the purpose of what I do.  That part should be so obvious, but it does feel lost in the daily grind sometimes.


Perhaps the biggest takeaway from this book, for me, was its focus on the teacher as an individual and a human.  While it requires a lot of creativity and critical thinking, teaching is often squashed by standardization and the watered-down version of the thing.  The squashing of a person's creativity and critical thinking can do a lot of damage.

The chapter I loved most was about being yourself as a teacher.  It sounds self-helpey, but I think about these facets of the job all the time, and it was so comforting to read that Meenoo and tons of other educators do, too.

I've thought and wrote frequently about the extent to which my personality and my true self affect my work with students.  I really do believe in being a real person in front of them.  I smile and laugh and have other moods.  I temper my frustration and I show my disappointment.  I don't wear a persona that I invented for my classroom, and I believe that's a really important part of my interactions and my effectiveness.

Modeling vulnerability allows students to follow our example.  Yes.


Thrive made me think about the relationships that impact my professional life.  I thought about my go-to colleague who always has solid ideas and honest feedback.  I thought about the many incredible educators whose work inspires me on Twitter and on their blogs.  I thought about the conferences I get excited about and the organizations I am proud to be a part of.

It also made me think about my own role in these communities and the needs of the greater teaching community.  I want to host more professional development workshops in the building to invite my colleagues to share ideas. I want their feedback on what I've tried, and I have so much to learn from them, too.  I want to make a bigger and more transparent effort with those I consider my mentors.  I want to connect more regularly on Twitter and keep sharing my thoughts and trials in this little space.  The organizations and conferences I have available to me are immense resources, and not only have I barely tapped them, but I have certainly not been as much of a contributor as I would like.  Thrive is challenging me to be a more conscious member of all of my communities and to recognize that the benefit is mutual.

Thrive really connected to my beliefs about teaching and the ways in which I find meaning and joy in the work.  I was so excited when I finished it because I had filled a notebook with ideas for my classroom and curriculum, as well as a million thoughts about purpose and identity and big picture things.  I would have appreciated it as a new teacher years ago, but I think I got even more out of it now.

Seriously, though.  Read it.  And next March.  We'll revisit.

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