Recognizing the Need for Personal Disruption
I have to admit that there have been moments in my career where I have felt alone. It’s not the kind of alone where you feel like you have been abandoned on a deserted island. I’ve always been fortunate to have colleagues to laugh with, talk about family, friends, and personal adventures with; it’s the kind of a feeling where you are yearning for more perspective and professional conversations that stretch far beyond your classroom, school building, and district walls. Perhaps it’s because I previously worked in another field outside of education or that I have been employed in other school districts. I have encountered different styles of leadership, various types of school cultures, student populations, and collaboration styles. I guess there is something about being in the same space that can become too routine, stagnant, and mundane (if you let it). Why was I always finding myself trying to push down the walls in order to find the disruptors of conventional teaching and learning practices? Growth is something that festers within. You can feel the ideas churning in the pit of your stomach; you can see the big picture clearly; you attempt to design roadmaps that will guide you to a continuously evolving destination. Yet, you are longing for thinking partners who have that same type of stirring feeling inside. These are the people who are insanely passionate about what they do; they dream, they wonder, they develop visions, and challenge the status quo. And, sometimes when you least expect it, they magically appear and disrupt your world. You can feel yourself gravitating toward their innate desire to experience growth with you amidst a habitual sea of tradition. -Lauren
So many of us have been there… that point where you feel like the world is going on without you or maybe you are not even aware that there is a world beyond your immediate one. We don’t always recognize it; as our connections are strong with those around us. The fact of the matter is, it isn’t them, it is us. The disruptor in us that needs to be reenergized and pushed against. The internal conflict that we thrive on turns nonexistent and in place of it is a comfort and form of consistency that equates stagnancy to us. Then it starts to happen, something gnaws at your heart and spirit… something is saying that where you are just isn’t enough. There may even be a point of resentment that you can’t identify with because it doesn’t pertain to any one person, it really is yours to claim. You feel lifeless without opportunity because somewhere along the journey you forgot that your voice not only mattered but that it is also your own responsibility to use for growth. That mundane moment may turn into unlimited time (if you let it). -Kristen
Disruption is an Open Invitation to Oneself
And then it happened…I remember learning about Twitter from a colleague. “Lauren, just check it out. There are SO many educators sharing ideas, and the instant access to authors and literacy leaders…AMAZING.” Full transparency, I didn’t take the Twitter plunge right away. In fact, in 2014, I reluctantly downloaded the app to my Smartphone only to discover that I had already set up an account in 2012. I noticed that the username I created wasn’t reflective of the educator in me (@Lau7210), but it commemorated my first AOL email account, “Lau” (all my close friends call me that) and my birthday (7210). I didn’t put much thought into changing my Twitter handle; instead I was more anxious to explore this digital arena of promise. At the time, I had two followers, (my sister-in-law and a random person) and had never sent out a tweet. I immediately started searching for and following literacy gurus and expert educators like Nancie Atwell, Lucy Calkins, Fountas and Pinnell, Jennifer Serravallo and Dr. Mary Howard. And oh my goodness, that feeling when another educator followed me back was so exciting! I know that sounds really nerdy and perhaps odd, but it made me happy. I became a total Twitter voyeur. It’s like I was standing at the end of the bridge admiring the intellectual wonderland that was filled with collaborative conversation, professional discourse, and fresh ideas from educators across the globe. How could I have been sheltered from this accessible learning frenzy for so long? I watched, I read, I observed, and followed various Twitter chats frequently. One Thursday night, I stumbled upon the Twitter chat, #G2Great; a chat that revolved around meaningful and relevant literacy topics. At the time, it was facilitated by Dr. Mary Howard, Jenn Hayhurst, and Amy Brennan. I don’t remember the topic of the chat, but I vividly recall the feeling of fascination as I watched tweets flood into my Twitter feed, and rush right into my heart and soul. I marveled at the educators who had the courage to “tweet away”, share their philosophical beliefs, and contribute authentic examples of how innovative ideas were put into practice in their own classrooms/school districts. I gradually began raising my foot onto the bridge instead of standing at the edge. I crafted tweets in my head, pressed the “tweet” button, typed the words, revised them to meet the Twitter character limit, to only abruptly step off the bridge. Why would experts and other lead learners want to read my thoughts and ideas about the education field? Nevertheless, just a few weeks later, and with one eye open, I leaped onto that bridge and began walking across it….and then, I tweeted! Sending that first tweet in the Twitter chat transformed the trajectory of my career. I shared my spirit, my voice, my practice. As I crossed the bridge that evening, the responses began pouring in. I was moving toward a golden pot of endless professional learning opportunities that were waiting for me on the other side. It felt as if educators I had never known before were waving me in and giving me an open invitation to their professional party. There was a seat at the table just for me, to network, to connect, to collaborate. It was then that I realized that there was a disruptor within me. -Lauren
Disrupting the status quo may never come in a pretty little invite with your name spelled boldy across the middle, but it will come in open and honest conversations with others and yourself. You will feel that sense of urgency to shake things up if you take the time to place yourself around other experiences. You may even be at a point that you feel worn down and actually consider not showing up or regretfully declining the offer, but it will weigh on you. You will find yourself questioning the what if?
What if I had said yes?
What if I had just been myself and added my thoughts to the conversation?
What if I tried that?
What if I had just become more connected?
What if I had shown up for the professional party?
Those open invites will always be there because we know that change is inevitable. We can either show up and join in, or not show up at all. The disruptor in us will not be satisfied if we don’t at least try to attend. But that will not be enough for us. The disruptor inside of us will be the one tapping to the beat of the music while sitting around the table thinking what others are not willing to entertain… Why isn’t anyone else dancing? And then it will happen, because you just won’t be able to contain yourself anymore.
You will disrupt the conversation.
You will stand up.
and YOU will dance! -Kristen
Lauren Kaufman is an elementary Instructional Coach for the Long Beach Public Schools in Long Island, NY. She is a lifelong learner who is passionate about sharing best literacy practices with colleagues and wholeheartedly believes in job-embedded professional learning for professional growth.