Kind of like that tickle in the back of your throat that signals that you might be coming down with something, I’m not sure when the idea for having a classroom creed infected my brain. It likely started sometime last school year when the faculty was working on our SAIS self-study. With all of the work we were doing to collaboratively describe what it is we do here at Trinity School, I started thinking about what it is I do in my classroom. Now, by looking at the tagline at the bottom of this piece, or by asking someone around the building, you might decide, “She’s a science teacher. I bet she does labs.” And, yes, I “do” labs. I also “do” notes, and questioning, and lecturing, and reflecting, and problem-solving. But, that really doesn’t cover all that I want to do and all that I promise myself I will do for my students.
Much like the annoying cough that you grapple with once you’ve succumbed to the cold you were fighting, I don’t remember the first time I watched Simon Sinek’s TEDx Talk on how great leaders inspire action (https://www.ted.com/talks/simon_sinek_how_great_leaders_inspire_action and totally worth the investment of 18 minutes). I’m sure I saw it before our self-study work, we probably also watched it as a faculty during the work, and then since then, it seems I can’t escape running into his talk. Sometimes a professor at Kennesaw State would mention it, sometimes it’s referenced on Twitter, but everywhere I turned, I was being presented with his golden circle. And that forced me to think about how knowing my why influences the how and the what of what I “do” in my classroom.
So, in the same way we might start dosing ourselves with extra servings of orange juice, I started tinkering with what would become my classroom creed. Of course, I wanted to state clearly that knowledge was important in my classroom, but I also wanted to include that just having knowledge was not as important as being able to work with knowledge and work towards knowledge. I also wanted to include within my creed something that would address how I would model, and expect students to mirror, how we would all behave around learning and the knowledge we were gaining. It was important to include something about what success looks like. And, I wanted to include a directive for me, and some reassurance for those who might struggle, about how knowledge will be gained. Scrawled within a composition notebook that holds notes from a quantitative research class I took summer of 2015 and drafts of a few “welcome to our class” letters, there is a page that lists: knowledge- shared, built, dive deeper; passionate learners; success- more than one kind; and buttressing learning toward success.
Occasionally, the composition notebook would fall open, and I would look at my list and make some tweaks, but nothing ever happened with it. Like admitting I actually have a cold, I knew I was avoiding completing my thoughts on a classroom creed because I wasn’t sure I was going to like putting it in print. What if I had it posted and someone questioned whether I was doing these lofty things?
And then, just recently, I came across a quote from feminist, civil-rights activist, and poet Audre Lorde that spurred me to complete my creed. Lorde said, “When I dare to be powerful – to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid.” I had a vision of why, and how, and what I wanted my classroom to be; I trusted in my strength to be the kind of classroom leader my students deserved; and I wanted to be powerful rather than afraid, so I went to work and set something down on paper.
If you find yourself downstairs near the science lab, stop in, and check me on it. Honestly, I’m hoping that you will be infected by the “creed bug,” as well. We can start our own creed movement! Because in taking a stance on what we do, we begin “treatment,” and we move ourselves closer to all we hope to be. And in 1005 we strive to… Share, recycle, construct and deconstruct knowledge. Have passion about knowledge and learning be unmistakable. Celebrate multiple forms of excellence. And build bridges to move learners closer to knowledge.
Learner, Thinker, Writer: Kate Burton serves the Trinity School community as 6th Grade science teacher.