In this blog post we will unpack the what, why and how of growing and respecting your capacity in order to pave the way for sustainable growth.
A little Eva trivia is that I spent six years outside of the classroom. My first year back in the classroom was quite memorable. That summer I wanted to grow in the area of guided reading. I thought that would be the mechanism through which I would drive the most reading growth in my students. I knew that I had a tendency to overload my “plate” with things to do so I picked guided reading to be the one area that I would focus on.
What this meant:
-I chose one PD book to read that summer, Reading Essentials by Reggie Routman.
-I implemented what I learned in that book throughout the school year and used the book as a reference tool when I needed it.
-I made room for guided reading in my schedule and it became a non negotiable
-I refined guided reading that year and my students’ reading levels grew exponentially.
What this did not mean:
-It didn’t mean that I never taught whole group
-It didn’t mean that other campus initiatives didn’t get any of my attention
-It didn’t mean that I became an expert in guided reading
Growing Your Capacity
Did you know that the word capacity has two meanings:
Meaning one- refers to a person’s mental or physical ability to do something. This meaning refers to our aptitude or skill.
Meaning two- refers to the maximum amount or number that can be contained or accommodated. In other words, our limits.
Let’s talk about the first meaning of capacity and how to grow ours in a sustainable way. When we grow our aptitude or skill in an area we are growing our capacity. Oftentimes schools will inundate us with professional development, roll out a ton of initiatives all in an effort to grow our capacity. We sit through hours of PD or read a ton of professional books in an effort to do this.
To recap we have defined our terms and know that one definition of capacity refers to growing in aptitude or skill. We also learned that one way schools often do this is through professional development and school wide initiatives. Now let’s talk about why we as educators want to grow our capacity as it refers to our aptitude or skill.
As teachers we are the chief learners in our classrooms.
This means several things:
It means that we are reflective
It means that we recognize the areas that we need to grow in
It means that we are always seeking out learning opportunities
All of these things result in increased capacity which then impacts our students’ growth. Our commitment to growth directly impacts our student’s growth.
When we refuse to take in new learning and apply it, we are denying students access to practices or methodologies that could help them make the growth necessary to at minimum become functionally literate and at maximum become productive thinking members of society that can see things from a different perspective.
Another reason why we want to grow our capacity is it helps us grow our craft which in turn helps us build confidence and trust in ourselves. I am a firm believer in collaborative relationships in education. Yet we also have to be able to trust ourselves and our knowledge and that we know how and when to best apply it. This level of self trust only comes from growing our capacity.
To recap, the why behind building our capacity as educators is so that we can impact student growth and grow in self confidence and self trust. Now let’s talk about how to grow your capacity in a sustainable way.
As lifelong learners we have to know how to pace ourselves. New learning is always coming our way. This new learning, while valuable, will not make an impact on us or our students if we don’t apply it. The reality is you can not apply everything you learn all at once. That’s why you have to prioritize what you will focus on ideally for the year. At least each semester.
At the start of this blog post I talked about the year I focused on guided reading. What I didn’t mention is that while my guided reading groups got better and better throughout the year, my whole group lesson remained an hour long. I planned them out, I made sure that they had all the necessary components to make it effective. I did not try to shorten it, although it severely needed to be shorter. I didn’t try to revamp my delivery. I didn’t read anything additional about whole group instruction. I remained focused on refining guided reading and becoming excellent at it, while I remained competent in my whole group lessons. I know, I know. Most of us don’t want to just be competent at our jobs. We type A over achieving teachers like to exceed expectations. The reality is that you can’t be great at everything all the time and you can’t refine everything all at once. Eventually you will, but not all at once. Growing your capacity so that you can make a sustainable impact means that you allow yourself to grow at a sane pace. It means that you allow yourself to grow little by little.
You can and should implement what your campus rolls out, because you won’t know if it works or if you like it unless you actually try it. But, give yourself a break when it comes to expecting yourself to be a guru in that area right away. Choose one area that you want to get really good at this year and dive deep into that arena. Think of it as a fun experiment that you and your students get to embark on together, because work can be fun again. Get the PD, join the coaching groups and watch your capacity grow alongside your students’ reading levels in a sustainable way.
To recap the how of increasing your capacity as an educator is to focus on becoming excellent in one area at a time. You can’t get good at everything all at one time. You will need to be okay with being competent in some areas while becoming excellent in one. Becoming excellent will mean digging deeper via strategic PD that you seek out and actually apply so that you give yourself a chance to get better in that area. We’ve unpacked how to grow your capacity. Now let’s talk about how to respect it.
Respecting Your Capacity
Let’s first define the term respect:
Did you know that the word respect appears in the dictionary as both a verb and a noun? For our purposes today I am going to be referring to the definition of respect as a verb.
Meaning one: to consider worthy of high regard; to refrain from interfering with.
Meaning two: to have reference to or concern.
When I say that we need to respect our limits I mean that we need to consider our limits worthy of high regard and concern. Although, our culture has shifted to the idea of self care and creating boundaries at work the fact is that the biggest battle to do this is not outside of us, but rather within us. In other words the biggest violator of our boundaries or limits is ourselves and this is contributing to our inability to grow our skill set in a sustainable way.
We have defined our terms and know that one definition of capacity refers to our limits. We also know that one definition of respect as a verb means to see something as worthy of high regard and concern. We also learned that although our culture is shifting to one of self care and creating boundaries the fact is that we are often the biggest violators of our own boundaries. This fact is contributing to our inability to grow our skill set in a sustainable way.
Now let’s talk about why we as literacy leaders in our classroom need to respect our capacity. My son is a huge anime fan. This was something that he used to enjoy watching with his brother who recently passed away. As a way to build a connection with my son I have since become his anime watching buddy. One of the anime’s that we watched early on is called Black Clover. In this anime one commonly repeated quote was “surpass your limits”. This was often yelled in the throes of battle by the group leader as a way to encourage his crew to forge ahead despite what they saw as their limitations.
Whether implicit or explicit this is the message that we in education have lived by for far too long. I too used to live by this mentality. So much so that my mental health, my physical health and my important relationships often got the short end of the stick. Literacy Leaders I have always loved teaching. I also currently love working with striving readers and coaching teachers. It’s truly my favorite, but I love my family more and as such need to respect my limits so that I can show up well in all of my roles. As do you. Although I am a firm believer in growing our abilities as literacy leaders in our classrooms, I also believe that we can do this while also respecting our limits.
To recap the why behind respecting your capacity or limits is that doing this enables you to show up well in all of your roles in and outside of education. Now let’s talk about how to respect your capacity or limits while growing your skills in a sustainable way.
One way to respect your capacity or limits is to acknowledge the season you are in. You do this by asking yourself, what season of life are you right now? When I first went back to the classroom I had three year old twins, and two elementary school aged children. I was also married and teaching third grade which was also a state testing grade. If I’m honest I will also admit that I was essentially starting over as a new teacher and had no idea what I was doing. Because I did not acknowledge my season I spent a lot of time on Pinterest when I got home. I also spent a lot of time agonizing about work when I should have been focused on my family. Now don’t get me wrong I was not completely negligent I was also not completely focused. Acknowledging your season leads you to naming your limits. My limits in that season were: time, energy and creativity. Let’s unpack each one.
–Time: I had no defined time to devote to work after work. I also had no defined family time after work. It all got lumped together as I set about the daily routine of dinner, baths, homework etc..
–Energy: Everything required droves of energy that I did not have. Getting 4 kids to and from school. Feeding everyone. Giving everyone attention. Doing my job at least competently if not well.
–Creativity: Problems presented themselves all day long and they all required creative solutions. My creativity was definitely in short supply those days as was my ability to pivot.
What respecting my limits could have looked like then:
-Asking for help when I was at work.
-Taking time to reflect on my day before leaving work so that I could troubleshoot solutions while there instead of running the day’s issues on a continuous loop in my mind when I got home.
-Taking good care of myself by: getting enough sleep, eating well, drinking my water and incorporating fun.
-Recruiting help at home by asking for accountability when it came to my phone so that I didn’t go down Pinterest rabbit holes when at home.
-Incorporating systems in my classroom, I talked about this in an episode in season 3 that I will link in the show notes.
-Focusing on one growth area at a time at work as discussed in the last episode, instead of trying to tackle all of them at once.
The end result of this year was that because I did not respect my limits I had zero mental bandwidth left to reflect on my practice. With zero bandwidth to reflect on my practice this left zero room to chart a plan for growing my capacity as it related to my skills. With zero room to chart a plan for growing my skill set this meant that my students also showed minimal or no reading growth. I’m going to close out this section by sharing a confession. This was the year that my team leader shared that my students’ state testing scores were in fact the lowest on the grade level. Yes, I know that state testing scores are not the end all be all data point, but they are still an important one.
To recap the how of respecting your capacity as it relates to your limits is to:
- Acknowledge and name your season
- Acknowledge and name your limits
- Craft a plan that allows you to both respect your limits and grow your skill set, because your professional growth is directly tied to your student’s growth
Okay literacy leaders in this blog post we talked about the what, the why and the how of growing and respecting our capacity as educators in a way that also impacts student growth in a sustainable way.
One way that you can grow your capacity is by joining my mini lesson revamp bootcamp. This will be an 8 week long coaching program with 4 weeks of live group coaching call, access to a private facebook group and an opportunity for hands-on learning to learn and implement my four step approach to crafting a mini lesson. Click this link to get on the waitlist so that you know when registration opens.
Prefer to Listen? Listen to the episode below: