First day of preschool. Circle time. And I go blank. Really, really blank. I run across the hall: "Laura, quick, what are the words to the pledge?"
"The pledge. Of Allegiance."
"That thing you say when you stand in front of the flag with a hand over your heart."
“Oh that.” Laura doesn’t miss a beat. “I Pledge Allegiance to the flag…” and she goes through the whole thing fast but with precision. Like she’s telling me which wire to cut to disable a bomb and if I don’t get things right, it will blow up. She barely says “…with liberty and justice for all” when I’m out the door running back across the hall: “Got it! Thanks!”
Before the sun comes up, you check all your social media in your anti-social robe. You consider yourself late if you arrive in your classroom an hour before any child arrives. You work nonstop and grab a quick cup of coffee that will only be cold by the time you take a sip. You stay long after the last child is picked up. You make lesson plans, run to the library, scurry around the school gathering supplies like a squirrel before a snowfall, setup for tomorrow, head home to plan some more, do some research on “why-o-why little Johnny is body slamming everyone”, before falling in bed exhausted. Oh yeah, that does not touch your other life of carpools, clogged sinks, laundry, family, in-laws and pet mess.
But you need more. You need that moment to stop and chat. That moment to connect with other professionals over a cup of coffee. You need to be part of a larger work. An ecosystem to feed you.
"If you are not part of someone else's ecosystem or allow others to be part of yours -YOU WILL LOSE,” says Seth Demsey. (www.conferencebites.com). Although you may be the only adult in that classroom, you should not be alone. You should be able to feel and use the support of other teachers. Your success depends upon it.
That first day I was lucky enough to have a great teacher across the hall. A friend to crack me up. Someone who would keep working around me when I collapsed on her floor at the end of the day. A good trader of tabletop manipulatives and ideas.
“Hey, look what I found on the side of the road. Let’s paint it.”
That year I came to understand that I didn't have to become a successful teacher all on my own. My room wasn't on an island. I was successful because Laura was across the hall, and we could talk, learn and lean on each other. When I went blank on things as everyday as the Pledge, I had a safe place to point me in the right way.
So, we have decided to share our ecosystem with others. Today, you can see what they are doing in New Zealand as fast as opening your door or Skype with a pre-school teacher in Germany. We know you are crazy busy. But sit down and grab a cup of sanity with Laura and me. We’ll laugh, cry and pass along things we learned the hard way so you don’t have too. And only the best of what we find online (No, loan requests from Nigerian Princes!). And, like I did that first day, it’s okay if you go blank sometimes if you know where to go for support.