California Educator

August/September 2023

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What do you wish someone had told you when you were a new educator? I wish someone had told me to slow down, be gen- tle with myself and allow myself to make mistakes. Father Greg Boyle, founder of Homeboy Industries, came and spoke to our faculty, and he reminded us of a few things if I can paraphrase him here: • If you go to the margins to make a difference by fixing or saving someone, it's about you, and you will burn out, but if you go there to have the folks make you different, then it's eter- nally replenishing. • If we don't welcome our own wounds then we may be prone to despising others for theirs. The measure of our compassion lies in our abil- ity to see and welcome our own wounds. • All behavior is a language. The task is to find out what language the students' behavior is speaking. For students who might be acting out or withdrawing — don't take it personally. It's the language of despair and trauma and dam- age and abuse and abandonment. And once you know what language they 're speaking, you're not tripped up by the behavior. What is the biggest challenge as an educator, and what is your approach/solution to overcoming it? The biggest challenge as an educator right now is living in systems that can sometimes be ask- ing teachers to do more with less — so it's more important than ever for teachers to stay connected with and be active in their union. Unions are taking up grassroots social justice orientations to work on issues that address the real underlying complex issues that manifest in our classrooms — class size, wraparound services for students and families, mental health services, student-to-counselor ratios, green spaces, less testing and more teaching, and more. What would you say to fellow educators as they embark on another school year? You got this! I'm so inspired by you, and so moved by the passion and power you bring to the job every day. Stay connected, reach out and make time for fun and games and silliness. And as Father Boyle says, "don't show up to the job to change and rescue others, let others change and rescue you." What does it mean to you to be an educator? I'm infatuated with knowledge and wisdom. I've had a crush on them forever, and it made me want to be an educator. The first crush is knowledge, because you get to gather all sorts of facts and stories and ideas and histories and equations — and then you get to think. Just think. And ask questions. And wonder. Then wisdom comes up and says, "Now, how are you going to use all that knowledge? Are you going to help others? Are you going to solve problems? Are you going to make the world a little better than you found it?" To teach is to offer students a chance to discover knowl- edge so that they can then find their wisdom. I hope they get their knowledge and wisdom crushes too, because the lifelong learner makes our world a happier, more hopeful place. Advice about making connections with students? 1. Ditch the computers. 2. Incorporate movement and play into your learning. 3. Find excuses to go outside. 4. Talk less. Encourage students to talk more. 5. Keep showing up. What is the biggest challenge as an educator, and what is your approach/solution to overcoming it? I believe that the greatest justice in our society is found in providing an excellent education to the students who need it most. The challenge here is twofold: 1) how do we engage students who feel trapped at school, and 2) how do we keep high-quality teachers at struggling schools? Let's redesign schools so they don't feel like a factory. We want students to have autonomy and freedom to follow their curiosity. We want teachers who can be bold and creative. This doesn't happen on an assembly line. If we create spaces where people can tap into their human potential, then I think we begin to solve the equity gap. What would you say to fellow educators as they embark on another school year? The more educators I meet, the more I realize how much we need each other. At Dominguez High School, I am part of a team of teachers who have skills and talents I will never have. We complement each other and help each other thrive. Pow- erful teaching is a team sport. Catherine Borek A P E N G L I S H L I T E R AT U R E A N D D R A M A T E A C H E R Compton Education Association 21 A U G U S T / S E P T E M B E R 2 0 2 3

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