Susan Riley | November 2014

Back to Basics

Do you ever actually FEEL yourself growing?

I remember thinking as a child I could feel my legs getting longer at night while I slept. I swore I had growing pains.  Now that I’m a good deal… um… older… I don’t feel the growing pains in my body so much anymore.  But, I certainly feel them in my professional life!  I’m sure everyone can relate to that. Every time we need to learn a new system, strategy, or we simply try something new, we grow.  As lifelong learners, it’s one of the perils and joys of who we are as people and professionals.  One thing I’ve learned from all this growth is that in the end…it’s about getting back to basics.

It’s Complicated

Your growth journey this year may look different than mine, but we face similar challenges.  With all of the changes to teacher evaluation systems, Common Core, the arts being attacked yet again (looking at you, Ohio), growth is inevitable.  We learn how to build both our armor and toolkits to defend the arts every single day.  For me, this year has been a massive shift. I left my job in central office and the classroom to helping educators on a larger scale through EdCloset.

, too, have had to put on my battle armor and develop new tools to help push through the barriers placed in front of us all.  One thing I know to be true is that everyone is trying to make things more complicated than they need to be – our core beliefs can easily get lost in the overwhelming demands and tasks of each day.

We’ve seen this ourselves at EducationCloset.  This year, I felt like my entire team and I were getting lost in our opportunities.  There are so many requests on a daily basis for our time and resources and we don’t want to let anyone down.  So we create tools and classes and resources as supports to hundreds of districts.  Simultaneously, we all start to forget why we’re here in the first place: to provide integrated and innovative professional development that is focused purely on Arts Integration and STEAM.

Review and Revise

So we stopped.  I pulled everything back and began to refocus our website – you may have noticed some small but significant changes – to ensure that what we’re offering is truly aligned with our core beliefs and values.  We now have a product catalog for individuals, schools and districts that is streamlined in its look and offerings.  We are committed to providing virtual learning opportunities in and through the Arts via our conferences, classes and workshops, books and downloadable resource guides.  That’s it.  The rest of our time is devoted to connecting with our readers, providing high-quality free articles and tips, and to ensuring our product offerings are of the highest caliber.

Product and Services Guide 2014-2015, Back to , Education Closet
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After going through this painful growing process, I am so grateful for the chance to reflect and make a course correction.  We learned a lot as a team at EdCloset about who we are, what we do and WHY we do it.  We’ve learned that sometimes, you have to go back and rediscover what made you jump into the work in the first place.  And then once you rediscover your joy, you give yourself permission to say “no” so that you can create a bigger “yes”.

Educator Application

How does this translate for you as an educator?  Think about it this way: what are the complications that are causing you to feel like you’re drowning?  Do you remember why you’re an educator and what you are passionate about teaching?  Surely, we can’t get rid of the demands in our profession right now.  But we CAN learn to study them for what they are and get to the root of their purpose.  Figure out the important pieces of Common Core and how it relates to what you’re already doing.  Go through some training in what Student Growth Objectives are and the opportunities they provide – focus on this and how to make it work FOR you, rather than against you.

Finally, think back to when you first started as an educator.  Write down what drove you to the profession in the beginning.  It’s time to get back to the basics of our passion – not just for us, but for every student that is waiting for you to help them feel their own growth process taking place.

About the Author

Susan Riley is the founder and CEO of The Institute for Arts Integration and STEAM. She focuses on teacher professional development in arts integration, STEAM, 21st century learning skills, and technology. She is also a published author and frequent presenter at national conferences on Arts Integration and STEAM education. Susan holds a Bachelor of Music degree in Music Education from the prestigious Westminster Choir College in Princeton, NJ and a Master of Science in Education Administration from McDaniel College in Westminster, MD. She lives in Westminster, MD with her husband and daughter. Email Susan