I recently read Thrive: 5 Ways to (Re)Invigorate Your Teaching Practice by Meenoo Rami. I met Meenoo a few years ago at ISTE and was blown away by her mix of boldness and humility. One of the things that strikes me about her approach is how it is inherently collaborative. That's true of #engchat and it's true of this book. Like #engchat she brings others on board, often picking up on the wisdom that others can offer. At the same time, she is a great writer, weaving in narrative and clear prose, being approachable and thought-provoking.
This is the perfect time for a book like this to come out. Teachers are worn-out. Some are even burning out. This is the kind of book that reminds us why we do what we do.
Meenoo Rami is straight-up awesome. If you didn't know that, it's probably because she is such a quietly powerful force doing amazing things outside of the spotlight. Here's a short interview with her.
1. Mentorship is a key part of helping teachers to thrive. Can mentorships be scheduled and formalized by structures or do they need to grow organically?
I think while some formalized structures need to be in place especially to support new teachers or new-to-school teachers, the most beneficial relationships seem to come about organically. I think when teachers take charge and make effort towards their own growth and seek out their mentors, that relationship will be stronger and longer-lasting. No one knows better than you do about what you need, what you need to be the best you can be, and there are people around you who can support you on that journey.
2. You mentioned how fear leads to masking of our true voice. And yet there are parts of people’s true voices that are shaped by an identity that is often marginalized (because of gender, sexual orientation, culture, etc.). What does this mean for teachers who are expected by the power structures to wear a mask?
I think that is a deeply personal decision. A teacher in this position must determine how and when and if ever to take that mask off. I think when teachers expose even the parts of themselves that are marginalized by power structures in place, they are modeling courage for their students. If a teacher feels like she must hide a part of herself, I am sure there are students in her class who feel the same way. Are we continuing the masking by not stepping up? Perhaps, but again, this is a deeply personal decision and must be made with by the teacher alone. Thanks.
3. One of the things that struck me when I met you in person was your mix of humility and boldness. What are things that teachers can actively do to keep that kind of mindset?
I am not sure how to actually answer this question, I think even when it is scary or risky, I work towards being who I am in the world, in my work, and in my life. I am not sure if there are tips for this, I think this is more about a way of being in the world.
4. You mention the role of networks, both in the “connected” sense and in the in-person sense. How are these networks similar and different for you? How do the roles change?
I think both have a relevant role in my growth as a teacher and as a learner. The luxury of connecting with someone who is across the country because of the ease created by technology is great but also seductively limiting. I think it is just as important that I am connected to my colleagues in my school and in my own district. All these connections have the power to transform me as a teacher and my practice and I am grateful for this.
5. What are some of the ways teachers can keep their work intellectually challenging when they are teaching content at a lower grade level?
I think if you focus on the content alone, you miss out one of the greatest joys of teaching: teaching kids how to learn. Ultimately, we need our learners to move past our classrooms and find their own path of life-long learning. By paying attention to the way your kids think and learn, you can continue to find the intellectual challenge of always moving students forward and upward. If you’re deeply interested in understanding how kids think and learn, there is no better place for you than a classroom. The challenge will remain constant and you’ll always have new group of students to learn from and learn with.
6. You had a supportive principal and a quality school culture at SLA. What kind of advice would you give to someone trying to thrive in a toxic school culture?
You’re right, I am blessed to work with Chris Lehmann and my colleagues at SLA but I didn’t always work here. I have taught in all kind of schools, and one thing that has kept me going is thinking how I can continue to fine-tune my practice so I can be a better teacher to my students. This constant challenge has also helped me to get past the minutia that we all deal with and focus on what’s important and in front of us: our students.
7. You describe the journey toward empowering students. What are typically the biggest barriers that keep teachers from empowering students?
I think teachers may get stuck thinking about checking off every little standard that they may have to meet and miss out on the big picture that our real job is actually help our students become independent, self-directed learners. We have to help them find their passion and empower them to find the thing(s) they want to get totally nerdy about. Failure to do this may create a sense that you’re just playing school and not really empowering your kids.
This was part of a blog tour for Thrive, by Meenoo Rami.
Check out the links below to see what others have written.
Jen Vincent at Teach Mentor Texts
Franki Sibberson and Mary Lee Hahn at A Year of Reading
Alyson Beecher at Kid Lit Frenzy
Kira Baker Doyle at Kira J Baker-Doyle, Ph.D.
Sarah Mulhern Gross at The Reading Zone
Christina Cantrill at Digital Is (National Writing Project)
Kate Roberts and Maggie B. Roberts at Indent
Beth Shaum Use Your Outside Voice
Linda Baie at Teacher Dance
Troy Hicks at Hickstro
Joy Kirr at Genius Hour
Tara Smith at The Teaching Life
Antero Garcia at The American Crawl
John Spencer at Education Rethink
Kellee Moye and Ricki Ginsberg at Unleashing Readers