Sunday, September 8, 2013

Do Great Work

"If you're able to be yourself, then you have no competition.
All you have to do is get closer and closer to that essence."
Barbara Cook                                   

     Before today, I had never heard of Barbara Cook, but I like the way she thinks. (She's a singer and actress who's rendition of "When You Wish Upon a Star" is second only to Jiminy Cricket.)  It's over a week into September, and over a month since my last post, and I am struggling not to lose myself to the work others have defined for me.  Sure, I'm an employee and have to do the work I was hired to do, but part of that hiring decision was a certain something about me that prompted the job offer.  The same is true for every thoughtful educator.

     I must carve out time to do the work in a way that bears my signature.  For me, that means down time snuggling up with a stack of professional reading, followed by a period of letting all the ideas percolate and finally, to paraphrase a Common Core reading strand, Knowledge turns into Ideas and becomes mine.  A challenge all through the year, but particularly at the start of a new school year, is to carve out appropriate time and space for Great Work.

My new boss recommended this book and so far I am finding it to be a quick and thoughtful read, despite the title, which at first glance reads as though we are not doing enough. However, the premise is that there is Bad Work--the work we hate to do which has no redeeming qualities whatsoever, Good Work--the work that is familiar, useful and productive, yet not groundbreaking, and Great Work--meaningful, inspired, impactful.  There are quick reflective exercises with each chapter to personalize the concepts presented.  If we aren't intentional about seeking out Great Work, the Bad Work and Good Work will take over.

I daresay teachers do more Great Work than just about anyone, and they make sure to leave time in their work life for plenty of it.  Still, the wolves are out there circling, imposing Bad Work and micromanaging the work of great teachers.  We need to keep our wits about us and find the colleagues who support our growth as professionals so we can do Great Work.

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