Up until a few months ago, I had never watched an episode of The West Wing. I know, I know. My husband started watching it on Netflix because he loves that stuff (political science/history majors tend to do that). I’ve only watched a handful of episodes and know almost nothing about the show after the first season, but I’ve already adopted one of the show’s lines as my own. “What’s next?” President Bartlet (played by Martin Sheen) says several times.
If you don’t know what I’m talking about, there’s actually a great flashback scene where Bartlet explains what he means when he says it.
He’s the POTUS (or trying to be in this particular scene); he’s a busy guy and doesn’t have time to mess around. Get to the point! What’s next?
I use this phrase quite frequently in my own professional life. In education, we spend a lot of time dealing with issues that are incredibly important; what’s more important than kids, right? But sometimes we spend way too much time deliberating and discussing when we should be acting. The school year often seems to zoom by at the speed of light. Educational change flies at us from every direction. If we don’t keep moving, we’ll get broadsided.
On a more granular level, I adopted this mindset in my classroom even before I heard Bartlet’s words. I was always moving, always learning, always looking for the next great thing for my teaching. It’s not as if I didn’t have enough great material, but I knew it was my job to keep my students engaged and learning despite whatever challenges they might throw at me that particular day. Water that doesn’t move becomes stagnant; teaching is no different.
And more than that, nothing translates to students better than passion and excitement. If you aren’t excited about what you’re teaching, I can guarantee your students won’t be either. Some years, I taught as many as six or seven sections of a particular grade level. While I loved the material I was teaching, after using it seven times in the course of a couple of days, I had to change it up.
Even now, as I’m no longer in the classroom full time, I’m always looking for what’s on the horizon. What’s happening in education? What’s another way for me to hook my teachers? How can I help them grow that much further this year? Always learning, growing, hungry for more.
I’m spending my summer doing just that. I’m going to a couple of EdCamps, presenting a few conference sessions, and reading some great books by educators in my PLN. What about you? Summer is the perfect time to gear up. What’s next?