Friday, February 20, 2015

Year 5: Week 23 – Institutional Memory

Now that I’m in my fifth year of teaching, I’m finding more and more that there are people who have been at this school for shorter period of time than I have. When we do projects or put on presentations, the conversation of what we’ve done in the past has begun to rely on my experience and perspective.

It’s been really interesting to be in this place. People new to our community often make assumptions about tradition that aren’t necessarily true because of the way people talk about the way we do things.

All of these conversations have revealed a lot of about my school’s collective institutional memory. One of the most interesting realizations that I’ve come to is the fact that people at my school don’t remember great musical performances.

At other schools I’ve been at, I’ve heard people talk about great student productions or performances. People don’t do that around my school. I’ve been involved in some truly incredible student work that has received great adulation from students, faculty and parents. When I bring these performances up in conversations, people barely remember them.

The part of me that’s an artist gets a little offended when a teacher doesn’t remember a song that their students sang last year. I put a lot of work and craft into that performance. One of the things that helps is that it’s not just me, people barely remember what musical was put on two years ago and this has nothing to do with the quality of the work that was done.

The teacher part of me is really happy that this is the way that people think in my school. We talk about process over product in every grade and every subject and this idea has seeped into our collective memory. While the product doesn’t stick in our minds the process does.

It’s in this process of working with other faculty members that I’ve built bridges that have lasted well passed a specific performance. There’s a relationship that is built when two people work well together that sticks in the memory and in the way that you interact with that colleague every single day. A great performance comes and goes but a relationship reinforced by a positive collaboration is built upon every single day.

I don’t really care about performances for the sake of them being remembered and I’m glad that my school feels the same way. The institutional memories’ focus on relationships is an important reminder to how we should help our kids work through projects. It’s like I tell my students when we are up to our last rehearsal before a performance: the feeling you take away from a sports game is more based on how you practiced as a team. You can feel great if you lose a game if worked hard leading up to it and you will feel hollow if you win a game and know that you didn’t give your all in practice.

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