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St. Patrick’s Day is one of my favorite holidays. At my house we skip right over Valentine’s day and have been known to have green colored…well, everything, on March 17th. As the granddaughter of Bob O’Toole, it is a day that reminds me of my sweet Irish PaPaw, and I feel like the whole world puts on green and remembers him with me. For a day it seems everyone feels “lucky”…

Several years ago when I moved into a curriculum writing role I had a conversation that changed my entire perspective. I was talking to a parent who expressed sincere gratitude for their child’s second grade teacher. “We were so lucky to have a teacher who really loved to teach writing, and who passed that love and skill on to our child”.

Lucky. Like finding a four leaf clover or winning the lottery.

The comment took me aback, and I floundered for a reply in the moment, but found a way to accept the compliment on behalf of the true hero. My real response was in the two years of work that followed as we developed a viable and guaranteed writing curriculum and implementation plan for our district.

No student should ever get “lucky” and receive quality instruction. This thinking about “luck” and “lucking out” was a driving force for me in the work that I did as a curriculum coordinator, but I could not have predicted how it would impact my thinking long term.

In my work with adult learners in the professional learning space, I run across the same conversations, with the same theme on a regular basis.

  • “I was so lucky, I had an amazing supervisor during my student teaching.”
  • “My principal is really committed to my professional growth so I get so many amazing opportunities. I feel so lucky that he was moved to this school.”
  • “My mentor teacher was a real blessing to me, they invested so much in my growth as a first year teacher. “
  • “My department does things a little differently, I had a 3 year induction program. I feel so lucky to be on this team.”

I love to hear stories of when professional learning, mentoring, and systemic support work!! I am a product of effective professional learning, dedicated mentors and supportive systems. But what I know in my heart is that for every good luck story, there is inevitably a bad luck story: Someone who was overlooked, who didn’t get a mentor, who struggled on their own for their first three years, who’s leadership didn’t seem to notice they were drowning, who’s department lacked an adequate support structure.

When teachers aren’t lucky…neither are students.

I truly believe that when teachers are engaged in meaningful, collaborative, reflective learning it impacts their practice, extends into their classrooms, and positively impacts student success.

Every teacher, on every campus, in every department, in every district, first year or 34th year, deserves a system of professional learning that provides access to quality, meaningful, relevant professional learning. A system that honors their expertise. A system that engages them in work that matters. A system that prepares them for the challenges ahead. A system that provides coherence. A system that ensures that no one has to hope that they are lucky.

Developing systems to provide access for teachers is the mission that wakes me up in the morning. My hope is that we keep finding creative and innovative ways to support each teacher  in their growth as they support our students. It is my goal that every day in our system feels like St. Patrick’s Day…where everyone is lucky…and we are all…

Still Learning,