by Brent Gilson
For an archive of the chat this week check out the Wakelet here.
So I am sitting down to reflect on both the chat this week and how we, the teachers of the world, are keeping things moving despite the challenges we face. I don’t want this post to come across as roses because this uncertain time we are in is anything but roses. Many of us are faced with new teaching situations that people call hybrid models or working online. Another group of us are in our buildings face to face with students. Wearing masks, behind plexiglass dividers. With our students but still so far away. It is hard not to feel as though it is all too much. So I don’t want this post to come across as some kind of “It will be great” rose coloured glasses mess because we don’t know if it will be and I don’t want to put that on teachers. I do want to reflect on why holding on to our passions and purpose can at least provide a bit of light in this time of uncertainty.
Before the school year started I wasn’t sure what it was going to look like. I knew that I was going to focus on reading and writing and sharing because that is what I am passionate about. This summer I did a lot of reading around equity, I read books and took online classes to further explore my own understandings around race. I started the year with a plan. I was passionate and put the learning I had done into my planning and the work I wanted my students to do. Now as we all know things never go according to plan so the beautiful work I had planned has turned out kind of like a DIY project that you find on Pinterest. Not a fail by any means but it sure is not as pretty as advertised. Here is the thing though, it is ok. We are faced with a challenge we have never had before and we are a passionate group teachers. We will work and push and strive to be the best because people have told us we are rockstars and superheroes and the best. We work and push and strive because we want to be. Not for ourselves, not most of us anyway, but for our students. We want to bring this energy to the craft we love because we know our students can feel that excitement. The passion is important but so is giving ourselves grace to rest when we are weary. None of us have unlimited tanks. Taking time to care for ourselves is important. Taking time to acknowledge that we are not rockstars, we are not superheroes, we are people how love what they do, are passionate about it BUT we also need time to regroup. We need to be given the chance to explore new ways of teaching that meet this challenge we face and when we fall, and we will, we need to let our passion lift us up when we are ready to try again.
In the simplest of terms I think as teachers our purpose is to teach. I think in these uncertain times we often over think that. I have many times seen these types of images
and wondered to myself if just teaching, if just reading with and writing beside my students was enough. We are asked to be so much, expected to be so much, it can become so heavy. Lately I am seeing more and more seasoned, amazing educators considering stepping back. Leaving the profession they love because the purpose has become muddy and the passion burns out. I don’t blame them, I think it sometimes, too. It is ok. I came across a friend’s post that referred to themselves as a failure. I was struck in that moment because this teacher who serves the greatest purpose inspiring so many students and teachers felt this way, how many others are feeling it too? The uncertainty of our work right now is shaking us all but we also know a little secret. We will figure it out. One thing has not changed, our students. We don’t do this work to be rockstars or superheroes or champions or pirates or saviours. We do this work because we want to teach and inspire our scholars to seek out knowledge and create change. It might be muddy right now, we might be pushing our way through and we might stumble but holding on to what we have always known to be true, that our purpose is to teach, we will find our way out and back up. We might just need a hand.
I think in the end if we can manage to keep our passion for this beautiful work we are blessed to do burning and keep our eyes on the purpose, the true purpose, we will weather this storm. There are so many distractions out there. Quick fixes, platitude spouting carnival barkers, door to door salesmen pushing the next book that doesn’t really address the work we do but says all these nice things. These all cloud our purpose. As teachers we sense these things and avoiding them is what that sense of professionalism is all about. Who are we working for? What is our purpose? Where is our passion for this work? Are we, despite the ever-changing landscape, holding true to who we are as teachers and keeping our students as the focus? In the end, I think we must look at the simple truths. Here are mine.
I got into teaching because I wanted to help my students think critically and find joy in learning. I am fuelled by that spark we see when those learning moments come alive. No pandemic can erase that, no uncertainty can wash it away. Will I need to take more breaks? Sure and that is ok.
What are yours?