Last semester in one of my courses with my higher ed students, amidst the hustle and bustle of final projects, exam preparations, and approaching holidays, and during one of our final classes, we paused. We simply stopped mid-lesson--practically mid-sentence--and paused. Searching for stillness in hurried moments such as these can be challenging, but, noticing the need to bring calmness and sanctuary, we quieted apprehension with first discussion and then silence. Computers and books and stacks of papers were removed from our tables, and we found ourselves in a conversation on our “whys.” Why did they each choose this profession of education? What made each of these extraordinary college students select this path that we as current educators know is full of great challenge but even greater reward? As each shared and unpacked emotions and ideas, we again paused. Through sharing and returning to a fundamental purpose that defined our “whys,” we found ourselves moving to feelings of calm certainty. Though we could have quickly returned to our lessons and needed preparations, in that moment it was completely clear that nothing was more important than somehow capturing that emotion. For the rest of our class that day, my students worked to record their feelings and perspectives. Private letters written from their current day selves to their future "practicing teacher" selves were then sealed and tucked away in folders.
After over 20 years in education, I so wish I had a letter reminding me of my initial reasons for becoming a teacher. I am quite sure even then I wanted simply to make a difference. The possibility of impacting positive change through children, providing safe space for inquiry and wonder and exploration of thought, building community through shared stories and collective experience. A letter that could serve as reminder to “see the forest for the trees,” but also take notice of each of those trees along the trail. As I have reflected on this and returned to thinking of all my loops and detours in my journey as an educator, I find resolve in my “why” that has always guided me both as a professional and as a person.
This year, as I set out on 2017, I am determined to keep hold of that same calm certainty that my own students discovered that day in our class. In a world that sometimes gets distracted with reform and reinvention, I am going to work to return to the basics of education by making each decision in response to the question “what is best for students and our world?” Free of jargon or distractions of a sometimes “noisy space,” this year I choose to be intentional. And, though I may be without a guidebook or a letter reminding me of my why, I can hold strongly to what fuels my passions as a teacher and to what simply makes me me.
You in a Pie Chart? I'd love to see what makes you "you!" Please share your #oneword2017 or #MeinaPieChart journey! Thanks to Buncee for providing such a beautiful platform for creation and community!