I recently read the article 10 Incredible Quotes To Guide Your Life by Jon Westernberg found on Medium. This gave me the idea of applying some of these quotes to teachers and educators (I kept the original numbers for the quotes). Doug Belshaw in his work on digital literacies often writes about the ability to remix work and apply it to new situations, chop and change what someone else has done to represent you and your work. The quotes are Jon’s, and where they come from, but the thoughts are mine applied differently.
1. You have to participate.
“There are no passengers on spaceship earth. We are all crew.”
― Marshall Mcluhan
We as teachers must actively participate in improving education and the outcomes for students. If we don't stand up for students in the meetings behind closed doors at our schools then who will? We need to participate in conversations that drive our schools forward, I have all too often stood back and not said what I should have, not stood up for what was right or needed. Instead listening to the politically correct path that would be followed into the future. We get one shot at life, be deliberate in where you want it to go.
Not only must we work in our individual schools but to share and participate in the greater online community. Share your work and encourage others, we no longer need to be confined by the school building that we work within. We need to participate to the best of our ability, not just be there in body, but be fully present in what we do. What if what you share has the impact on just one other teacher, but that teacher influences at least another 20 students, and how many other teachers and educators through further sharing? How big an impact could we have if we were willing to participate better?
3. Don’t try to leave yourself behind.
“I think we are well advised to keep on nodding terms with the people we used to be, whether we find them attractive company or not. Otherwise they turn up unannounced and surprise us, come hammering on the mind’s door at 4 A.M. of a bad night and demand to know who deserted them, who betrayed them, who is going to make amends.”
― Joan Didion
As we strive and drive for self-improvement we need to not forget we we came form, others are in that place right now struggling to grow, improve, or even hold on, someone is sitting thinking about quitting this noble profession of education. Growth is about gradual change, never dramatic changes, it is a path we travel, and where we have been, always forms part of who we are now. Remembering who we were and using that as part of who we are now, makes us more relatable to everyone that crosses our paths. Who were and where we have been can serve as a guide and inspiration for another who is struggling through what we once did and where we previously travelled. If we forget who we were and where we have come form, then we lose part of ourselves and become incomplete.
4. Take care of each other.
“We’re all just walking each other home.”
― Ram Dass
Teaching can be such an isolating profession if we allow it to become so, we get in our class/es, our office and get stuck into what we have to do, often forgetting the others around us. Collaboration and sharing is part of caring for each other. Work together to improve the outcomes for students. If one of us is good, what can two, three or four of us together be? Combining what we are capable of, improving each other's thoughts and ideas, revising and moving forward are all part of the reflective practice we are meant to undertake.
When we share a resource online that was made then someone else gets to not have to do that preparation, and when they share someone else gets to benefit, a way of paying it forward. The sharing and refining of work benefits us all as we strive to develop the best possible resources and educational opportunities for all students. The care also needs to be for students, develop the best learning, not just education, for them. Our goal needs to also be caring for the whole person, not just the student in your class today.
Teaching is not a competitive job, we are all in it for the same outcomes, well developed young people who engage through a love of learning. Collaborate, share, encourage and check in that your colleagues are doing okay, sometimes we just need someone to say hi, how are you. Don’t do this in isolation, we are team, one that extends beyond the space we work in.
5. Dreams are good. But Living is just as important.
“It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live.”
― J.K. Rowling
We all have goals and aims for how we would like to change education in our classrooms, yet we still need to stay grounded in where they are know. Change is what we want and continue to work towards, but we must work plan and teach where things are now. Each day with what we do we still achieve, we engage and develop relationships with students, coworkers and other educators. Celebrate what you do today, even small or minor successes drive us and fuel the desire for further growth and achievement, don’t live in the past or the future.
Where we want to go and take our classroom must be based in the here and now, what can we do today, this lesson, this week to move our class, students and self forward to the future we want. Anxiety is from focussing too much on the future, depression from dwelling on the past, mindfulness is from living in the present. We need goals and places we want to go to, but these must still be aligned with a path from here and now, be your future, grow and change from know, not from some distant point in the future.
6. Stop being ashamed of your work.
“Everything that I’ve ever done I can still relate to, and feel connected to it in a way. There’s no part of my life that I look at and go, ‘I don’t recognize that person at all.’”
― Ian Mckaye
Just because we aren’t that teacher on stage giving the talk or writing those long blog posts doesn’t mean that we don’t have something that is worth sharing. Every teacher started out doing a university degree and then had to spend their first day and first year teaching in the classroom. Whilst different people start their teaching careers at various ages, some take gap years, others, like myself. enter university as a mature age student after a career elsewhere. But everybody had their first day in the classroom, and their first year of teaching.
Whatever you do and wherever you are in your journey, someone else can gain from your understanding and point of view, together we are more than the sum of our parts. Reflecting, growing and sharing in public provides others with a view of where you have come from. A journey that you can celebrate and reflect on also, blog, podcast, write, share resources, tweet, put yourself and your work out there online, you WILL make a difference to somebody else just through sharing. Grow and succeed then celebrate that, personally and openly, contribute the field of education. You have a voice, please it to share.
7. Let yourself believe.
“Fantasy is escapist, and that is its glory. If a soldier is imprisoned by the enemy, don’t we consider it his duty to escape?. . .If we value the freedom of mind and soul, if we’re partisans of liberty, then it’s our plain duty to escape, and to take as many people with us as we can!”
― J.R.R. Tolkien
Believe that there is better for you, have your dreams of what you would like to do and where you would like to be. Dreams fuel the actions of today, and provide the direction for tomorrow. Have a place to escape in your head and heart, not just for work but all aspects of you, that escape and dreams can help make now better and easier. Read fiction, watch movies, listen to music, use these to escape and dream. In the movie Collateral with Tom Cruise and Jamie Foxx, Jamie's character is a taxi driver, a job he finds very mundane at times. To escape this he has a picture of a tropical island on the back of his fold down visor, whenever he wants a break from reality to visit his dreams. He looks at his picture and escapes the here and know, even if only for a few seconds, to relax and recharge. Your imagination is a gift to use, not ignore.
8. Don’t overthink it.
“Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple.”
― Dr. Seuss
We as teachers can so often be guilty of overthinking things, lessons, ideas, units, students, co-teachers, any number of possibilities. This lesson, this student, these parents, our fellow staff members are here and know, we don’t need to go miles into the future, just deal with the hear and know. This lesson whilst fitting into the bigger picture of how we want to teach, can be simple, and often simple things can drag students in so much deeper than we would have given it credit for.
This doesn’t mean that we don’t plan for the future or plan whole units with individual lesson organised also, but that we let go of some of that stress associated with having too many balls on the go at once. Teaching is juggling, but we can deal with individual items at a time. Simple solutions can often be the best, easier for us to figure out, and everyone else to follow or understand. The field of education is complicated enough, without us making it more so but in unnecessary ways.
9. Let the days come and go.
“Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day. You shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.”
― Ralph Waldo Emerson
We have good days and we have bad days, but we still go on regardless. If we have the day from hell, our lessons fell apart, students misbehaving, parent complaining we didn’t do something right….. guess what?? Tomorrow the sun still rises in the east and sets in the west. Jon writes: Many sports coaches treat winning and losing the same way, you celebrate your wins or grovel in your loss for the same amount of time, then move on. Onwards and upwards. Learn from it, but move on, no need to dwell on either as what you are about to do is more important that what you have already done.
10. Think about the consequences.
“The saddest aspect of life right now is that science gathers knowledge faster than society gathers wisdom.”
― Isaac Asimov
Again Jon writes:
Because we can do things, doesn’t always mean that we should. For me, this quote is up there with Jeff Goldblum in Jurassic Park — scientists are too concerned with whether they can, they don’t stop to ask if they should.
How is what we are about to do going to impact others, in our setting that is usually students. Although what we do also impact parents, other teachers, especially future teachers. How we leave students as they move on from our classes directly impacts those teachers who will have them next year. Do we help our students to think differently, expect that answers won’t just fall in their laps.
Change for change's sake isn't always good or positive, but staying still often isn’t the answer either. Mistakes are learning opportunities, so don’t be afraid to make them, but let's do it for the right reasons. We want to improve learning outcomes for students and leave them to a better world, We can never forget this in all we do. Choices of our PD, lesson styles, content, sharing, and comments. Be the good in their lives, understand what will happen as a result of what you do through good thought, not lack of planning.
Don’t be scared of what we do and change, but be thoughtful and purposeful in all things. We can change education and students for the better.
These are not intended as a dig at anyone, this is what I need to focus on and improve. I can do a better job,with both my thoughts and my actions. Teaching is never easy, but we do have to remember that things won't work, and failure does happen, what we do with though is what will define it as a mistake or a lesson.