Be the change, being a teacher, new year

As We Start Another Year

There are journeys we start where that path is laid out, the route determined, the destination clear.  While hard at times, they follow a set course and we plod along, knowing where we will end up.  Knowing where our hearts will be once we finally get there.  Then there are those journeys that start when something ends, when something abruptly happens and we have a moment of clarity and we realize that now another direction is needed.  Sometimes these journeys start without us knowing and we don’t discover them until we are far on our path.  Confused we wonder how we get here, where we are going, and why we didn’t know we were traveling anew.  Those are the journeys that can change us the most.

We are travelers in education.  Always searching for a path, always searching for a way.  Tirelessly plodding along, sometimes pushing our students ahead of us, other times dragging them along.  Our journey changes often, seemingly from year to year is a guarantee by now.  We notice as the years pass, as summer inches closer and then ends.  We notice when a crop of new students show up and then leave us.  We notice seasons, months, and sometimes even weeks as we plan for our hopes and dreams.

Yet the daily journeys we take, the journey we begin and end within the span of 8 hours is often viewed as minor or insignificant, not worthy of our daily ponderings, not quite worthy of our dreams.  After all, a day is simply a step, not a destination by any means.  Yet, it is these journeys, the ones that happen every single day in our rooms that can matter the most to our students.  To those children that travel along with us.  A single day can change their course for many years to come.  A single decision made by a teacher can change their path forever.  We forget about that responsibility, probably a wise move in some ways, lest we drive ourselves crazy with the knowledge that even our small movements can cause oceans of change for others. Yet those journeys are the ones we should be watching.

Every day we have a choice to make; do I teach my students or do we learn together?  Do we explore or do we wait for knowledge to find us?  Do we stay on our path or do we change course?  Do we support or do we hinder?  Do we encourage or do we fault when missteps happen and our path gets rumpled?  Do we always take the lead or can students show us the way?  Do we listen to their voices when they tell us to change course or do we stubbornly stick to the path because we know best?

The day-to-day wrapped up in it mundanity offers us the perfect opportunity to make a change.  Change doesn’t seem scary when you think of it as trying something for just one day.  You can go one day without punishing.  You can go one day without homework.  You can try for one day to ask students what they want.  You can try for one day to stop talking so much.  One day does not seem like much, but it can be the seed to bigger change.

We have a choice of whether or not we notice the day-to-day or if we continue to plan as if we have unlimited time to reach every child.  We don’t.  We don’t know when the students we teach will no longer be ours.  We don’t know when a child has moved beyond our grasp.  So as we plan for the long, focus in on the short.  Yes, keep the destination in mind, but don’t forget about the journey.  What you do today has an incredible impact on what you will do tomorrow.  Make each step count, make each step worthy of your time, and don’t forget that it is ok to get lost once in a while, as long as you bring your students with you as you try to find your way.

I am a passionate teacher in Oregon, Wisconsin, USA but originally from Denmark,  who has taught 4th, 5th, and 7th grade.  Proud techy geek, and mass consumer of incredible books. Creator of the Global Read Aloud Project, Co-founder of EdCamp MadWI, and believer in all children.  The second edition of my first book Passionate Learners – How to Engage and Empower Your Students” is available for pre-order now.   Second book“Empowered Schools, Empowered Students – Creating Connected and Invested Learners” is out now from Corwin Press.  Join our Passionate Learners community on Facebook and follow me on Twitter @PernilleRipp.

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