Be the change, being me

On Forgiveness…

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I have been thinking a lot about forgiveness. Not so much forgiveness in the sense of feeling at peace with the world, but instead the forgiveness we sometimes lack in education; the forgiveness of ourselves. While we spend our days often forgiving others for the things they say, the things they do, the slights that are bound to happen when we work with and around other human beings, we seem to forget to give ourselves the same treatment. To realize at the end of the day that we, too, are only human, and that as humans the best we can do is the best we can do.

I think of forgiveness more often as the days tick closer to yet another break in an already tumultuous winter. With all of the days off, with the weather driving us inside more than ever, we never quite seemed to settle into the lull of the winter routine, where we find comfort in the small moments shared within our learning spaces. Where we find comfort in the trust we have placed within the community to allow us to be the people we are. Instead, it felt rushed at times, forced at times, and sometimes as if we had altogether forgotten what the community that we had painstakingly built up really felt like.

And so as the children we work with at times seem to push us away harder than ever before, I have spent many nights reflecting on what else I can do. What else we can do? What now? What next? And I will admit, there are simply nights where I have come up shorthanded. Where I have realized that my bag of tricks has run dry and that for right now, there is nothing more new I can try to re-engage a disengaged child. There is nothing new I can try to help a child stay engaged, help a child learn, help a child read a book. It is a hard thing to swallow. After all, we are supposed to work daily miracles within our rooms, never giving up on a child, never resting until every child is learning, every child is reading, every child sees value in what we do, what we are together.

And yet, sometimes we don’t work miracles. Sometimes even the best of ideas fail. Sometimes the team cannot brainstorm anything else to to try. Sometimes even what has worked for every child before this one, fails. And we carry that failure with us as yet another added weight in already heavy load. We carry that failure as if it means that we have failed all of the children we teach, as if we will never be a good educator again.

Those who work on the fringes of education, those who sit in power, may tell us that the fault lies within us, the educators. That if we only gave more choice. That if we only gave more freedom. That if we only gave students more space to be who they are and not who we want them to be, then, then….they surely would learn. That if we just brought in more technology, if we only let them lead, if we only gave them the reigns, then, then…they surely would thrive. And yes, those truths ring loudly, that has been the journey I have been on with my students for the past nine years. There is so much to be gained when we have freedom, when education focuses around the individual and not around the group, when the explorations we do are led by students, created by students, and valued by students. There is so much to be gained when we create equitable spaces that are focused on the humanity of each individual and not just tests, homework, and grades.

Yet to always fault the educator with no mind for what is already in place is to dismiss the larger problem. That true education is a collaboration. That for students to really be invested in learning, they have to first be invested, and yes, that means feeling safe enough to invest. That we can provide amazing opportunities for self expression and for some kids it is simply not enough, right now.

So this week, I realized that I am only human and that perhaps others needed to forgive themselves too. That at some point, stepping away from a child who has actively refused every single opportunity we have provided to learn, to change the system, to engage somehow, is the only next step we have at that moment. And that stepping away does not mean giving up. That stepping away, for now, does not mean that that child cannot learn, that that child cannot re-engage, that that child cannot find meaning. But it does mean that right now, I am not the teacher they need, I need time to come up with new ideas, and I need to be okay with that. That perhaps what we all need is a break once in awhile to remind ourselves that we are not meant to be saviors, but instead the bringers of opportunities. And sometimes that means stepping away and forgiving ourselves.

If you are wondering where I will be in the coming year or would like to have me speak, please see this page. If you like what you read here, consider reading my book, Passionate Readers – The Art of Reaching and Engaging Every Child.  This book focuses on the five keys we can implement into any reading community to strengthen student reading experiences, even within the 45 minute English block.  If you are looking for solutions and ideas for how to re-engage all of your students consider reading my very first book  Passionate Learners – How to Engage and Empower Your Students.  

12 thoughts on “On Forgiveness…”

  1. Permille, Sadly I don’t get to read your beautiful words regularly enough, but when I do, without fail, you speak my heart. Thank you, thank you for being our voice.

  2. Absolutely agree. As a high school teacher I have to remind myself of this. I may not be the one they need right. I also have to remind myself that with some it takes way more time than I think…it may be two years before they engage. Patience. Time. Forgiveness.

  3. Thank you, thank you, thank you. This is exactly what I am feeling and have been experiencing this year with a large part of my group. I have to allow myself forgiveness. You are so right to say we too are only human. I wish teachers could come together more to offer this kind of real, raw support. These words are much appreciated today!

  4. Thank you. As an 8th grade teacher who embraces literacy and instructional ideas similar to your own, I must tell you that I really needed to read a post like this right now. For the first time in a very long time, it is March and I still have 2-3 students who are fake reading. I am at a loss as to what I can do next. While I will not give up on those kids, I think I will “forgive” myself, reflect, and see what else I can come up with during this last quarter of the school year.

  5. Your eloquent words speak to the heart of many teachers at this time of year. Thank you for sharing your gift of getting to the heart of what matters.

  6. Thank you so much for posting this. It’s so easy for me to feel like I’m the only imperfect teacher out there. 🙂 It means so much to know that even teachers I admire have days when they struggle.

  7. Thank you for this. After a gruelling set of parent-teacher interviews (where there is always some parent who feels you aren’t doing enough), and heading into Spring Break exhausted, I needed to read this. I am enough. We all are. The fact that we care enough to read this article proves that. Thanks for speaking our hearts.

  8. Phenomenal work, as always. Would you consider guesting on the Teachers on Fire podcast? I’d love to talk about your blog (I’m a fan), your practice, and of course … Pink. Please DM me if this sounds interesting. Let’s talk! – Tim

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