It is often said that we need to get out of our comfort zones as teachers and learners. It’s true. The struggle, the messiness, the uncomfortableness is where we truly learn. When we step back and reflect on what went right and what went wrong, we dig in and we figure things out. We cannot do this alone. I’m convinced it’s impossible.
Through my years, I’ve been in different places. I’ve been in situations where I was the one of the only people in my school working on something. It’s awful. To be the only person passionate about “a thing” that you believe in can be lonely, maddening, and downright disheartening. It can make you feel like you are alone. Like your passion doesn’t matter. It’s what drew me to Twitter so many years ago and my PLN became the family of support I needed to keep pushing me forward. Connection for growth. Through conversations and learning, I’ve realized there are tons of people in education that feel this way. People who feel far less than empowered to make change. People buried in data and negativity.
Right now, I’m in a different place. A place where I’m part of a team. And it’s changed everything. People to share ideas with, notice joy with, and people who will brainstorm with me when something doesn’t work out. People who feed me ideas. People I laugh with on a daily basis. People that I trust enough to share my own ridiculousness with. People that share their mistakes with me. People to ask me questions that I hadn’t considered myself and people who expect me to grow. People who are working hard everyday to make the world better through making school the best it can be. People who do everything for each other that we expect our kids to do in a learning community.
Then, I look around at all of the products flying around education. Programs to subscribe to. Certifications to earn. It’s noise. So. much. noise. It’s the promise of making education better through a quick buy. And I can’t help but think about what truly needs to happen. We have to change ourselves and how we do things to truly empower our kids and our future. We have to be willing to fail. We have to lean into the messiness that lies outside of our comfort zones. We have to be willing to be seen, authentically, and we need to be living breathing examples of growth mindset.
It’s like the difference between fast food and eating raw. We think we want fast food because it’s good, and it will change things on the surface, right now. Feed us. But it’s not going to lead to long term satisfaction. Guides and packets are not the way to the future. Doing activities and buying STEM in a box isn’t the answer. They might change your day, but they won’t change the course of learning that’s needed.
We need a revolution. We are the revolution. Creativity for all. Deep learning and thinking. Human Connection. Community. The right kind of school for every single learner, big or small. The kind where each and every teacher is valued as a learner and a human being, just as we must value and honor the needs of each and every student.
And my brain hurts when I think about it. Maybe because I’m afraid it won’t fully happen. Maybe because I don’t want to be the person who doesn’t have all the answers. Maybe because fear is louder too many times. But, there’s hope. Knowing, in the deepest part of your heart, that the thing that matters to you most is a thing that some kid, somewhere, needs. That? It’s a flicker of hope.
And I think back about this team I’m part of. I think about a moment where they all just showed up. With a Sharpie Bouquet (literally) and support during one of the darkest days of my life. The day I returned to work a few days after my dad passed away, a day that also happened to be my 40th birthday. It didn’t feel like a day to celebrate. And yet, there they were, at my door, reminding me that I was not alone in that moment, nor any day, no matter how terribly dark something might be. Like little rays of sunshine picking me up when I didn’t even want to admit I needed to be.
And then I realized in order for us to really change school and learning environments, we have to be willing to change ourselves first. Human nature will always gravitate toward the thing that is easy. In reality, that’s so dangerous. That is not what our kids need experience with in school, and it’s not what is going to get us to be the kind of education system we need. Creativity can’t be the afterthought because for some kids, it’s the air they breathe. It’s inside each and every single one of us, and only real change will release it. One flicker of hope away from being uncomfortable and making change happen.