Teaching has given me the opportunity to travel around the country. I’ve worked in the suburbs, rural areas where there is only one dirt road to a school, and now in an inner city. Nearly all of my former and current colleagues can describe “the education pendulum” in one way or the other. The pendulum is the never-ending push and pull factors that directs teachers to do something one way this year and something totally different the next. It can come from new education policies, trends, new leadership, or in our current case, world events. It causes teachers to learn to adapt quickly and make the best of every situation. One year they are teaching from textbook A, but the next they are teaching with textbook B. Uh oh, there’s a new administrator in town. Time to throw out what I used the last ten years because Principal Knowsitall has a bug up his butt about inquiry strategies. And on and on it goes. Every teacher handles the pendulum differently. Some (rightfully so) quit, some become jaded and just survive, and others try to make the best of it. The rapid change is really tough sometimes, especially for the older teachers.
Now think of your favorite teacher ever. You might ask yourself, “why did this teacher put up with this nonsense?” Well the answer is simple. It was because of you. Your effort, your work, your questions, you, you, you. YOU are the reason it was worth it and YOUR child are the reason it is a worthy profession.
This mindset is a quality teacher’s “true north.” No matter how murky the world is, they see each of their students as a sign of hope. At the end of my Mom’s career, I was helping her pack up her classroom one last time. She found an old student thank you note shoved behind cupboard. After reading it she said, “you know, my students were my best teachers.”
This year, the changes are especially strong and I worry if all my colleagues will make it to next year. It’s so much change for some of them and I fear they will feel ineffective. If you have the time this year, look up an old teacher and just tell them thank you. Your grace and the thanks you give to them may just be the lesson they need to get through their tough year. Not every meaningful lesson comes from the front of the classroom.