Over the last few weeks, I have noticed a huge change in myself, both as a person and as an educator. It is amazing what fueling your passion can do for all aspects of your life. I have had more energy for my family, for my students, and for myself, and it hasn’t been an energy burst — like the kind I need for a week or two when I have a lot going on. That type of energy isn’t sustainable, and when the busy weeks are over, you’re left feeling empty — drained. The energy I feel now fills me up and keeps me constantly pushing for more. If I was asked to explain what innovation does for a person, that is how I would describe it: fulfilling in innumerable ways.
I was not sure I wanted to do this book study. I am a reader, and even as someone who loves to read and is passionate about my career, I feel like I am always working. It felt for a long time that if I was doing well at work, I was failing at home and vice-versa. The worry that taking on something else right now would only add to that problem almost kept me from dedicating the time. But when a friend and colleague encouraged me to read the introduction because she thought it would resonate with my philosophy, something inside me whispered just loud enough to tip the scale, so I dove in and finally posted on the blog I created months ago and never got around to working on.
One of the major things this book and book study has taught me is that we are better when we take the time to grow ourselves. It seems so hypocritical to write that because as teachers, we push our kids every day to be better, but the truth of it is, sometimes we don’t always know how to do that for ourselves. We rationalize that we don’t have the time, but the truth is that it feels selfish to be doing something for ourselves when we think we should be doing more for our students. We often fail to realize that those actions are one in the same. After all, how can we teach learning to learn if we aren’t ourselves learning in ways that are relevant to the current world?
Brad Gustafson used a phrase last week that struck me: “one on one endeavor of the heart.” So often in schools, “learning” becomes not an endeavor, but a chore. And sometimes our jobs as teachers can feel that way, too, and there are lots of reasons that can happen. But it doesn’t have to happen. Sometimes we are scared to change our ways for fear that that means we’ve been doing it “wrong,” when in reality, we need to see every iteration of what we do as a step towards something better, even if that something better is always changing. That doesn’t mean we’re “throwing out the book” of our past experiences and successes. It just means that the book is a living document and we get to add to it all the time.
I’ve realized that all the things I want for myself in my job as a teacher are all the things my kids want as students. We all want the freedom to explore our passions. We all want our relationships to be built on trust — not the lack of it. My students want to be heard, just as I do. So I’m doing more listening, more asking, and giving more freedom. They are still learning, but it’s more authentic learning. It’s better.
This MOOC has also pushed me to address my major weakness, which has been difficult. When my husband and I moved here a year and a half ago, I swore I would make an impact without getting too attached to my new school and colleagues. As a military spouse, I have lived in four states in almost six years of marriage. I have had to leave students before their school year is over because my husband received unexpected orders, and as someone who cares deeply about the kids I teach, that has been heartbreaking. It felt like I was abandoning them. And even though we hope to stay here for a long time, I know that things can change in an instant, and it has crushed me in the past to leave close friends and colleagues that I love and who have made me the teacher than I am.
But I realize that I can’t do that anymore. I can’t be all in for kids without being all in myself. And the truth is, I have hated not feeling as connected to my school community. I don’t let go of relationships easily. My closest girlfriends live all over the country, but we keep up weekly (and sometimes daily) with text messages and phone calls. We schedule trips every six months to a year and take turns coming to see one another. We invest the time, the money, and the inconvenience because we’ve been through experiences together that not many people have. I pledged to myself that I wouldn’t get attached here, even if that meant I would go against my belief that relationships are what matter in life. I convinced myself it would be better, and as it turns out, I was wrong.
So even though this MOOC is ending, really, I think this is just the beginning for me. I’ve built on my strengths and solidified my philosophy, but I’m also coming back around to something I knew all along but needed some strong reminders to renew. We can never reach the end of innovation, and I’m thankful for the forever journey.