What is the potential for educators? Is a new paradigm for the teaching profession possible? I believe that it is possible for all those involved in education – parents, EA’s and CYW’s, teachers and administration to experience education and educating in an expanded context which can propel us forward as Creators, Innovators, and Leaders.
Beyond acceptance of education as it is, lies the possibility for all those involved in education to become more. In order to experience this, I believe that we must be willing to define what we believe about education, educating, and learning for ourselves and choose our own path.
Parents are the first educators of children. It’s from them that children begin to understand the world and life and learning. It’s parents whose impact on the future of our youth and, by extension, our world is most keenly felt. And it’s parents whose influence extends into the future as children grow, begin to forge separate lives, and eventually leave home.
Teachers and school are next phase in educating children. The adults with whom children interact – who are charged with teaching the curriculum set out by Ministries of Education, who counsel children in navigating the educational system, who coach and support extra-curricular opportunities for students – are also significant others in the lives of children as they grow. Aside from time spent with parents and family, students spend a significant amount of time over approximately ten months each year and from the ages of five to (usually) seventeen in contact with those empowered to work in the educational system.
And all the adults with whom our children interact have their own remembered experiences with learning about the world and about who they are and who they are capable of becoming – experiences stored in our memories from family and school. And these have continuing influence upon the choices which we make as we move forward and carve out the life we wish to lead.
In those memories often lie unexpressed anger and a sense of our individual powerlessness, our feeling that we have ‘had school done to us’. Often, we harbour a sense that school is not a place of life and curiosity and growth and change. Too often, it is a place where we learn to play the educational game of being ‘the good student’ rather than giving rein to our sense of wonder and possibility. School becomes a place where we learn to fit in rather than express our individuality. It becomes the locus of control and constraint where what we learn and how we learn is mandated by others.
The world today is not what we thought it would be when we were children. Change is not incremental but exponential. Yet, we are expected to fit the needs and knowledge of a 21st Century world into a 19th century and essentially didactic model. For the prescribed length of the school year, we enter a big box building of cement and brick walls and move from one classroom to another whenever the bells indicate that that is what we are supposed to do. We are, for the most part, expected to march in step ‘single file, Indian style’ and sit on uncomfortable chairs and learn things which are of no authentic interest to us. And what we learn is measured and judged. We are expected to perform and meet or surpass expected norms. Do that and we pass. Don’t do that and we fail. It’s a system based upon the needs of the industrial revolution and becoming a good and productive worker. It is not a system which lauds anything which does not map to that.
I remember a vibrant and lively teacher, new to the profession, who left my high school at the end of her first year. Her work and her ability as an educator were never in question. What was in question seemed to be that she did not fit the standard mould – her clothes were a bit too flamboyant and she, according to the powers that be in the school [the school administration] just did not portray what a teacher ‘should be’. I remember what it was like when I was on a probationary contract to wonder, after working hard and doing my best over a school year, if I would still have a position to return to in the fall. And I remember watching the impact of this worry on those who joined the school in which I taught. As one of the many who had received the standard ‘thank you for your work but there will be no position for you at your school next year’ letter said to me, getting that letter was enough to “freak” everyone out.
As an established teacher in the school in which I taught, I remember watching those new to the profession often having their unsullied innocence so to speak and belief in the value of what they had to offer inexorably changed as they encountered the realities of working in a school system. This realization was something which I encountered when I first started and it was still happening to new teachers when I retired 33 years later.
I believe that educators chose their careers in their desire to contribute and create and not to manage existing constructs which demand either compliance or compromise or confrontation. As we develop as educators, we have come to know that we are far more than we have been certified to be, and that education can become far more than the current format in which we work and that we have accepted.
There are many professional development programmes where discussion of what’s possible for education does not occur. Presentations, talks, workshops, and courses which inspire us to a deeper understanding of the educator’s potential are few and far between. How often do any of us attend these events, only to realize in the next week…next month…next year that nothing has really changed. The status quo remains and our concerns continue.
As parents and educators, the process of educating ourselves and others is in our hands. We intuitively know ourselves to be Creators and Leaders: those who know they are guides in their own lives and potentially, guides in the lives of others. Will we let ourselves know these truths undeniably?
- What we’re seeking is not an outside expert to guide us, but an opportunity to connect with that internal voice in each of us and which tells us that we are the ones who have the intrinsic knowledge to foster curiosity, potential and possibility.
- What we truly need is a safe place where we can come to know ourselves authentically and intensely as educators: to connect with what we know and believe.
- What we need is the opportunity to recognize our unique values which light up and enhance our personal and professional lives for the process of educating differently allowing a more open, inviting and expansive way for all involved – children and adults – to learn.
- We affect what we observe. As educators, we need to consider how we might manifest our desired outcomes differently.
What we need is to follow our own personal professional development programme: one which provides us with the opportunity to explore our own potential and our vision for our future as educators. When we give ourselves permission to follow that call inside each of us to become more than the current system prescribes us to be, then a unique possibility will emerge through our willingness to be fully present and engage without editing ourselves or questioning our right to say what we believe. We will create what we each require to claim the truly inspired and powerful educators that we each are. We will move forward with the power to claim, define and design education in a Quantum Age.
Gone are the days when fitting into the expected mould, hence re-creating the existing model, is enough. We live in a quantum age. If we will be able to answer the needs of that age, if we will be able to create the world in which we can not only live but thrive, if we will be able to see change and possibility and respond to these, then the system as it is and as we have known it to be has to change. It is not enough to react. If we wait until we must respond to new ideas and events, then we will be too late – always just a few steps behind, always buffeted by the winds of change, often with a sense that we are floundering about looking for a direction in which to move.
Even as we are moved to explore what we might become as educators, we cannot deny the truth of our experience of being educated. We must know that if we choose to live in our world as it is, replicating the educational system as we have known it, we will continue to have the same conversations and have our same cares and concerns about it all. As long as we choose from those limitations, we will never know the full measure of the potential for who we can become as educators, teachers, and learners. What would happen if we were to choose to stop re-creating that model? We would have the opportunity to develop and implement a new paradigm for a new reality.
I believe that now is the time to explore what being an educator might become, what learning might become, and what could become possible when we each awaken to our own unique potential. I believe that it is beyond time for a change. I believe that we each have the power to be proactive rather than reactive. And I believe that we each have the talent, skills, and abilities we need to be the creators, leaders, and innovators in the world in which we want to live.
Education, whether in a school or out in the world, can be a force for such change. We must be willing to believe in our intrinsic right to change that which no longer works, jettison old ideas and beliefs which no longer serve our vision, and create new and different.
At some level, this is an act of rebellion and what I used to call, guerrilla teaching – doing what I believed made sense and worked and helped my students to know themselves fully by closing my classroom door and being the guide on the side and not Buddha on the mountaintop. It is bucking the status quo as it defies the standard notion of ‘teacher’ or ‘educator’ and introduces, at a deep level, the notion of an awakened presence which has the power to help create a new world. And in writing this, I know that some will be elegantly uncomfortable with the prospect of trusting themselves and knowing themselves as creator, leader, and innovator.