I’m not a fortune-teller, I won’t be bringing news
Of what tomorrow brings, I’ll leave that up to you
I’m not a fortune-teller, don’t have a crystal ball
I can’t predict the future, can’t see nothing at all
When I started teaching I became distinctly aware of 2 streams:
1. The stream I move in with my students, that we create together.
2. The larger surrounding stream that includes politics (government, staff, district), professional development etc. Basically anything that does not involve my direct interactions with my students.
I decided early on that I wanted to spend the majority of my time in stream 1. From my perspective, the less I dipped into stream 2 the more true to my heart, interactions in stream 1 could remain. I still feel this way 22 years later, though of course, there is trickle over from one stream to the other.
Over the last few weeks I have been trying to pinpoint for myself where I find value in my work. Sometimes in moments of self-pity, I wallow in feeling undervalued as a classroom teacher. I think I am prone to this wallowing of late as the purpose and meaning of academics (content) and school in general, is going through an identity crisis. Our education system has yet to clearly and consistently articulate what we value and what is valuable. Ghosts of education past still continue to haunt our halls and minds; these further add to the confusion. In this era of transition it takes time for new values to be adopted and understood. Over in stream 1 with my students, I feel new and strong currents ripping through. It seems readily apparent to students, that static outdated knowledge is no longer valuable and as such they give it little respect.
I get that. I am ready for that.
With knowledge and content devalued and no new collective value set in town, there is a scramble to find and create meaning. Daily. Over in stream 1 it feels urgent; help these kids navigate this stream, quick they are going down! What is mind blowingly confusing to me, is since stream 2 heavily bleeds into stream 1 (good thing I defined that stream idea right off the get go!) the outdated artifacts on how to navigate the stream from the good old days still remain, everywhere. The big, looming framework that defines survival in stream 2 (and by default defines survival in stream 1) still stands, rickety and worn, but still looming over us in stream 1.
So for example when working with inquiry labs or open ended projects with my grade 12 students, there is no external infrastructure that supports the idea that these type of activities are valuable. The structures in stream 2 still speak loudly, high marks are what matter most, find out how to get the highest mark and game the system. The disconnect comes in that students do not intuitively find value in the marks game, they just feel trapped by it, and many feel an immense pressure to engage in the game.
They want something (success) but they don’t really value it (as it is defined). They aren’t sure if they want something else because the societal value is not obvious to them.
A clash, clanging loudly in discordance, between the evidence that times have changed, that students have changed, how they want and need to learn has changed with the Pavlovian triggers strewn across the landscape of both school and society that still point to another time and another value set.
In stream 1 this clash requires crazy glue and a massive clamp, in an effort to keep these 2 wildly divergent parts together. Simultaneously it demands a moving away, an abandoning of sorts, trying to move stream 1 far enough away from stream 2 to find some pure unpolluted waters.
Do you feel caught in the middle? How do you bridge this transitional time?
Somewhere late last night it hit me. I was looking for value in the wrong places. I was looking for my value out in stream 2. Where my value lies is with my students, my time with them. I feel valuable when with them. Regardless of what is valued over in stream 2, I find value here in stream 1.
My value lies in my students, they are my fortune. I will follow their lead down our stream.