It’s risky to speak in absolutes. I get it. Some might even say it’s reckless. But let’s face it, in education there are things that are, and things that simply are not. Our ability to survive and thrive in a world of high expectations, low compensation, and mediocre appreciation is dependent on our ability to embrace and adapt to the things that are rather than lament the absence of the things that will likely never be. For example, kids are prone to irresponsibility. It’s an absolute truth. Cognitive science tells us their brains won’t be wired for foresight and good decision making until after they leave us. In the midst of this reality we have two choices:
a. We can throw up our hands and add to the noise around “kids these days”.
b. We can go to work knowing the obvious; that our job is not to sit back admiring behaviors we already see, but to cultivate the behaviors and skills we want to see.
There are some other absolute truths in our profession. I submit them for your thoughtful consideration:
1: Anything worth doing will not be easy.
There is perhaps no other professional for whom this statement is more true than the educator. Teaching with rigor and relevance is hard. Quitting is easy. Leading and inspiring people is hard. Managing them is easy. Relationships take work. Indifference does not. In each case, commit to a relentless pursuit of the former, and a stubborn resistance of the latter.
2: You have to love the kids. It’s not enough just to like them a whole lot.
There's a reason why so many teachers leave the profession. It's because they like kids. But the distance between like and love is infinite. If you can't find something deep down inside you that makes you love your students today, you certainly won't find it 20 years from now when generations of children have buried it under a mountain of late assignments, bathroom requests, and apathy.
3: There is a difference between tasks that are rigorous, and assignments that are hard.
Rigor does not mean something is hard. It means the level of mental acuity required to complete a task is profound. Furthermore, rigorous tasks cultivate skills that can be applied to a multitude of real world scenarios. Hard assignments serve no greater purpose than to provide empty validation to teachers and mountains of discontent for children. Integrating rigor into our classrooms allow kids to grow in develop far better than if they are simply force-fed assignments that are “hard”.
4: You can never have too many white board markers.
Seriously. I mean this both metaphorically and literally. Think of whiteboard markers as strategies and tools of the trade. What worked yesterday may be useless tomorrow. Beg, borrow, and steal "whiteboard markers" from wherever you can find them. Keep them fresh. And be ready to pop the cap off a new one at a moment’s notice. Seriously though...don’t steal your neighbor’s actual whiteboard markers. That’s the educational equivalent of premeditated murder.
5: Movement does not equate to progress.
The end game is achievement. The end game is not covering the content. Masterful teachers understand and embrace the difference between “covering” and “uncovering”. To “cover” is to embrace a checkbox mentality that only serves the adults in the building. To “uncover” embraces a mastery-based approach to learning that puts student achievement and the development of skills front and center in our classrooms.
Here’s to embracing the things that are and striving to achieve the things that have yet to be. Onward and upward my friends!