I was able to attend the National Association of Gifted Children Conference these past two days and I am overwhelmed with the amount of information and classes they offered. It couldn’t have happened at a better time. The last couple of years I have felt a little tired and somewhat irritable with my teaching, mostly because I feel rushed, inadequate, and thrown in so many different directions I tend to lose my sense of direction.
Professional Development in the Education world is nothing more than a tight rope with ideology on one end and reality on the other. When we return to our classrooms it our job to walk on that tight rope. Somehow, we are asked, to not only walk without falling, but to juggle machetes with their handles on fire and do backflips so that we can keep our hyper active kids entertained and make sure they pass standardized tests with flying colors!
It amazes me how much research and development goes on about best practices for certain types of children. Yet, we still fall so short of achieving the bar that is set for us, or perhaps, it could be that the research is nothing more than hot smoke on a cold night. Granted, the presenters were excellent, informative, and very convincing, not to mention that they do offer HUGE discounts on their latest book and curriculum at the end of the ride.
As I sit and listen to these experts preach about all that is wrong with education, (God knows we have NO idea what’s wrong- wink-) and then proceed to tell me how to fix it, or at least how to accommodate and differentiate so that I can meet the needs of my students, I kept asking how do I close this gap that is ideal and real.
This is exactly why I became a Teacher. It is also why I fell in love with teaching Gifted Children. The tension between ideal and real is the reality of every great teacher. It is knowing and accepting that the tension will always be there and there will never be, or ever be, a perfect classroom, with a perfect teacher, with a perfect curriculum. I love that everyday is a challenge (okay, some days not so much, but that is why we have wine, right). I love that I can help my students discover more about their strengths and teach them skills they can use everyday- to love reading, to love learning, to love AND appreciate diversity. Mostly, I just want to hand the balance bar to them, (because handing them the machetes on fire is frowned upon) and have them walk the tight rope that is THEIR education. I’ll step off the tight rope and walk along side them- encouraging them, guiding them, teaching them.
I want to stop asking my students to perform and to start learning. I want to stop asking them what they want to be when they grow up and ask what problems they want to solve. The world is so big, so scary, so beautiful, so evil and so good. To really understand the responsibility we have has Educators, that we are preparing these future adults to live in THAT world, is scarier than walking on a tight rope juggling machetes with their handles on fire doing back flips.
I know it has been said so many times, in so many ways, but education should be student centered, not teacher centered, not parent centered, (as much as we are able), I know, I know, this blame game we play… it’s the teacher’s fault… no, it’s the parents fault…, all the while the student sits there sucking their thumb playing Fort Night as we bicker and complain about one another. I wonder what would happen if teachers and parents co-educate the student, and held the student responsible for their own learning, instead of acting like immature divorced couples using the kid as collateral damage? Oh, right, that would be too ideal. Back to the tight rope I go.
With all that said, I do love my job and I am grateful for the research and development that goes into the best practices, and at the end of the day, good things ARE happening in education. I know the pendulum can swing from one end to the other, but with that comes some great models, strategies, and ideas. The very fact that teaching is fluid, elusive, and always changing is what motivates me to keep trying, to keep going, and to enjoy the journey- because it is one crazy ride!
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