I love the month of August. It’s a time where I reflect deeply on my teaching and learning goals for the upcoming year. It’s a time where my family gets back on track with our oh so needed routines so we are refreshed and relaxed come the September chaos. It’s also the time where I, like all other teachers, prep my mind and my classroom for the next ten months of learning that are ahead and just around the bend.
Before summer arrived, I had applied for and accepted a teaching position in a brand new school, which I truly believe was made to be my dream job. I say this because everything this school is known to represent, I believe in: innovation, collaboration, progress, global learning and the list goes on. Last week, as I was leaving the house to get started on prepping my new learning and working space, I got up early because I too need to start getting into my new routine. I woke up and left the house at the time when I will be leaving every morning from Monday to Friday this September and trust me – it’s much earlier than when I left for school last year.
It was so early the air was still crisp and the dew seeped into the light grey fabric of my shoes, making them three shades darker. There wasn’t the usual hustle and bustle of families getting out the door, kids riding their bikes or dogs being walked by their owners. There were few cars on their way to where they were headed. It reminded me of the commute I had three years ago- because soon came the fog.
As I started driving, part of me contemplated whether I should continue or wait for the fog to settle. I decided to carry on because I had driven through thick fog before – this wasn’t a first. I knew that it was just a matter of time until the sun warmed up and cleared the horizon. Although the thick white blanket appeared menacing, once I approached it, my surroundings became less hazy. I could make out shapes and familiar farmhouses. I could always see from a short distance what was immediately ahead of me. Not once did I feel threatened or in danger. I was relieved that I didn’t wait for the fog to settle because I could maximize the time to start working in my classroom. I’m so excited to be in my classroom!
Immediately, it made me think of the year I have ahead in this new environment. The building and the school yard has amazing learning spaces. And better yet, the people I am surrounded by are all team players. As I join this group of incredible people, striving individually and collectively for something greater than what we have ever experienced, my mind sometimes gets foggy. Foggy because there are still many unknowns. Foggy from all the strategies and tools I could use next year to make our school culture thrive. Foggy from all of the quotes that resonated with me from my professional development books I was reading over the summer. Foggy from not knowing exactly how the year will unfold, because in my classroom there’s only so much I can do until my students arrive. Foggy from the potential and all of the possibilities. But as I literally drove through the fog, all of a sudden my surroundings became clear. And I know that the fog inside my brain will soon dissipate as well because I realized that the missing piece that will make my fog dissipate isn’t waiting on the shelves that have yet to arrive- it’s meeting my students and their families. I’ve always known who the kids I was going to teach were. I always spent my time getting to know the students who would be moving in with me the following year. I start building those relationships early, before they even know they may be in my classroom, before I even know if they will be in my class. Last year, I didn’t get the chance to see my students, meet them, converse with them, and compliment them. That’s why even though I have been teaching for 8 years now, I feel as though I’m a first year: new building, new classroom, new students, new colleagues. But even though for now, I feel a bit out of my comfort zone, I have all of the optimism and energy a new teacher has.
The saying “A comfort zone is a beautiful thing but nothing ever grows there” rings true. Some days, as a teacher, the fog will be so thick you’ll think of staying where you are and continuing what you’ve always been doing. You won’t take the risk of leaving your comfort zone because you feel as though the unknowns will paralyze you. You stay safe – not risking the negative “what ifs” that could arise. I ask you the same question: What if your ideas turn out amazing? What if the ideas inside your head become those moments your students hold onto forever? What if students build resiliency failing forward, when things don’t go as planned? What if your classroom became “real life” rather than “by the book”?
Once you take the road less traveled a few times, it will become familiar to you, kind of like me driving through the fog. So next time you hesitate on applying for that new job, or on letting your students take the lead because you are caught up in those negative what ifs and worried you won’t know the final outcome – just drive and let them drive. Take the risk you’ve been contemplating. Move forward. Push yourself through uncertainty and get through it one step at a time. Because once you approach what looks like a barrier to your destination, you’ll notice pieces get clearer as you move through the motions. In a classroom setting, let your students take the wheel to learn what driving (critical thinking) through the fog is. Your amazing ideas will always be foggy until you live them. Once you have, you’ll see that learning is living. Learning needs to move and wonder and wander. It needs to travel; it can’t stay at a standstill. You won’t get anywhere interesting if you stay in the same spot. Drive through the fog – even if it’s not at the speed limit. Just keep moving. You and your students will thank you for it once you come out the other side and see the sun shining bright.
Note: No filters needed for these pictures taken on my drive to work. I look forward to my commute to reflect and listen to podcasts and audio books (Innovator’s Mindset audio book, and hopefully other DBC an IMpress audio books can’t come fast enough!) to clear my mind.