Recently a friend of mine was sharing the struggles of leadership in a non-IB international school that is transitioning away from textbooks. During the first year of implementing change, teachers genuinely cringed at the thought and lamented how challenging it was to teach without these curriculum resources. It was hard. There was a learning curve. They had lived in their safe textbook bubble for years and never exercised any critical thinking around curriculum. No one really knew anything about Backwards By Design and had never really attempted creating unit plans. Concept-based approaches were just not on their radar. Three years later, the struggle continues but in the very best of ways. Those teachers are discovering their mojo, their voice, and their agency. They have learned to finally be teachers that they always wanted to be. As I listened to his teachers’ journey, I recognized that, although my path may be different, I am really quite the same as them.
How often we wait for someone to give us permission to do things differently. We are afraid that stepping out in new directions will make us seem like renegades and trouble-makers. For once, I can comfortably say that I’m okay with being a rebel-it’s not a dirty word and it’s nothing to be ashamed of. And I think I’m finally in that place where I understand that these constraints are really self-imposed. That I have been free all along and I don’t have to do anything to prove to anyone that my ideas are worthy or good. It’s sorta like that cheesy 70’s song, Escape by Rupert Holmes, in which the man who put in a personal ad comes to find out that the woman who responds is his current partner. (Ha- the irony!) I feel like in many ways, it’s the same for me. That what I want is really already in front of me if I just choose to recognize it. Perhaps you feel the same way.
The truth is that our schools need us to be more of who we want to become. Even if we are weird. Even if we stir up a hornet’s nest. Even if we are critical. Even if our ideas challenge the status quo of our school’s culture. Because schools are not there for the adults in the building, they are there for the children who fill its classrooms. And, the futures that our children will live in will require us to rethink education and how we “do school”.
There is a beautiful message from the Hopi Elders, a Native American tribe based in my favorite home state of Arizona, that I keep up as a reminder. I’d like to share it with you.
Here are the things that must be considered:
Where are you living?
What are you doing?
What are your relationships?
Are you in right relation?
Where is your water?
Know our garden.
It is time to speak your Truth.
Create your community.
Be good to each other.
And do not look outside yourself for the leader.
This could be a good time!
There is a river flowing now very fast.
It is so great and swift that there are those who will be afraid.
They will try to hold on to the shore.
They will feel like they are being torn apart, and they will suffer greatly.
Know the river has its destination.
The elders say we must let go of the shore, push off toward the middle of
keep our eyes open, and our heads above the water.
See who is there with you and celebrate.
At this time in history, we are to take nothing personally, least of all
For the moment we do, our spiritual growth and journey comes to a halt.
The time of the lonely wolf is over.
Banish the word struggle from your attitude and vocabulary.
All that we do now must be done in a sacred manner and in celebration.
We are the ones we have been waiting for.
Let’s all give ourselves permission to be the best of who we are and “let go of the shore” of what is comfortable and allow ourselves to flail around until we gain a steady footing of the transformation in education that we are a part of. It may be hard, but it will be worth it.