I have written recently of my many blessings; this past Thanksgiving was rich because of them. When counting the blessings this year, I must include being welcomed into a writing community mostly through the Two Writing Teachers blog. It has been a life-changing experience for me as a teacher, to meet teachers all over the world who will talk (write) about their teaching lives with such dedication to and compassion for their students. Years ago, Adlai Stevenson said, “On this shrunken globe, men can no longer live as strangers.” I imagine it would interest him to see just how small our world today has become because of the Internet. I am grateful to be a part of this new kind of community.
As part of the community, I reflect on those words written by others, many times about their teaching experiences. One of the words that describe what I’m ‘hearing’ is resilience. According to the online Free Dictionary, the definition of resilient is marked by the ability to recover readily, as from misfortune. I often wonder if those who do not teach understand how resilient teachers must be in their day-to-day challenges while teaching? There are a number of times, when a lesson must be adjusted (read changed, dropped, or interrupted) because of circumstances beyond the control of the teacher and/or the students. While beginning a lesson, when students are settling into the group, one may burst out crying and run from the room. Another might get sick, right there, in the meeting area. Someone might say, “I have to go really bad!” The electricity may go. Two students might whisper to tell that they have to talk about their conflict, right then, right now! This is beginning to look like a list poem.
Of course, we realize there are often glitches in the plans and one must be flexible enough to make changes. We are ready and know that we’ll find ways to make up time lost because we take care of the sudden problem even if the lesson must be abandoned. We make time for that which is most important, the students. I’m sorry that I don’t remember where I found the following link, but this man, Michael Josephson, a radio commentator and founder of the nonprofit Josephson Institute of Ethics and CHARACTER COUNTS, has re-worked a piece by a teacher named Taylor Mali, who wrote a strong response to a critic who was putting down teachers. It’s called Making Lives, and shows well what teachers do in the very midst of being resilient.
One year when my school site was downtown near our capitol, I had planned on the very first day to walk the class to that capitol to climb to the top and look out over the city. We were going to write our first notebook entries there, with the caption “this is my world to explore”. On the morning of the first day, I glimpsed one of my first students arriving, with his mother helping. He was moving slowly up the stairs on crutches! My mind whirled as I greeted him with a big sympathetic smile. This day was changing already, but we had a very good start to the year (in the building). Do you have a story to tell about your resilience? I imagine you have more than one. Give yourself a pat on the back for “making lives”.