Friday afternoon, while sitting in an airport, I read a recent post by George Couros entitled “I’m tired“. I was incredibly impressed, not just because he’s a friend, but because of the sheer audacity & frankness of his words. How often are people in leadership that honest? Reflecting on that post for the past three days has led me to writing this post.
I struggle. I struggle with where I am & what I’m doing. I struggle with the educational system as we know it. I struggle with the painfully slow pace of change. I struggle with people in power who say they care about kids, but don’t do the hard things to make a really huge difference in creating a learning environment that matters. With all the research that exists, we know what’s good for kids. Let’s not pretend otherwise. I’m tired of all of the talking and very little of the doing. All the tinkering and cosmetic changes in education mean little. Having Macbooks in a classroom means nothing if they’re little more than a glorified pencil.
Part of this struggle has likely been prompted by my PhD. At times I feel like I’ve enterd the Matrix. Systems of power become apparent, and either I have the choice to deny what I’ve seen, or struggle with the sense of disillusionment in light of the truth. I’ve thought about quitting a billion times, which my supervisor tells me is normal. That’s not comforting. Sometimes I’m tired. Sometimes I’m angry. Mostly I struggle.
So what does this have to do with being an inquiry teacher? As much as we talk about inquiry being good for kids, it’s good for teachers too. I’ve grown a shocking amount during the past couple of years because of it.
First, I’ve learned how to struggle. When I taught traditionally, I didn’t feel I could show the struggle, even though it was there under the surface. Learning to struggle has helped me to ask questions, in fact, pursue them, even though I might not like the answer. We need inquiry classrooms because struggle is such a normal part of our lives, and kids need to see it modelled and embraced as something good and life sustaining. When we stop struggling, we stop growing.
Secondly, I’ve learned that I don’t have to be in control. That’s a big deal. Here’s why: I’ve been teaching for almost ten years, and I’ve had a dawning awareness over the past while that I want to do something else. Not necessarily leave education. I’m passionate about education. But I want to do something else, and at this point, I don’t know what that is.
I want to do something new — likely in the area of my ed tech degree. Something not in a traditional classroom. I’ve even thought, for the first time, possibly something in higher ed. I want to do something that requires me to grow & stretch, at times to the point where I feel like I might shatter.
This is really surprising to me. For most of my teaching career I thought I would put in my 30 years, retire, and then move on to something else. Safe. Easy. And it comes with a great pension. Sometimes life requires more risk than that. Becoming an inquiry teacher, I’ve learned to take risks. Not necessarily not to be afraid, but to keep going despite the fear. I want to do something innovative that pushes the edge, where I can collaborate, take risks, have things fall apart & then figure out how to make it work. I’ve come to the conclusion that a change of this nature will probably require my family to move, most likely out of the province. I’ve lived here my entire life, which leads to the next lesson.
I’m okay with the ambiguity & the mess. I don’t know all the details. A couple of years ago that would’ve freaked me out. But one of the great things about teaching in an inquiry classroom is that you never know what’s going to happen. On the flip side, one of the scary things about teaching in an inquiry classroom is that you never know what’s going to happen. I’ve learned to roll with the punches, to improvise, to problem-solve when things get messy and the path seems unclear.
And at this point, that’s all I know.