“Truth without hope is failure; but hope without truth is fantasy.”
– Mike Johnston, Colorado State Senator, Education Reformer, & Great Person
Recently, I have been thinking about the tension that comes from teaching in what is clearly a broken system. It is so easy to focus on those problems that seem to cripple our progress because they are real, in-our-faces obstacles. There came a point in my career when I had to chose to continue to love teaching. It wasn’t a natural feeling or a made-for-a-cheese-ball-TV-drama-about-teaching moment. I remember thinking: “OK, a lot about my situation sucks and is hard. But regardless of what the future holds for me, today I am a teacher and the children who have been put in my care deserve to spend an hour with someone who is grateful to be there.” It is amazing how effective “faking it till you make it” can be.
I met Colorado State Senator Mike Johnston three years ago at NBC’s Education Nation and heard him say the quote above this past fall. This quote works well to describe the relationship between our faith in our students’ abilities and the data we collect on their academic performance (ex. “I know my students have what it takes pass this AP test but right now only 8% would score higher than 5/9 points on the DBQ.”). As teachers, the importance of constantly maintaining hope but then doggedly fleshing out the detailed truth or reality for our students – and sharing it with them – is often difficult and exhausting. It means giving and grading meaningful assessments regularly (daily?) as well as communicating current reality and a plan for progress in the same breath.
So if you had a crappy January, here is a virtual hug. It will be hard but February will be better and March will be even better. This week on The Sacred Profession look for a new classroom tour (yeah!), a book review, tips for celebrating Black History Month, and a first-hand report on what is happening in the Memphis education world – woot!