Education: the heart of it

These are tricky times in education. Educators are faced with funding arguments and uncertainty, accreditation systems lacking coordination, upheaval in the government sector and confusion about employment prospects for new graduates. A career as an educator is one often met with ridicule from the media, lack of respect from the community and a barrage of blame statements from society. Despite all that, beyond the policy arguments, shifting priorities and increasing scrutiny there is absolutely no other job I would rather do. None. Not a single one.

I say this as a fairly experienced teacher, having taught for 12 years now, half in London and half in Sydney, in a range of schools and in a range of roles. This week, it struck home to me just how much I care about my job. It was the first day of the school holidays, where was I? At school, not alone, but with my colleagues, preparing for next term’s learning. There we were, sitting at the computers every so often saying to each other, “I’m really excited about this.”, or “I can’t wait to do this activity.”, or “What do you think about trying this?”. No one made us go into work, we care about what we do and believe in the potential of education, it makes it worth it.

Change can be challenging. It can be confronting. It can mean the end of things you like, or understand, or feel comfortable using. For me change is what I love about education. Change is at the heart of what we do and what we seek to do. Education is change: change in understanding, perceptions, ideas and lives. I can’t remember a term (or a week, or a lesson) where I haven’t changed what I intended to do. I’ve changed my lesson structure or activity in response to student interest or needs. I’ve changed my strategies for classroom management. I’ve changed the way my desks are organised, the technology I use, the questions I ask, the groups I organise for students, the texts I read, the materials I provide and so much more. Sometimes these changes work well, sometimes they don’t, but regardless of that, learning has happened, I’ve learnt, the students have learnt and my colleagues have learnt.

At the moment I’m learning about Project Based Learning. I’m thinking about what student engagement looks like and how I can maximise that. I’m reading, I’m watching videos, I’m asking questions, I’m talking to people and I’m trying things out. I’m excited. How many other careers give you this freedom? The freedom to take charge of your practice, to try new things and to change. This is what excites me about education, this freedom and the potential it holds. The potential for change, change in me, in students and my school community. What a privilege.

A quote from a book I’m reading at the moment struck a chord with me today. Agnes is a librarian in Zambia. The author asked her how she copes with all the difficulties she faces and asks “…isn’t that a challenge for you?”. Agnes’s response was “Yes, it can be challenging. But when you love something, when you love something, you do it with all your heart, all of your passion, and all of your energy.” (Wood J, 2012, Room To Read, p47).

While the challenges I face may be different to those Agnes encounters, her belief in the power of education resonates. I know of no other way to be an educator other than wholeheartedly, passionately and with love. Why would I want to do anything else?

What do you say when people ask why you are an educator? What’s at the heart of it for you?

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