On my morning commute, my husband and I recently listened to a podcast from 21stCL Radio. It featured Glenn Chickering — one of the founders and Upper School Principal at the Green School in Bali. In the podcast Glenn begins talking about art and passion and how this relates to learning and education. He shares that at Green School they ask students, “What is it that you focus on and are so into that the rest doesn’t matter” (Chickering, 2016).
Upon hearing this, I literally began to cry.
Tears. Actual tears.
Not sad tears, mind you. Inspired tears. Tears that reminded me to reflect. Tears that reminded me that in the messiness of transitioning — to a new school, a new job, a new approach to counseling — I have not taken time to reflect and remember what it is that drives me in education. I have been so lost in figuring out new systems and how I fit in them that I forgot to reclaim my passion and remember what drives me to education. What is my focus? What parts of my career can I get so lost in that “the rest doesn’t matter?”
Instantly in my mind I asked myself, “In education, what makes me buzz? What makes me zing?”
The rest of the commute was my husband and I sharing back and forth about reclaiming our zing — connecting with the parts of education where we often become so focused that the rest of the world falls away. Or, as we call it in our house, the parts we can “geek out” on for hours and feel energized afterwards instead of exhausted.
And, when I arrived to work, I quickly jotted down my list of “Things that make me zing.”
Zing 1: Innovating and creating. Looking at current ways things are done, taught, scheduled, planned, facilitated and always asking, “How could we make that better?” “How can we make things more student-centered?” “How do we shift the educational paradigm and leave antiquated systems behind?” “How can I, as an individual, innovate to make school a more meaningful, relevant, and modern system for all stakeholders?” The possibilities are endless, if we only let ourselves go down the path. I am happiest on that path …
Zing 2: Facilitating student learning opportunities that allow students to do the heavy lifting and make their own meaning. No worksheets. No Pinterest. No TPT. No standing at the front of the class talking at. Inquiry. Visible Thinking. Simulations. Play and movement. Mindfulness. Being in nature. These are more authentic learning opportunities for any learner. I never get tired thinking of ways to help students unpack their own experiences for authentic learning. It drives me.
Zing 3: Building authentic relationships with students. Getting to know each student and develop a unique relationship with her/him is why I love education and counseling. Being able to play together, inquire together, learn together, and take risks together never gets old. Sharing who I am and taking time to learn who the student is creates a lasting rapport. I meet each child where he/she is at knowing that they will do the same for me. The more challenging it is to build a relationship, the more I enjoy it. It becomes like a puzzle to figure out exactly is what drives that individual and how to build mutual trust. When the relationship breakthrough comes there is no better feeling.
Zing 4: Professional learning. Designing it. Facilitating it. Doing it. As a lifelong learner, to be able to get lost in learning opportunities is pure joy. Being in a community of adult learners who are open and willing to learn new ways of doing or thinking is amazing. Being in a community of learners who then takes their learning and puts it into action — even better. I love nothing more than reading, sharing, and dialoguing about an educational text, idea, or philosophy. My poor co-workers probably dread it when I start a sentence with, “I just read an article where…” For me, though, it never gets old.
Zing 5: Giving students back their voice. Students are knowledgeable, caring, conscientious individuals who, I believe, carry what they need within them. They might need support, strategies, or practice in making sense of their needs, ideas, beliefs, and behaviors but they can do it. I do not believe that students need adults who tell, direct, demand, or belittle students. I believe students need adults who question, respect, guide, support, provide meaningful feedback, and listen. That is why I try, at every opportunity, to turn the choices, decisions, and conversation back to the students. Because the more we have to unpack our own thinking and actions, the more we understand who we are now and who we want to become.
As I thought about my zing list and the parts of education where I get so lost that I forget I am working, I cannot help but feel inspired. I am inspired to reflect on my list daily as I move through a new job and figure out who I am in a new educational system. As long as I am able to practice my passions daily and apply them in my new post, I know that I will be okay. The rest won’t matter.
What would be on your “zing” list?
What parts of education can you get so lost in that the rest doesn’t matter?
How do you make time to get lost in your passions?
Boll, Michael (Producer). (2016, October 3). 2stCLRadio [Audio Podcast]. Retrieved from http://21clradio.com