So fellow travelers, here we are on the beach staring down this big wave of change in education.
Eye witnesses say the first sign of a massive tsunami is “drawback,” a surreal super low “tide” effect, as the water is pulled far out off shore. It is often the only warning of the incoming super wave. One sees this in a more benign state when there are big waves at the beach. Word to the wise, if you find yourself standing on a beach and see drawback, run for the highest ground you can get to. For me right now, running is not an option.
Which brings me back to my current vantage point at work.
Here’s the background: I am primarily assigned to work in a 12:1:1 program; its name refers to the ratio of students (12) to instructor (1) and teaching assistant (1). Ours are the students who are “mainstreamed,” meaning they attend high school, but have a modified curriculum because of their disabilities (autism, downs syndrome, MS, etc.) I love my job and thoroughly enjoy working with “our kids.” Every day one of them says or does something that makes us smile because it shows we are helping them navigate life skills they will need once they exit our program. Even though our students do not receive a high school diploma they can and often do walk the stage at graduation when they “exit” our program. Very, very cool .
Recent scheduling changes have pulled some of our staff out of the modified program several times a day to provide added “push-in” support for resource classes left short handed by deep budget cuts. In this setting we work with students with diagnosed learning disabilities (dyslexia, dysgraphia, dyscalculia, auditory or visual processing disorders, etc.) On any given day I may be called to read a test, scribe answers on a worksheet or reteach class notes on any subject taught at the high school. I don’t mind the changes in my schedule in fact I thrive on the diversity within my day. Teachers are wonderful people to work with because most of them are dedicated and passionate about what they do.
Only that’s not the prevailing atmosphere anymore. Very few educators enjoy their work because they are frustrated by reforms intended to “improve education” which actually prevent them from doing what they do best: teaching our kids. Not one person pushing these reforms in our state has ever worked professionally in an elementary or secondary school classroom, but still claim to know not only what but also how students should be taught. Many of the comments posted with my last entry indicate this experience is widespread. Several people said it framed their recent decisions to either leave the profession or retire early, a trend that is both disheartening and disconcerting.
Educators are trying to push back and raise public awareness, parents are beginning to wake up to the need to get involved. I lend my support and voice where I can at meetings, in parent conferences and even online, an arena I usually avoid. Still by the time the tide has turned, I will be long gone from the system. As I said in my previous post, I am not used to feeling so ineffective or hopeless.
So I turn to my creative life, the one I live after hours to keep my spirit alive. The zentangles I create during my down time in the work day, the bits of poetry that rise to my consciousness sparked by a seemingly random moment, the photo walks I take on weekends and days off, these are the surfboards keeping me afloat. But I want to do more than just cling to that surfboard trying to stay afloat as the tsunami roars in. So I come to the Creative Group at Bedlam Farm to hone the skills I need to ride the waves of life. It is a haven of encouragement for experimentation and creative growth, a community built on a foundation of genuine trust where negativity is not tolerated. It has become an essential part of my journey.
Our CGBF mentor Jon Katz once wrote “Encouragement is an ideology, a philosophy. It holds we all hold creative sparks – creativity, ambition, achievement, love. Nobody gets to decide who we are, that is our mission, our sacred tasks....we live in two worlds, the world we seek, the world we have, and we are forever balancing these two….In the creative life, there are always obstacles….money, distractions, obligations, fears. In the spiritual life, reality is always (intruding) on the search for peace and constancy. But the core of it is this – our work, our aspirations are our identity, our voice to the world. They are not things that others can give or take away. Only we can do that.”
I may be riding out a storm in one career, but I am paddling like crazy towards my future.
Canon Beach, Oregon July 2014 The beginning of my Left Coast Dreams.
Postscript: The day after I published this series I came across these lines which sum up in a way I wasn’t quite able to what I sense has been the “purpose” of recent doubts.
“Because I have questions and doubt, I am allowing myself to see and appreciate the shadows. And I choose to accept the reality of the light in the cave that is my reality, not the shadows that try to fool me. That thin line between hope and doubt is the ability to see past the cynicism to find the Truth in the Light.” posted Feb 15 on the wordpress blog The Dragonfly’s Student
Walk gently on the path my friends and may adventure find you ready.