I got to the school early enough that it was still quiet. Sandra caught me in the hallway.
“Stacey, you have to come and see the teacher’s workroom!” She was thrilled at the thought that I would enjoy seeing this freshly renovated room that we had shared for so many years. I was snagged. Then the next invitation was issued almost before I caught my breath from the first one.
“Did you see what was on the table of the Teacher’s Lounge?”
“No. I just got here.”
Sandra then waltzed me in to the teacher’s lounge to show me the copies she had made of one of my blog posts, “What students wish their teachers knew”. “Stacey, I think this post really captured the essence of our students so well. I thought everyone on staff should take a read. It is so easy to over-look the hidden issues our students bring with them to school and to simply judge them by face value. We need to be gentle with our students and understand them.” Sandra got it.
“Wait until you see my students’ craft tables!” And off we walked into her art room. Sandra showed me all the beautiful and creative wonders of her students. There were crowns made from tin lids of cans, amulets made from mirrors, and a mountain of other trinkets manufactured from a mountain of other recycled and reclaimed materials.
“Aren’t they just spectacular, Stacey?” Sandra asked me with great pride.
In fact, they were. I am always so impressed with what Sandra can imagine and dream up. What was more clear than the creative prowess of the students, however, was the down-right passion and pride that Sandra had for her students.
“Stacey, I am so excited that I don’t sleep at night. I keep thinking to myself, I can’t keep this up! At this rate I’ll be coo-coo!”
She and I then left to find “Anne” in her math class. She was busy preparing for the day, but was still anxious to go for coffee with Sandra and I. “I’ll just drop these off at the photo-copy machine before we leave.” Off she went. Soon thereafter, Anne rejoined us in the hallway leading to our favorite little coffee kiosk. Anne was clearly anxious about something.
“Maybe I can pick your brains about how to deal with a situation that unfolded in class yesterday?” She continued. “It was really upsetting and I’d like your opinions about it, if you don’t mind.” As it turns out, it had been a case of a student who had troubles controlling her emotions and had an out-burst during class. This was not a situation that was a-typical. It has always been the case that our students were far more intelligent when it came to curriculum, then when it came to emotions. I guess that is why Daniel Goleman’s emotion intelligence was always something of a “mandatory” lesson for me during class. Anne was visibly upset, though, when she was talking about the altercation of the previous day. She, like Sandra, lost sleep that night just thinking about school. Over coffee, we brainstormed some potential solutions to the issue. I think, by the time our coffee was over, Anne had discovered the solution that would best serve her student and her class and it had nothing to do with math. It seemed a weight had been lifted off her shoulders and she was ready to get back in the game. Refocus.
We were a team that morning as we had been a team for so many years. We were a community of teachers supporting each other’s successes and challenges. We bragged to each other and we cried on each other’s shoulders. We were stronger together. We were each other’s rocks.
I had been included in that. I belonged. I felt so honoured – I felt I had meaning and that I had not been forgotten.
I couldn’t help but think about how lucky all those other young teachers at the school were to have such strong mentors in education. I hoped they knew that. I hoped they knew what great resources were at their fingertips. I hope they had asked for help from these strong role models. I hadn’t seen any of them that morning in the hallway. They were not on that early coffee run down the hall. As I walked out of the school, however, I saw a few of them in their classrooms chatting with students. Clearly, theses young teachers had developed a good rapport with their classes. I’m sure they were good at their jobs. I wondered, though, who they were sharing their celebrations of success with? Who they were seeking input from for the challenges they faced in the classroom? I would have loved to listen to them brag about their students the way Sandra had that morning. I would have loved to have them seek input from me about issues that may have cropped up the way Anne had that morning too. Sharing the highs and lows is not only good for students, but it also good for teachers.
There is power in community. There is power in collegiality.
Learning, in isolation, is stagnating.
Learning, in community, knows no limits.