Education & School

The best teachers stay focused. Focusing seems easy but It is far more easy to get distracted, and in the education world there can be plenty of distractions. The largest distraction, I have found,  is it seems everyone chatters on about school. Rightfully so, school is constantly being fought over and fought for for better or worse. Yet, amongst all the chatter teachers have forgotten, conceptually, education and school are very separate things. If we can learn to separate education and school perhaps it will allow teachers to help keep that ever needed focus. Let’s unpack these words. Let’s start with education. To be clear, Education is not confined to the classroom a lone. Education is an experience or journey. Education is not only understanding the periodic table of elements. It can be anything from a walk down the street to hiking Kilimanjaro. It can be having and raising children or watching your older brother take care of a hermit crab (or in my case, a rat). Education is conversations, debates, games, surprises, tears and laughter; the memories of all of these things and most importantly the memories of each other, the memories and the narratives of our connection to one another. But what is the goal of experience? Can we give it a goal. Let's try. When you boil down the human journey, what do we all want? Belonging and Comfort. It is no secret we all want to feel comfortable. It is built into a human being’s hard wiring. Comfort gives us a sense and feeling of protection and safety. However, comfort is not static. As life goes. Our concepts of comfort constantly change as the world and our environments change; as we change.  If our perception of comfort must change then those of us most comfortable, understand we must become uncomfortable to continue and find comfort. This is why we create experiences. The more experiences we can have, the more we come to understand our world. When we come to understand our world more there is far more opportunity to feel safer, and with safety comes comfort.  In my understanding, finding comfort is a core value in happiness. Education, held within an ideal school system, attempts to generate experience after experience to help us understand the world that we will participate in.  We are constantly surrounded by educational moments. A teacher’s job is not only to create, and facilitate these moments, but highlight these moments. If we can be conscious of what we experienced, we can begin to better understand our world so we may work toward comfort and happiness.

School, on the other hand, is a building. School is the framework, or a system for education to take place. School is a series of laws and regulations that holds space for education to happen. What is the goal of school? Well, in my opinion it has the same goals as education: Comfort or safety and happiness. Schools want to create a safe and happy environment for the teacher and students so they may go about having their experiences. Yes, very often it may not feel that way. But for the sake of this Seed, let’s not be cynical and assume that the administrators and policy makers who run the schools know safety and happiness are their goals. We see time and time again that school administrators have one foot in the school, trying to nurture education, and one foot in state laws, board, and owner mandates. School administrators are consistently trying to figure out how to navigate fiscal challenges and implement new standards and practices that have been passed on by the powers that be. Those of us who administrate our school systems are constantly trying to play catch up. Culture changes quickly, laws change slowly, and only then do schools change (and this is ideal). Our systems and structures, large and small, are always playing catch up to our rapidly changing culture, and the school systems tend to be behind. Now to be clear, many systems do this wonderfully! There is a secure balance between education and school in many areas. What’s lovely is there are many systems that are wonderful examples. But not all systems can say as much. While schools attempt figure out the new mandate passed down by the state or powers that be, while schools wait for the money to come in, while schools wait for that new principal in a school that can't seem to keep one, educational experiences are still needed. Students still need help understanding the world. In many places, education can take a serious hit as it waits for the ‘frame-work’ of school to get its act together.

These two definitions are important because teachers feel they often have no control. The school’s struggle to keep up can get in the way of education and teachers often suffer. It's no surprise that when teachers suffer, their students can as well. So while those of us who are running our systems valiantly try to figure out what to do with the school part, the one thing teachers can do is figure out the educate part. Within the world of ever-changing curricula and ever-changing laws, teachers need to remember the basics and realize  that they still have an ace up their sleeve. They are human. This is often a term reserved for what we say when we fail. "Hey, I'm human." Yet, we must remember being human is an extremely powerful thing to be as well, particularly in education. Above all of the noise we teachers still have the ability to connect with the student and create change. Human connection is our most valuable resource. At the end of the day it is a teacher’s connection with the students that helps propel change the most. In the direst of circumstances, if a student sees someone who is honest, open, confident, and compassionate, there is the chance for change. What is wonderful is this resource doesn't have to be mined or fished for. Human connection just has to be practiced. In a complicated world, it is okay to simplify, and the teacher must remember that all they must do is find a way to connect with other people, create experiences, and empower the people they are creating experiences for. We must teach like crazy. We must teach like we have never taught before.