New Year's Resolution
It's a new (academic) year. Time for a resolution! I know. New Year's resolutions are a waste of time. Who keeps them? They serve only to assuage guilt and fool us into thinking we'll actually change.
But change is a worthy goal, especially if it's change that will reduce suffering, our own and others'. And my work is dedicated to reducing suffering, first in teachers and then (when teachers feel better) in students.
So here's my New (Academic) Year's Resolution: to post teacher stories on this very blog that illustrate how teachers can reduce their own (and, by extension, their students') suffering.
This resolution is very important to me. In an age of increasing awareness of racism, mental illness, poverty, and other ills that severely handicap learners coupled with bizarrely irrelevant pressures on teachers to raise test scores, suffering in schools abounds. I know not everyone is hurting all the time; I know many people don't feel their suffering or see suffering in others; I know the words "suffering" and "school" don't seem to go together. But suffering is happening nonetheless.
It's happening in schools where dark-skinned children are separated from white-skinned children and forced to learn with much less. It's happening in schools where children sit in class while their stomachs rumble or their teeth ache. It happens inside the heads of children whose parents fought violently last night or were too busy or preoccupied or self-absorbed to see anyone clearly, least of all themselves and certainly not their growing children. It happens inside teachers when they feel they haven't reached a student or that they have messed up with a student or that they are fed up and have nothing left to give a student. It happens in a most unbearable way as a teacher approaches burnout.
I want teachers' suffering to be addressed and palliated. Most importantly, I want teachers to learn how to utilize their emotions to figure out what is going on relationally with their students (and others) so as to re-align with them. I want schools to be places of healing, where relationships between teachers and students and among students form the proper bedrock for growth and development.
I want teachers to have the support they need to be healthy developmental partners for their students. I want it because that's what education is: development. And if our students' development is hampered by suffering, by senseless, needless, preventable suffering, they will grow to be contorted, and their skills and talents will lie hidden or will be channeled into self- and other-destructive acts.
This outcome is, to me, morally reprehensible. It is utterly unacceptable.
And so I resolve to do what I can here on this blog and in my face-to-face interactions with teachers to help them reduce their suffering by facing it and learning from it and then passing on their compassion and understanding to their students, thereby reducing their students' suffering. It is, I believe, the most important work I can do.*
What is your New (Academic) Year's Resolution? What do you think of mine?
*That and being a good-enough mother.