Stepping into Uncertainty guest post by David Shang
Updated: Jun 18
That’s teaching, isn’t it? Planning the “best” lesson, project, guest speaker, field trip, etc...then the fire alarm goes off. Flexibility and creative problem solving are entwined with teaching. Whether in a classroom for a month or 30 years, it’s part of the “job”.
However, what happens when everything we think we know in our school, community, country, and the world, turns upside down? I hope we can give thanks for what we have, enjoy and rest in the memories of a time gone by, and look ahead with anticipation. The following paragraphs are a compilation of many years of people and values that have shaped my life as a person and educator. I hope you find them helpful and hopeful.
Breathe...a calming technique I’ve witnessed in many classrooms and implemented in my own. In the chaos of life and a classroom, an effective, immediate action is to breathe, give thanks, and grow in patience. In any given situation, I cannot give what I do not have. As educators, we desire much for our students. There is content, null, hidden, and life “curriculum” that we utilize in shaping the hearts and minds of students. How can we model justice, share kindness, encourage critical thinking, and equip students to remember their project due date when our minds run a million miles a minute? Pause and give thanks for this very moment. I believe teaching begins with how educators respond in the moment...not in the pre-planned lessons. When our district switched to distance learning, plans for “normal” teaching went out the window. Information and swelling emotions bombarded the world, my colleagues, and myself. And I took my franticness and placed that on my students. I justified all the assignments I was recording and posting on Google Classroom as a means of “maintaining structure” for the students. And I do hope it benefitted a few kids. After about two weeks of continual “task mode”, I received a message from a student. It began with “I’m scared…” The student expressed concerns and fears for herself, family, friends, and future. Her courage to share caused me to pause. To rethink, what am I doing? How am I caring well for all my students and cultivating life-long learners? Her message reminded me of the great privilege I have in educating my students, and the reason I teach. I’m grateful for my kiddos. That is my focus and I desire to find contentment in caring for them well and teaching the best I can, even if it doesn’t look the same as a colleague's or the district’s model. This allows me the freedom for patience as I am not and cannot be the “perfect” teacher. I fail in many ways and am thankful for fellow educators with strengths greater than mine, who also invest in the lives of these kids.
These moments of pause, thankfulness, and patience induce reflection. Although it is easier to identify areas of weakness, reflection offers the opportunity to acknowledge growth and delight in past moments. As I desire growth for my students, I also have to identify growth in my own life. I encourage all to journal, take pictures, and constantly reflect. Reflect on good days, bad days, epiphanies, and stretches of doubt. Identify the “aha” moments in your life, just as you hope your students remember their “A-HA”. If you have not already done so, write/reread your mission statement. Why do you teach?
I implore you to write a detailed and explicit statement, as well as, a short one sentence “call-to-arms”. In education, these will aid in persevering and sometimes laughing with joy through difficult years. I believe that good is found even in the darkest of times. My reflections look like journals and Google Docs filled with thoughts from various points in life, as well as, notes from students and colleagues. I hit a “wall” at the beginning of this year and struggled to give thanks and extend patience to my class and myself. A colleague reminded me to look back on past moments. I happened upon a note from a student last year. It reminded me of my purpose in going to school each day and gave me the inspiration to go on at least another day. The student wrote, “Thank you for teaching me not only science but also how to live.”
Gratitude and reflection offer support in stepping into the future with hope. As we desire our students to be challenged and uncomfortable at times during learning, let us also stretch ourselves as educators. Try, fail, and learn. Let’s grow in content, strategies, technology, and methods. And let’s grow together. Teachers can be awesome on their own, but so much more together. May we grow into our strengths and deficiencies so we can model for our students something greater…hope.
Life is changing so much. To a certain level, that is an understatement. Fear, anger, dissension, loneliness, grief, love, contentment, gratitude, joy, and hope pervade the world. The question is, what will consume us? As we prepare, lesson plan, read, learn, and enter into the unknown, no Frozen pun intended :), what’s most important? As CJ Reynolds puts well, let’s remember that “relationships are KING!”
Amidst much heartache in this confusing world, I’m learning what it means to give thanks and find moments of delight. I hope that in the coming days you will grow in learning something similar. Why do I teach? In a nutshell, to give second, third, fourth, etc… chances. I teach to share hope.
As you write/revise your mission statement, I encourage you to also write a “mission statement” for your students.
Below is the most recent revision of hopes for my kiddos.
How I hope you leave room 203...
First, you would leave this place knowing you have a home. You were heard, cared for, and loved in this classroom, and will always have a place to come back to. Second, that you would be curious and want to know more about the world and the people around you. I hope to foster a longing for learning and questioning in each of you. Lastly, you would share your excitement about the things you learned in this class with others by caring and serving people (and this world) well.
A bit about David
Hi, I’m David Shang. Thanks for reading this; I hope you found it beneficial! I teach 6th-grade science and am looking forward to entering my third year in Culpeper, VA this fall. I’m an educator learning with students to serve and care for others well and to delight in life!
YouTube: David Shang