Thursday, December 18, 2014

Returning to the Source

It's a pretty fair bet that very few people pursue a career in teaching because of high-stakes standardized testing. Ironically, though, such tests are the dominant reality today in public school teaching and learning. It's more likely that people go into teaching because of love — of subject matter, of young people and their potential, and for the process of learning itself.

Through my professional work I know the education scholars A. G. Rud and Jim Garrison, who edited a great book called Teaching With Reverence: Reviving An Ancient Virtue for Today's Schools. In the intro to the book they address the teachers who struggle with today's draconian educational environment.
Listen to the public rhetoric about schools and it becomes clear that the public ignores many things teachers find personally meaningful. When you listen to good teachers talk about their call to teach, the ideals that attract them, and the passions that sustain them, they almost always employ a rich moral and aesthetic vocabulary that is profoundly at odds with public discourse. Before reading further, we urge you to pause and recall what first attracted you to teaching. Seek those words within that allow you to give voice to your vocation. We believe it will open the door to an intuitive feeling for what it means to teach with reverence.
Returning to the source of your love is great advice that transcends teaching. Daisaku Ikeda has written that when you reach an impasse in life it's wise to return to your beginnings and reconstruct your path with the passion that may have been lost along the way. I certainly found that to be true professionally. A number of years ago I was struggling with finding the right employment. I didn't like the work settings where I had ended up, and well, they didn't like me much either: lose-lose. Working with a job coach I returned to the ideals and expertise that had informed my work as a graduate student studying theology and education. When those ideals and that knowledge started to blossom in me again, I was poised to do the work that I'm good at and love when the right opportunity came along. Now, those ideals burn brighter than ever, and I do consider my vocation, at long last and after so many years, with reverence. To be clear: This wasn't a magic process. There was luck involved in everything coming together just right. But I would not have ever arrived here without a return to the source.

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