Duality, Complexity, and the Tension of Teaching

by | Aug 27, 2018

Teachers are complex beings.

They are living breathing conundrums.
Paradoxes at the height of productivity.
Enigmas with essential tasks.
Marvelous mysteries wrapped in cloaks of contradiction.

Teachers possess a duality that rivals the sun and moon. Yet, often we feel the need to hide the beautifully flawed humanity inside us all, but not today. Today we break down the dualism for all to see. Today, we expose the truth.

The Promise of a New School Year

These complexities are perhaps most apparent at the beginning of the school year.

Many of you started back with students in your room last week, many more of you will in the weeks to come. It’s that time of year. Nearly September. The crisp fall air will soon rush in to replace our humid summer days with busy evenings spent grading and planning. It’s time to say goodbye to break and hello to a new school year.

With each school year comes with it a complexity that tugs at the heartstrings of many teachers. We can’t stand to say goodbye to our summers. It’s hard no matter how you spent your summers. Whether you felt the freedom to do what you wanted, traveled and saw new places, took classes to renew your license and found new comradery or methodology, spent quality time with family or with yourself – it’s not easy to say goodbye to summer.

And while this is true, so are those butterflies that you feel in your stomach when the back to school sales start. The tinge of excitement you get when you see the letter from school arrives welcoming everyone back. The smell of a freshly waxed floor greeting you at your classroom’s entrance. It’s been a summer lacking routine, lacking the “a-ha’s” and the student smiles and you miss it. At least part of you does.

Duality in Educators

So yes, you can both grieve the passing of summer and be excited for the start of the school year. You can both dread the start of the school year and be ready for summer to be over. You can want to meet your new students and not want to leave your bed. You can be both those things – you are both those things, this is the duality of teaching.

Although apparent at the start of a new school year – this is nowhere near where the dualities of teaching end.

The Tension of Teaching

We feel it every day, in the fact that we can love what we do and be swallowed up by it at the same time.  We want what’s best for our students and sometimes have our hands tied to do what we know we need to. It’ll always be there – the tug to go “all in”every day and the need to find balance with our own life. We can feel like we are never doing what’s right because saying “yes” to one opportunity means saying “no” to another. This is the reality of teaching.

Here is the truth:

Teachers are human.

You may be thinking, “well obviously”, but to students, to parents, to many stakeholders and onlookers there are other expectations. We have great responsibility, we feel the weight of our decisions and do not take our roles lightly. This is why teachers stay up late worrying about students, lug heavy bags of school work home each night, go in early, stay late, and go the extra mile. We know what rests on our shoulders and we signed up for it.

And, it’s okay to have a bad day and know we are fulfilling our purpose. You can make a mistake in front of a class and still know your stuff. You can take care of yourself, your family, and your needs and also care deeply about your students.

Despite litigious leanings. Without regard for data-driven evaluations. Paying no attention to the man behind the curtain.  We are sinking and swimming, thriving and dying, joyful and stressed complexities and we are education today.

If you are interested in more check out the Joy in Teaching book by clicking right here.

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