The courage to be imperfect

“Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes.

Art is knowing which ones to keep.”

~Scott Adams

Educators and staff in my community start the new school year tomorrow. And as they do, there will be the usual pressure to be perfect. Perfect in pedagogy, perfect in understanding students, perfect in everything that has to do with school, in the finger-pointing education environment under which we teach and learn.

Does it seem as if somehow no one in public education is allowed a misstep?  I think so; and I think that toxic expectation of perfection can interfere with the art of teaching.

In teaching, there is an underlying expectation that all should go according to plan without stumbling or error. This is an unrealistic expectation, and it creates an environment of canned, scripted and safe lessons that do not necessarily serve students. Unrealistic expectations of flawless lessons create an impediment to teaching creatively.  As any experienced educator can attest, every day there will be moments when all goes smoothly, and moments when nothing does. This is to be expected. Teaching is an art filled with glorious highs and magnificent lows; sometimes this takes place within the same 60 minutes.

As you all return to school and to the important work of creating a community of learners, I urge you to embrace both creativity and the mistakes that are inevitable.

Do the research. Read professionally. Participate in discussions with colleagues. Take chances. Take advantage of opportunities for creativity in teaching and learning. Teaching is an art and you, my friends, are the creatives.


Education: What is Equity?

IMG_1532Ludlow Superintendent Todd Gazda posed this question in a recent Commonwealth Magazine article:  What is equity?  Because, as Dr. Gazda points out, current education policy tends toward equalizing education for all students with standardized curriculums proven by standardized assessment and incentivized “business systems” for implementation.

Equity, like fairness, is not treating every student the same, but rather focuses on giving every student what they need. – Todd Gazda, Commonwealth Magazine

Any educator who has worked for a nanosecond in a classroom knows the truth of that quote. Twenty-five inquiring minds can, at any point in a school day, need twenty-five different things. One may need teacher to soothe a physical hurt. Or another may not have eaten since the last school day. And another may have witnessed a domestic assault at home.

How do you suppose each of these children might engage in learning? Would they be able to engage in the instruction in the same way? Would they have mastered the content objective for the day?  No, equity is not treating each child the same.

Which is why teaching, to me, is not a science that can be boiled down to a set of steps that everyone anyone can do; it is an art. We can expect our students to work and master content. We can hold students to high expectations and have faith and confidence that they will soar. But we should not expect our children to do this in lockstep.

Equity in teaching is taking children where they are, determining what is needed to move ahead, and giving each the supports they need to get there, no matter how long it may take to do so.

Our state and national leaders need to have the courage to allow educators to educate all students. With equity.