Tuesday, July 5, 2011
Reading the Educational River
Yesterday my husband Marco and I ventured out before the heat of the day to kayak a quiet stretch of the Lumber River. It’s a beautiful, shady river that winds its way through rural North Carolina, and the current is swift enough to offer a challenge without being dangerous.
One thing I love about kayaking is that within moments of sliding my kayak into the water, my stress levels drop to zero and my creative energies begin to flow. There’s something about the quiet stillness of the morning and the water swirling around my paddle that frees my thoughts to wander.
Yesterday I reflected on how each kayaking trip is a new adventure. After heavy rains, the water is high and flows over every sandbar, stump, or fallen log. Kayaking in high water takes energy, but it’s not difficult to make progress, even padding upstream.
However, when the water is low, navigating the river takes skill and finesse rather than muscle power. You have to work hard, but it’s a different kind of work. You’ve got to read the river and anticipate obstacles lurking beneath the surface. It’s trickier, but successfully navigating the river when it’s low is far more interesting and rewarding than when the water is high.
As I paddled along yesterday, my thoughts began meandering like the lazy river. Always seeking connections, I reflected on how kayaking is like teaching. When the educational funding flows freely and our students are motivated, we have to work hard but it’s not difficult to make progress. If we put in the time and energy, we’ll see results.
Not so in a down economy or when we have difficult students. When the money isn't flowing or we lack support and resources, the challenges are much greater. Working harder won't necessarily yield results - we have to "read the river" to figure out what our students need and how to make sure their needs are met. Creative thinking trumps time and energy when times are tough. Making progress is more difficult, but it's also more rewarding.
As I pondered the mysteries of teaching and kayaking, my thoughts drifted to my own teaching career. Last September, after 29 years of teaching, I retired from the classroom with plans to return full time this August. I love working with kids and wasn't ready to retire for good, but I was overwhelmed in my roles as teacher, author, and webmaster of Teaching Resources.
Unfortunately, due to the current economic situation, it looks like I won't be returning to the classroom this fall as planned. I have mixed feelings about this turn of events because I really miss working directly with students. However, I've "read my own river" and the signs are pretty clear for the 2011 - 2012 school year.
I believe that one day I'll be back in the classroom, but for now I'll focus on making a difference in other ways. I have to admit that I'll have more time to create new teaching resources, and I'll have time to collaborate with educators through webinars and workshops. I'll be able to finish my current book project and start a new one. I'm an avid reader, so I'll definitely devote more time to my neglected Kindle library. Best of all, Marco and I will have a little more time for kayaking! Life is good!