Sunday, January 4, 2015

The Right Thing is Not Always the Easiest

Ever heard this before:
"What is the right thing to do isn't always the easiest thing to do." 
Or some version of that type of saying?

I feel that this is a lesson we teach our students as they travel through our classrooms- teaching them to have courage, to stand up for themselves and for one another, to do the right thing even when it is hard. I know that I say things like this at least weekly, if not daily- and sometimes choosing the right thing to do is super difficult and it takes a lot of self control, perseverance, and understanding on one's part. These are things that we as educators should be teaching and empowering children to be able to do on their own, so that when the time comes and they are alone with a choice to make, they can make the right one.

However, I don't think this life lesson is one that needs to be forgotten as an adult, especially in the teaching profession.

A buzzword and common practice among educators today is collaboration. Collaboration is a beautiful thing that, if done well, can make the phrase "two heads are better than one" come to life. I had the pleasure of collaborating with an incredible colleague for 4 years at my past school, and it was a joy and immense opportunity for growth and learning to have someone next door to me to reflect daily with, share ideas with, bounce lessons off of one another with, share struggles and triumphs with. I know that because of the time spent putting our heads together I became a better teacher for my students, and we took our learning experiences farther than I could have on my own.

This being said, collaboration is a thrilling process that can result in brilliance, and is something that I miss this year being on my own little island. (I teach a self-contained class of highly gifted and talented first graders, and it is the only class of its kind in my district). However, collaboration is only worthwhile when it is done well. Collaboration is only true, worthwhile collaboration when members involved leave with new knowledge/understanding, a task to try, or learning of their own that they only could gain by the practice of respectfully sharing and creating new ideas with others. Collaboration is when every member of the group respectfully contributes meaning and experience to the task or discussion at hand, where ideas and thoughts of members are heard and respected by other members, where any existing problems are solved and solutions are created. Together.

How unfortunate it is when collaboration takes a wrong turn and a teacher's voice is silenced. It seems that doing the right thing for our students is often the unpopular thing amongst many others around us; where actually being positive about our job and teaching children, or desiring to try new lessons, or attempting a unique idea is frowned at, laughed at, scoffed at, or brushed off. That sometimes it is just the easier thing to stay quiet and aloof in a meeting instead of asserting your thoughts or ideas. That sometimes it is just the easier thing to go with the flow of a group instead of doing what you truly believe is best for children. True collaboration shouldn't result in those things, and when "collaborating" causes a member of the group to have to choose between what is right and what is easy, it shouldn't be called collaboration in the first place.

Today, I charge us, the educators of children, to just do it: do what is best for children, no matter the cost, no matter the opposition. In the words of Taylor Swift, haters are gonna hate- and we just need to shake it off. Because these kids are worth it. They are worth us doing the right thing for them, even if it means facing disapproval or unpopularity from others. When it comes down to it, what we do everyday affects lives. A student's life is precious. Think about that a second- it's a LIFE! A life, a mind, a soul, a heart, a person. This is a life that we are helping to build and shape, and if we truly value it, we need to fight for the very best for them.

It will take a lot of courage and confidence to be able to do this well and to always try to do what is right for children, instead of what is easiest.

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