Get Down off the Cross…we need the wood!

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I was in the halls at the start of the day today, like I am most mornings listening to the national anthem and the morning prayer when I looked up and saw this crucifix. I had never noticed this before and have never seen one like it before. It is the traditional image of Jesus on the cross but one arm has been removed from the cross for Jesus to catch and hold a baby. This is so beautiful and I am sure, (even though I have not yet found the origin of this piece), that this is a symbol of the Catholic stand on abortion and is very powerful at that but I think it also so perfectly captures the identity of a teacher.

This is how I see teachers: doing what they can to help the kids. It reminds me of a great saying that I heard at a retreat I went on once with our former Director of education, Noel Martin. He had said that his mother’s favourite saying was when anyone was bemoaning their situation or how things had not worked out for them, she would say, “Get down off the cross, we need the wood.” This has become something of an anthem for me. As I have said in previous posts, I am not a big fan of critics or people who think that the best way to address a solution is to complain about it. I am someone that is looking for solutions and I would prefer to get down to solving things instead of cataloguing all the things that are wrong.

I think this is a common teacher approach to problem solving. “Okay something is wrong, let’s figure out the best way to solve it.” This must be what drew me to the profession because it is about making a difference every day. The job is problem solving and I know this is what drew me to administration. The image of Jesus breaking from the traditional martyr image to do what is needed for a child is so powerful and one that I think all teachers should look to emulate.

This is probably also the reason that so many people in the education profession have a distrust of “experts”. Those that are looking to sell you a system that will answer all your questions and change education. Those academics that spend a lot of time on the cross, pointing out the failures of the public school system and formulating theoretical ideas about stuff that SHOULD work. Teachers are not going to gravitate to this because this is just not in their nature. They see kids sitting in front of them every day and so need to respond to those needs right away. They need on time stuff that they can work through and use.

This is also the most vulnerable part of the profession though in my opinion. For if this is to be truly considered a profession, then there must be a continual commitment to change and learning. All professionals MUST be looking to expand and try new things on literally a daily basis. The challenge must come from within and this is hard when you are spending all your time wading through a mountain of marking and handling discipline problems.

Where is the balance? How can I as a leader set up a situation where all my teachers have the freedom to try new things or to learn about something for themselves? How can I, at the same time, show that I value the work that they are doing and respond to those issues that are most pressing to their immediate lives?

I truly do not have any answers here but I think the starting point is to try to think of creative ways to use space and time. Try to maximize the time when we are together and then to find time for them to collaborate and simply just reflect and learn. This is where school principals need the support of their central teams and superintendents who have the release time. This is why I cringe when I hear of large, board wide, mandated events that are not targeted at individual teacher needs. I know there needs to be a balance but where is it?


Maybe it is not all that hard to find a balance. Maybe we, (at least in Catholic schools), have a model to follow already. Maybe we need only look up at the crucifix at the front of every class to see the best teacher who had a handle on reflection and action.

I think I need to buy some more of those crosses!!!

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