“If the wind will not serve, take to the oars.”

One of my VPs has this proverb posted in his office and it is one of my favourite. In case you have missed it, I am a sucker for YouTube clips, TED Talks and great quotes!

I think I like this saying so much because it speaks to my personal and professional philosophy in so many ways. Personally, I am not really a stand around type of person. I like to have a project on the go at all times and have really got into home renovation and general handy work over the past several years. I think I like the idea of creating something and with the sense of accomplishment that I get out of completing a project. Sometimes this can get me into trouble though as I really like “completing” a project more than I like the process. This means that I tend to rush things and I would really like to get to a point where I work on craftsmanship more than production. It is a work in project this Michael Wetzel; no doubt about it!

Professionally this quote really strikes a cord with me. I am most interested in looking for solutions to problems and then working on getting that done. This has been a hard thing to get through as I moved to admin because while I deal with problems literally every day, I rarely get a chance to engage in the work and see it through. As principal it seems like it is my job to be aware of every problem and then to engage and empower others to go through a process to solve them. Simply there are too many things that cross my desk on a given day for me to immerse myself fully in. That is counter-intuitive for me but something that I think I have to get used to.

That being said, I still like the practice of getting into problems. We had a meeting after school today of some of our IB teachers to discuss the sheer amount of work and marking that they have to go through. In short the demands of IB really do not fit into a semestered, publicly funded school model and so the practitioners are the ones that have to make it work. It could be easy for teachers to simply throw their hands up and spend time and energy yelling at the rain, (seems to be a favourite pastime for some in our society!), but these teachers were not at all about that. They got together not to commiserate, but to share concerns and try to come up with solutions to help. They were willing to work on making it right, instead of just waiting for someone else, (often referred to as “the board”), to do it for them. Now that being said, there will have to be a point, where central will have to adjust the way they view our school and the work involved in IB so as to properly fund and staff it, but these people were not waiting for “the wind” to kick in. I was proud tonight to sit back and see a group of like-minded educators get together and try to figure it out. They still have a lot of work to do and I doubt anyone left there thinking that the rest of the path was totally clear, but I guarantee that all felt a bit better about the situation than they did when they entered.

This is really the essence of educators I guess. I would argue that elementary and secondary teachers are truly “practical academics”. This is how we differ from our post-secondary colleagues. We need to be doing something. This is often why central or third party PD is often so frustrating. We cannot handle the idea of simply sitting back and hearing about or even only discussing a concept or a practice. We need to see what it looks like in action and then try it out ourselves. We will embrace a session that allows time for hands-on work but will fidget like 5 year-olds if we have to listen to an”expert” drone on about a theory. We have to see the immediate use in things and the reason for this is quite simple: our clients. We don’t have time to mess around and we see real and often heart-breaking needs sitting in front of us every day, so we have to get to work.

This may be why our school focus on The Third Teacher and the extended SSLN that we are a part of, has struck such a cord with the people involved. The idea of being part of a collaborative inquiry in which people are ACTUALLY DOING SOMETHING is refreshing for people. It speaks to me personally as I hope to get the satisfaction of seeing something change and slowly, seeing large sections of the school changing. This is a process, but it is one that teachers seem to be drawn to as it is tangible and practical.

I am very much looking forward to the journey that we are on and if tonight’s meeting and the talks we have had all year are any indication, I could not ask for better mates to be “taking to the oars” with!

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