Am I teaching in a rut?

It’s March, and things are changing – again. The birds now welcome me to school most mornings with their spirited songs. Not to be outdone, Winter still attempts to poison as many perfectly sunny seasonal days with its cold, wind, and snow. Preparing for outside supervision has required that I keep all outdoor gear at the ready for another March meteorological maelstrom. I am beginning to wonder whether I’ll make it through another outdoor supervision at -15 C or colder.

It’s been tough on our students too. Many times finding themselves cooped up in their classes due to frigid temps. Imagine learning, working, having your breaks, and eating your lunch in the same space as 25 other people? At least teachers can excuse themselves to the staff room. So it’s no wonder that, at the first signs of Spring, energy levels go from sedentary to bristling the moment the mercury rises above 0 C.

Yet, for all their energy, students find themselves confined to hardtop for recess while the weather changes its mind daily. The once snow covered fields are wet and look like pallid straw waiting for the sunlight to warm up its roots with the promise of growing greener. With it, a well worn patch of the mud and muck that has become the current site of a, “I dare you to jump this,” long-jump pit.

https://pixabay.com/en/earth-wet-earth-mud-ground-1280278/

https://pixabay.com/en/earth-wet-earth-mud-ground-1280278/

Recently, something stuck to my mind like mud on a shoe. It came after seeing this newly christened jumping pit on the school yard. It was a mucky/dirty patch of exposed earth full of tracks/footprints left behind by the brave who tried to clear it, but fell far short. Indeed, Spring’s official arrival comes with its share of magnificent and messy moments at schools.

the thought process

Those footprints made me think of how difficult it is to extricate a shoe or a car that is stuck in mud. That led to think about the expression,”a stick in the mud”, and how it relates to inflexible attitudes. Then I wondered, am I being inflexible? Could I be in a rut in my practice as an educator? Was I able to avoid the ruts and muck in my professional practice to stay in the groove moving forward, or was I already wallowing in it without knowing? Did I want to know? After all, some people pay big money at the spa for mud baths.

rut or a groove?

Are there ever signs to tell us we’re in a rut? I have been teaching grade 6 in one capacity or another since starting my career in 2009. The Junior Division is, definitely, one with which I am very comfortable as a teacher. But it’s that word comfort which concerns me because it might be keeping me in a rut and hindering my growth as a constant learner? Let me ask you. How long have you been teaching in the same classroom, subjects, grade or division? If you answered more than 3 years for any of these, you might be carving out quite a rut.

When you’re in a rut you can still roll along without an issue unless you try to get out. Climbing out is dangerous if ever attempted, and leaves one feeling exposed or vulnerable. Yet, if we move our students along from grade to another, why are we not seeking the opportunities to grow into new experiences as well by changing our routines in for some new ones? Sometimes a rut maybe so high that it is more like a canyon where sunlight seldom hits the floor. This means that perspectives become narrowed our hyper focused.

…we are certified to teach much more than we do. We spend tens of thousands of dollars to be certified to teach multiple grade levels, but we are put in a position, or are resistant to being any other position, of teaching one grade level for multiple years. Some teachers teach the same grade level for decades.

At some point, that does not foster growth. It fosters comfort. ” Peter DeWitt, 2015

Have you ever wondered why educators move schools? I know from experience that moving to a new school brings an infusion of enthusiasm, and ideas into a new learning space. We can’t help, but learn from one another when we engage in new situations and with new people. Many of us feel entitled to teach the same grade each year even when we are qualified to teach a range of grades and panels. We have to remember that assignments are not guaranteed for life and that change is ultimately better for our practice.

What about the argument that a rut is really a groove? In my next post, I will share about how we can  escape or smooth out the ruts in our practice and get into a groove of our own.

I’d love to know your thoughts about this post. Please take the time to share in the comment section below.
Thank you for reading.

 

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Updated: March 24, 2017 — 8:15 am

The Author

Will Gourley

Grade 5 lead learner and SERT at Adrienne Clarkson PS in the YRDSB. Focused on disruptive, divergent, and modern learning. Member of the global TED-Ed(Club) movement, 1 of 90 TED Ed Innovative Educators, and Global Math Project Ambassador. Twitter @willgourley Proudly blogging here and at https://escheweducationalist.wordpress.com/

2 Comments

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  1. Erlene Shea says:

    Will, I very much appreciated your insights and connecting ideas to ‘being in a rut’. I believe it behooves us all to be reminded we are capable educators whereby fostering growth in ourselves can and does support growth in our students as well. As I look to retiring this June, I can honestly say I have enjoyed all my experiences as an educator and I believe the variety of assignments I have had has contributed to my enduring positive outlook. I often shared with colleagues that once I felt I learned a job well, it was time to move on.
    Thank you Will for your reflections on a topic not often discussed!

  2. Will Gourley says:

    Thank you Erlene for reading this post and for your encouraging words. A long time ago I came to the realization that it was OK to plant seeds and not worry about when they would grow, but to trust that along the way they would be nurtured in another classroom by another educator committed to supporting growth in our students. Your words and, assuredly, your work exemplify all that is positive in our profession. I am sure you have shared your fire for education with all around you. Will

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