The stretch

It’s April. Phew! We made it through Winter. OliverWendellHolmes

It’s official because geese are honking on the playground. There’s more daylight, the snow is not staying on the ground, and my classroom is buzzing from the promise of Spring. Students’ activity levels are coming to life as the weather warms; even though, they’re prohibited from using the grass(mud/chance for grass to grow)or running on the tarmac(overcrowding).

Energy levels range from abundant to absent, as any teacher would attest. Our class is making excuses to learn outside. I love it when they ask and am happy to shift instruction and inquiry to outdoor mode. A sort of”Education on la Grande Jatte” with apologies to Seurat.  There’s movement happening in the halls, and it’s not only the students this time. It’s educators too.

An annual migration of staff is in full flight. One that can only be equated to something akin to the trade deadlines in professional sports. Teachers and administrators are being moved, receiving their teaching assignments for the new year, or are actively seeking new opportunities. Whether it’s a move to a brand new grade, a new school, a new role in admin, or retirement; thousands of educators will find themselves in new spaces come September. Or is it a rut? So, like death, taxes and dishes left in the staff room sink – change is inevitable.

In March, teachers were told of their teaching assignments for the year ahead. Like the birds returning from the south, administrators were tasked with considering staff requests, future growth/decline, fit, and a host of intangible staff dynamics. Some teachers have discovered that the nest has been blown out of the tree. Some are learning, with a measure of surprise and uncertainty, how a change has happened which was contrary to their absolutism of choice(s). Yes, there are people who would go out of their way to avoid change. They have their reasons and are respected for them. However, there are still others  who will be welcoming new opportunities with excitement.

It’s always a good time for a change when the dust in your classroom is older than the students.

By Stromcarlson (Originally uploaded to en as PD by Stromcarlson) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

By Stromcarlson (Originally uploaded to en as PD by Stromcarlson) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Let’s consider a sample scenario that could playing out right now with a veteran teacher in the same grade for 5 or more years. Add to this fact, s/he has been in the same physical space for that long. Now, think of the upheaval and umbrage that might underscore the news they’re being shifted to a new grade, a new room, and maybe even a new teaching team?

Some might think that this educator was being shifted as a form of punishment. While in fact the move is the breath of fresh air. Yes, there is uncertainty and people hate that, but there is also freedom. Think of it like changing the air filter of your furnace. You would never keep the same one in place for a year let alone 5 or 6?

So this Spring, choices can be met with acquiescence or anticipation. Whichever view you choose will shape your thoughts and practice for the coming year. Will you stretch beyond your walls or will you barricade yourself behind your dusty desk?

Now before any harsh replies, keep in mind that the goal of our job has never been to become the comfortable automatons of education, but to stretch as lead learners in our schools. It is the very idea and excitement of change that should set us a light in our teaching practice.

Last year I wrote a piece entitled Time for a Change where I share advice and encouragement about stepping out of our comfort zones as educators if you want to read more.

and something else

There is another side to this thought that reflects the turnover of educators in struggling/poorer schools in England. This two page graphic made me wonder whether this might correlate to our inner-city or First Nations Metis and Inuit communities are facing the same issues of teacher turnover, and therefore are creating an educational vacuum in our own country? I’d love to know your thoughts about this.

Updated: April 12, 2017 — 8:13 am

The Author

Will Gourley

P/J lead learner and SERT at Adrienne Clarkson PS in the YRDSB. Focused on disruptive, and divergent modern learning. Member of the global TED-Ed(Club) movement, 1 of 110 TED Ed Innovative Educators, and Global Math Project Ambassador. Twitter @willgourley Proudly blogging here and at

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