Brrrr! Have you noticed that it’s been a bit chilly outside?
It’s so cold out that the bacon fat in my blood coagulated.
It is so cold out that a polar bear was rummaging through garbage cans on my street.
It could have been a regular bear, but it was hard to see with all the snow and wind.
It’s so cold out that I ran out of ideas to stretch out this opener.
We are in the midst of a well earned winter break however there is a bit of a struggle happening while gradually letting my guard down in order to relax. It is not easy to turn off my teacher brain. Even though this is not my first winter break, I still find it difficult. Maybe it was two successive Fridays of significant weather events that sapped energy from brain to body while commuting on unploughed roads, pushing cars of folx stuck in uncleared parking lots, or arriving home, at day’s end, to a 3 foot high windrow of ice and snow blocking my driveway that was in need of shoveling too. I know that was the fate of many over the latter part of this month.
Perhaps it was the harried week we went through prior to the break. Not that the days were explicitly more difficult than others, but rather that they were so fully packed with all of the events, energies, and emotions to accompany the daily unpredictability that is life in the classroom. I am so thankful that we made it even though there might have only been fumes left in the emotional and physical tank.
I write this from the relative warmth and comfort of my teacher cave away from the icy temps, relentless winds, and countless snowflakes, I do so with a great sense of gratitude. I am thankful for all of the lessons, failures, chances for do overs the next day, and for the changes. I am also appreciative of some time with close friends and family albethey only small frenetic moments shaped in part by the blizzard of 2022 and the outersections of our lives.
Moving on for real this time
Although our gatherings this year were intentionally set to be small, the weather reduced their size even more. Nevertheless they were meaningful. Maybe less is more this year as I was afforded more time with each visitor rather than having to play host to a larger gathering? We took time to laugh, to remember, to catch-up, and to share a meal or two. It was fun to be pre-occupied with life in the kitchen for a few days. It was a joy to prepare, oops, co-prepare some meals. My contributions for our big dinner were to cook the beets, potatoes, and gravy. It was the last item on this To Do list that had me concerned. Even though I was sure it would all work out, I was still thankful to have a back-up known as mom.
Listening to her walk me through the ingredients, prep, and execution gave me a lot of confidence that there would be gravy to serve. As we added, stirred and tweaked for consistency, I thought of how we have cooked together over the years and how she patiently explained things over, and over, and possibly over again to me as I learned how to do it. It was here where my thoughts raced back to the classroom, and to the gradual release of responsibility or GRR.
I’ll admit that the correlation between my years as a kid in the kitchen with mom up to now and my life as an educator never crossed paths, but something about making the gravy helped it come into focus – along with achieving success on an important part of our holiday meal.
From the beginning where I handed her utensils, to measuring out ingredients, to stirring, and finally cooking on my own the GRR was always at the core of our time together, but when you’re used to cooking all the meals it takes a lot to finally step back and watch whether your lessons pay off. It also takes a measure of boldness and belief that everything will work out as planned or at least that the results will still be palatable.
brr – boldly releasing responsibility
So in honour of time spent around the stove this holiday, and in anticipation of times to come deskside with students my wish for 2023 is for more chances to brr, and in doing so empower my students even more through preparation, opportunities, guidance, trust, and encouragement as they organize the metaphorical ingredients, measure, prepare, and create over the next 6 months and beyond in their learning. If all goes well, I am looking forward to taking the steps backward in order for them to move forward and to cheering for their success and confidence gained in the process.
As Cristina Milo puts it, “Making myself progressively unnecessary. Therefore, a teacher.” Be bold when you take those steps back even when you think you should not let go. Be bold in the believe that the lessons you have shared are going to make a difference even when if the results are not perfect. Be bold in your own pursuit as a learner too. Cheers for lots of brr in 2023.