Finding Bedrock

Education moves and changes quickly.  It’s changing right now.  We all feel it – and we should, because we care so much about it.  The list of changes is long, and the opinions surrounding those changes is even longer.  When we are the drivers of change it is new, exciting, and illuminated with possibility.  But when the change comes from elsewhere we often wrestle with how it impacts us.  We wonder what effect the change will have on our creativity, our time, and our energy.  We ask, “How will this change intersect with my passion?”

And change brings debate in its back pocket.

The fundamental truth is that education requires necessary, constant shifts.  We know that without change, we won’t grow.  So we adapt, we flex, we stretch, and we learn.  We seek the strongest strategies, prize the most relevant thinking, and share what inspires us.  But change isn’t easy – and it’s especially unsettling when we don’t see an end of change on the horizon.  What is the constant destination?  When will we reach stable ground?  What is the fixed point?

Where is it?

My answer is that you just might be standing on it.

Bedrock.

The beliefs that everything else relies upon.

The question that can lead us to bedrock may be one you’ve heard before:  “What do you believe about students?”

About 20 years ago, before stepping into my first classroom, I was asked that very question.  My simple answer was that all students can learn.  That was not bedrock.  That was a basic understanding.

Shortly afterward, I stepped into my teaching career and into a remarkable new understanding of the question.  My students amazed me, stunned me, surprised me, and left me realizing that “all students can learn” is a complete understatement.  I quickly realized that there are no words to describe the potential of each child.  It’s simply too staggering.  There is no answer that could reach high enough to match the ability that each child has.  Such an answer would fall short, and would do a disservice to the astonishing learning potential of each student.

“What do you believe about students?”

I answer the question very differently now.

Students are absolutely amazing.  They are truly astonishing learners.  They are talented beyond my wildest understanding.  Their potential soars far above anything that I will ever comprehend or imagine.

That is bedrock.

When it seems like too many ideas are coming and going, and when it seems like change is swirling so fast that I can’t find a fixed point on the horizon, I can always look to this educational bedrock:  Students are absolutely amazing.  Their learning potential is staggering.  The are truly incredible, and it is an extraordinary honor to work with them.

I am very fortunate to have worked with students who have taught me this reality.  They caused me to rethink the question, and the answer that I have found has become bedrock.  So, that is the very question I would like to share with you.

“What do you believe about students?”

If you truly wrestle with the answer, you just may find bedrock.

 

 

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  1. Thanks so much, Art. I appreciate your taking the time to read through this – twice. I’ll let you know when I have some more on the way, since you have encouraged me to keep it up. More to come soon…

  2. I love this reflection that calls us to not only embrace change, but to determine the bedrock of our educational philosophy. A wonderful challenge to educators everywhere!

    1. Greg, thank you for this comment. I appreciate your taking time to read and to comment on the post. The way you stated “determine the bedrock of our educational philosophy” really captures it well. Don’t let the constant change distract us from the need to stop and really wrestle with this. Thanks, again!

  3. Excellent post, Steve. I think you make a great point about your view of students when you first started teaching to what you believe about them now. It can and should change as we understand better through experience their needs, abilities, and motivations. As we rely on our bedrock, it grounds us to “get comfortable with being uncomfortable,” especially when we know it’s for our amazing, incredible students.
    Jennifer

    1. Jennifer, thank you for this thoughtful reply. I appreciate how you thought through the scope of the post. Since I am new to blogging – and especially since I am new to this platform – I have only today discovered how to find and approve comments from readers. It was really fun, and highly motivating, to discover that there were posts waiting for me. Thank you for you help as I step into this!

  4. While you wrote this from the perspective of a teacher about students, I argue that this should be the perspective we should demand from all who work with any learners: teachers about students, parents about children, anyone who works with others trying to learn.

    Find your bedrock and accept no less than staggering potential!

  5. Students ARE amazing, but teachers won’t realize this as truth unless they allow students to have opportunities to share their own voice and make some of the choices in their learning experience. Students can do great things and teach us as well. Change is something you can either embrace and lead, or battle against. In nearly 20 yrs of teaching, I’ve also found that finding the positive in changes is what will allow you to feel less like your swirling in different directions.

    1. Excellent points, Jen. Providing students with opportunities to share their voice and to make choices is very important, as you stated. I am fascinated by questions and also by the depth of knowledge that some questions allow students to reach for. I’m always on the lookout for wonderful, rich questions. A great question can be a great opportunity for students to share their thinking, especially in a classroom culture where it is safe to stretch and safe to share thinking that is still in development. By the way, since I am so very new to blogging, I just realized that I need to go in and find comments and approve them. I just discovered that, which is why it has taken me so long to write back. I’m learning as I go!

  6. Ah yes! We do need to stand on this and keep our feet planted. Another I would add is to allow them to grow and celebrate their growth. Motivate, Encourage. Don’t allow the wind that sweeps through make us lose our focus. Great post, keep writing!

    1. Thanks, Terry. I love your thoughts about celebration, motivation, and encouragement. I completely agree with you that these are very important. Often these happen in community, in the context of relationship. Speaking of encouragement, your reply makes me want to write more! Thank you!

  7. Excellent. This serves as the foundation for what you do every day in teaching. Over the course of my years teaching, I arrived at the same conclusion in a slightly different way. I found (almost against my instincts or maybe what I had heard) that just about every student can write–and write well. Every day as I read students papers I am humbled and amazed. You’d think I would get used to it.

    1. Hank, it’s fun to hear how you arrived at the same conclusion through a different route. Writing is an extraordinarily powerful way to navigate through our own thinking. I feel like I am always in a state of learning more, and the reflective power of writing helps to clarify and accelerate that process.

  8. Congrats on your new site! Blogging is a fabulously reflective practice that quickly becomes addictive. You nailed it – students ARE amazing, and resilient, and powerful, and creative, and loving…the 21stC Teacher knows this and gets out of their way. The more I teach, the more I learn. Here’s to your continued success!

    1. Thank you, Michelle. I am very excited to begin blogging. Just like you, the more I teach, the more I learn. I often tell students that every person in the room is a learner and every person in the room is a teacher. Thank you for taking time to read the post and to leave a comment. I very much appreciate it! –Steve

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