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Blog #25: A Moving Sidewalk

So I achieved the quarter-century mark in the blogosphere… I am not sure how much of an accomplishment it truly is. I just wrote about 1,000 words once a week for about 6 months. Now if you would’ve told me after I wrote my freshman research paper that I would be writing the same amount for my job once a week that I had to struggle to write over the course of a month, about education nonetheless, I would’ve walked directly into the nearest violent and salty body of water. But alas here we are, learning new things every week about a subject that literally half a lifetime ago I loathed. And not to get on a tangent or anything, but how in the world did it literally take half of my life for another Incredibles movies to come out? I mean, is that how I am going to benchmark 14-year spaces of my life? Am I going to see a preview for Incredibles 3 and go “Crap! Am I 42 already?!”…I sure hope not. But I sure hope that in that time Pixar and Disney will have found a way to make it even better than before, and I sure hope that in that time I have grown up as a teacher a little bit as well.

Don’t get me wrong. I do not lament the path that I am on. But I did not foresee doing this with my life. At 6 I was going to be wearing the birds on the bat. At 12 I told myself I would be a sidekick to the Crocodile Hunter (R.I.P. Steve Irwin) by day and a storm chaser by night. When I graduated high school, I assumed that I would be doing what I first majored in, which was radio and television broadcasting. But none of those (with a tiny exception) stuck. The way that I opened myself up in college, opened up my heart to the idea of education. And in my education journey, I have evolved in so many ways. I no longer do what is comfortable, because I feel like that if I am not challenging myself that I am not providing an environment that is one where I am portraying passion. Complacency can be a cold friend. It can be familiar and welcoming, but in the end, I believe it leaves us stagnant.

You have heard it said that if you’re not moving forward then you are standing still while other people pass you. Now sometimes that isn’t so bad. Like if people are running toward a natural disaster. You don’t mind being the last one to get hit by the tidal wave. You think, “perhaps it won’t reach me up here on this tiny hill I built” or “At least I am wearing my rain boots.” But I would argue that not continuing to learn and adapt isn’t leaving you standing still, it’s actually putting you on a moving sidewalk going the opposite direction. I always see them at airports. I love them. Do you like to walk super fast on them and say to yourself, “Is this how Usain Bolt feels all the time?” or pretend you’re an extra in a Star Wars (or Trek) movie? Just me? I highly doubt that.

But the purpose of the moving sidewalks is that you are getting somewhere faster than if you were just using lame old carpet or, heaven forbid, a regular sidewalk (gasp).

“Yes, Seth we get it. Seth wanna go fast. Can we get on with it?”…Patience old padawan.

So not only are you moving in opposite directions but you are moving at an accelerated pace. So the edges of the philosophies of teaching are growing further and further apart. In many ways that reflect politics in our country right now. Whether you’re of the left or the right or somewhere in the middle or you’re the kid screaming “Anarchy!!!” after drinking six Mountain Dews, you can’t help but notice that there is more and more of an “if you’re not with us, you’re against us” mentality. There seems to be no place for people to truly share ideas. No, social media doesn’t count. True conversation happens when people come together and make a conscious decision to agree to listen to each other. Anybody who has been in a relationship knows that it cannot be a successful one if one person is doing all of the decision making. Eventually, they will come to resent each other, either for being controlling or assuming the other one is lazy; when in fact the dynamic has existed so long that apathy has become the norm. And if friends are supposed to love friends, and if wives are supposed to love husbands, and if teachers are supposed to love students and education, they cannot function in the same space where apathy is present. The two cannot exist together because they are the polar opposite.

(Side Note: This is not a reflection on any relationship I currently have….carry on!)

And you say, “well that’s great and all Seth, but my department head hates my ideas”, “the only time my principal gives me feedback is when they are marking me off for my observation”, “My wife won’t support my dream of having nine boys and naming them after the 2011 starting lineup for the St. Louis Cardinals.”

What do you think the problem is in those relationships? No exchange of ideas has happened.

Don’t hear me say that the old people need to stop and listen to what the young people know. They do, but that’s not my point. My point is that just like in politics, more often than not, there are more people in the middle than at the extremes, and if we allow ourselves to find a meeting spot in the middle, a free exchange of ideas can happen. I talked to a gentleman for the podcast last week who has been in education for 35 years and is learning new things from much younger teachers every day. I spent an hour simply taking in the wonder that is this wise Buddha or Gandhi or some other old Indian guy with cool sayings and beautiful thoughts and life-changing ideas. There was a true exchange of ideas

Maybe if we allowed our department head to share some of his ideas instead of hearing all of us complain about how he doesn’t like our ideas, they would feel more inclined to give you positive feedback about your idea.

Maybe if we actually started instituting some of the policies of the principal instead of solely complaining about the principal, we could give positive feedback (or negative feedback) to help the school mold and grow.

Maybe if our wives would just be a little more relaxed about her choice of names, we wouldn’t be in this situation.

But alas we are. Why? Because we don’t listen to each other. We have PLCs, but is your PLC doing more than just complaining about the way things are? We have staff meetings but are they more of the same, but on a bigger scale? Sometimes Yes. And Sometimes No. But unless we allow ourselves to be sharpened by the ideas of other teachers by having open minds and open ears and open hearts, we are only moving in the opposite direction from each other on the moving sidewalk.

Do you know what the interesting thing about the moving sidewalk is? That if you’re still just standing, you’re moving. And people who are moving are often on their way to a destination. Are you moving towards the right destination? Because one destination is the right one…and the other frankly, is not.

Thanks for reading

Talk to an old person

Talk to a young person

Talk to all persons

Best Wishes

Seth Tripp