02 June 2014

Float, sink, or swim

Monsieur, Le Prof 2.0.  After 18 years in the profession, getting things mostly right, connecting with students, making a difference, etc. something new clicked.   All of a sudden, it wasn't about being a big fish in a little pond or a little fish in a big pond.  It was about being a fish that floats, sinks, or swims.

It all started with a young, energetic, new principal.  Upon being hired, he met with each of the faculty to get to know us.   "What area for professional growth do you foresee in the next year or so?"  "Ummm...."

I spent the first five years of my career honing my chops.  Late, late nights.  Meticulous editing and teasing through every detail of everything I was doing.  Student outcomes at the forefront, in dogged pursuit of perfection.  Folders and folders, both manila and digitally created on every piece of technology that I championed.   The next couple of years I spent refining, building on what worked, tossing what didn't and getting...well...good.   Held up as a teacher leader, a big fish in perhaps a little pond.  Puffed up.  And just like that, I floated.

"Ummm...."  In retrospect, the arrogance embarrasses me.  I'm floating here at the top, you see.  I've seen fish thrown into this water who can't cut it.  They suffocate and sink.   Not me.  Perhaps you've noticed.  I might even find another pond if this water loses its appeal.   I could not have been more misguided.

Over the course of the year, in faculty meetings where we talked about building a "growth mindset", on Twitter where I connected with inspiring, like- and different-minded colleagues, through reading and dialoguing with so many others, through participating in #langchat, I've learned to swim again.

Swimming is hard, though.  It means changing position, exploring new, distant corners of the pond.  It sometimes means winding up at the bottom, in the dark, and having to push hard to come back to the light.   But floating, for all its ease, is unsustainable.  Floating and sinking are the same.  If the water isn't being pulled, pumped or pushed over the gills, big fish and small fish, no matter the size of the pond, they all die.

"Ummm...."   A troubling epiphany.

I'm not ready for that fate.  I want to be part of a school of fish on the move, darting, lurching, diving, coursing through the water.  Those of you who helped me see, invited me to swim along, I owe you a debt of gratitude for prompting the new me.  Monsieur Le Prof 2.0.

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