Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Sausage Being Made (Or, a Community of Kindred Spirits)

A few weeks back, I got an email from David Redneck, editor of The New Yorker.  David Remnick emailed me.

Well, he actually emailed a few million people—all the subscribers of the magazine—but, you know, whatever.  The email was to share a few additional articles we could enjoy over the weekend.  But he opened his email with a question many people ask, all the time.  They ask it of writers, mostly, or if they are a writer, they ask it of themselves.  Lots of organizations have asked this as part of blogging or Twitter campaigns.  Why do you write?

David answered it this way:
Why do writers write?  They do it to answer questions that obsess them, to share what they've discovered, and, most of all, to find a community of kindred spirits.

I like that.

It's like being an educator.  We surround ourselves with our kindred-educator-spirits, because we know (albeit reluctantly) that most people don’t really want to know what we’re actually doing or how we’re doing it.  They don’t want to see the sausage being made—they just want to enjoy it after it’s over with, and complain about it if something tastes off.

So, at a family gathering, when we tell our aunt and uncle we’re going to a conference to learn more about best instructional practices, their eyes glaze over.  When we geek out about a new book list or Newbery winner with a group of friends, they smile, like one would smile at a toddler spouting off about dinosaurs, and change the subject.

A blog about being an educator is about as fun to the rest of the world as a blog about how doorknob mechanisms actually work.

Seventy-percent-ish of people don’t have kids in schools, and they think about schools vaguely if at all; in terms of students and learning, they want to live in neighborhoods with strong schools, and they want the community children to be quiet in Starbucks.  For the 25% who have students in schools, they want their kids to like their teachers, get good grades, and have a good experience moving toward college. 

That’s it.

So we circle tightly around one another, validating and justifying our conversations about how to be the.very.best.teacher we can be.   We join professional organizations and drool at the idea of attending a conference with other like-minded educators; at school we talk about learning and instruction over lunch, in the hallways, and in our free time; and we get all jazzed up thinking about new ways to teach and lead.  We have to look at our inner tribe, because our outer tribe doesn’t care.  We need to find the people who understand our acronyms, our philosophies, our mindsets.  Within that circle, we challenge one another—we spit and fight, agree and disagree, hug and love and fill one another up. 

We stick tight—because we are together in this community of kindred spirits.  

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