Heroic Quality of the Day: The Return
Can you feel it? Can you feel schools slowly emerging from the fog of the last few years? Can you feel your practice no longer in survival mode? Can you feel that you no longer have to change everything on a dime every few weeks to match up with the ever changing expectations of health guidelines?
Just for fun, let’s put IE practice in the position of the hero and follow a truncated literary version of a Hero’s Journey.
March 2020 – June 2021 – The Departure – Being Asked to Leave The Ordinary World
Imaginative Education (IE) and Learning in Depth (LiD) were chugging along at my school over this period. Theory and the practical were working well together. Even with school closures in 2020 I was able to maintain an IE lens in planning. LiD itself was a significant part of the connection I had with my online students. LiD the following year was a big success. While The Heroic Classroom posts slowed we were still an IE classroom with cognitive tools at the forefront. I was feeling good about how my students and I were able to stay focused and engaged regardless of what was happening in the world. IE kept chugging along.
September 2021-November 2022 – Initiation – Tasks And Obstacles Are To Be Overcome
Now, in this special world of hybrid classrooms, zoom lessons, school closure protocol and ensuring lessons continue, I did my very best to hang on to IE and LiD. But, I confess the obstacles became overwhelming even after mask and social distancing mandates had been lifted.
Post Covid our school has been dealing with the following:
- extreme overcrowding (32 divisions with 12 portables)
- ongoing construction for a much needed addition (even the completed building will be unable to house all the portables classes)
- lack of consistent internet and heat in the portables over the last few of years
- the district itself running out of salt this winter leading to several long term absences of teachers and support workers
- the substitute shortage
- lack of classrooms for the sheer number of students and frequent flooding of a downstairs classroom led to my students alone only having 6 library times from September 2022-February 2023
- inefficient district mandated remedy for overcrowded classrooms
- an ill timed, complete overhaul of the entire reporting system with little or no training September 2022
- I won’t even get into the porta-potty teachers are expected to use next to the playground, but you get the idea
All of these things have been… at the very least… a struggle. The loss of my dear mentor and champion, Dr. Kieran Egan, last year took the rest of the wind out of my sails and I drifted. Which meant IE drifted. IE in my practice trickled in and out but to be honest, I was just trying to get through the days. I didn’t take on student teachers or accept invitations to the university to join in meetings and visits from international teachers. The overwhelm, overwhelmed me.
December 2022 – Present – The Return – Back to The Ordinary World – Metamorphosis
Onto the scene, our Hero, in the form of a fellow IE nerd, arrived from Italy. What started as an opportunity to show off LiD in action in my classroom has now become the return of true IE in my practice. The simple act of sharing the language of IE with another professional has had a huge impact on me over the last several weeks. As with any language, if you don’t use it, it will fade away. Trying to answer my guest’s questions about why I was so inspired by IE in the first place, how I used it with my students as well as teachers in years past illuminated the fact that my very obvious burnout was happening not because I was incorporating this theory but because I was unintentionally not including it. Just the baby step of discourse was enough to get the ball rolling. Being understood on a professional level has inspired me to begin rebuilding the LiD community in my school.
LiD is now, a much more intentional part of Friday afternoons because of our Hero. Take a minute and think about Friday afternoons in your classroom of grade 6/7’s in a school with all of the issues listed above. In your mind what does it sound like? feel like? Can 3pm come soon enough? Not the case in Division 1. In fact, it is the calmest 2 hours of our week. Every Friday afternoon a new class arrives in my portable and we have another 20 minute LiD ceremony. Lots of cheers and drum rolls as we assign the topics. The newest LiDers head back to their classroom and we share out our latest facts, talk about the LiD job of the week that was announced over the PA and students then fall into their black holes of research while building the 45 minute seminars they are presenting in June. It is so calm and focused that I am able to sit and observe, support students or take the opportunity to share insights with adults in the room. The language of LiD can be heard around my school again. Teachers and students are stopping me in the hallways to tell me what they learned about their topic and asking what the next LiD job is.
LiD is my sneaky, secret weapon of IE.
Community and camaraderie is what keeps our staff going. LiD is my sneaky, secret weapon of IE. If I can get staff to buy into LiD then IE is already underway in their classroom. LiD jobs of the week are announced over the PA. Each job has an IE twist to it. While IE is a theory anyone can introduce into their planning, I have discovered that the best part of the theory is connecting with peers to show them the possibilities.
The possibility of student engagement triumphing over shenanigans. The possibility of teachers engaging in their planning and learning right along side of their students. The possibility of truly stepping above the chaos that is our school at the moment. The possibility of incorporating Social and Emotional Learning with IE and LiD to give us all a boost. The possibility of resurrecting the school wide project of LiD. Community building is a must when we are so large and spread out across our campus. We have a young and energetic staff. I would love to keep those young teachers with us as long as we can and avoid their burn out. I think this may be a way to do it. Engaging teachers with IE and LiD is just as important for our us as it is for students.
In spite of all of the obstacles facing our school, IE and LiD have a place here.
My goal is to re-establish LiD at our school and take it a couple of steps further.
- communicating with the teachers involved in LiD the reason why it works so well and engages so quickly – essentially teaching them the incredible potential of IE in their practice
- creating a community of IE/LiD again. If anything became evident over this Hero’s Journey is that every hero needs fellow heros
I hope that you will follow along with me in this new direction and become a part of The Heroic Classroom in anyway that you can.
Need to catch up? Take a look at some of the other posts from my Heroic Classroom series:
#12 The Heroic Classroom – Enchantment
Other posts by Christa Smith (formally Rawlings):
Check out this post in which I describe why I use cognitive tools in my teaching: