#ColleagueCorner is an occasional series which reminds us that our greatest resource is each other. Through human connection and shared experience, these stories provide us a glimpse into our colleagues’ world, a world we all share as educators.
Anna Muessig and I grew up together, just not in the traditional sense. As members of the same English department, we found ourselves eerily similar by way of style and substance. Later, after she took time off to start her family, Anna returned only to replace me when I moved on from the classroom. Still later, we reunited at our current district where we’re each doing our best to do our best. She’s humble, kind, and reflective, and she makes the people around her better every day.
Unless you live in this world, you probably just don’t get it. After all, why anyone would choose to do such a crazy thing.
But those of us who live in this world understand why we do it.
Being a motorcyclist is far less challenging and far more predictable than teaching. I have a lot to learn about both, but one specific parallel between bikers and educators struck me today.
When bikers pass each other on the road, they have a greeting. It’s a simple gesture–left hand off the handlebars, extended low, sometimes a full hand and sometimes with the first two fingers extended. If you’re not a biker, you’ve probably never heard of this before. You may even be thinking, “So what. Bikers wave and have a moving high five or something. Big deal.”
The thing that non-bikers probably don’t get is that this little gesture is (as far as I know) a universal communication that approximately translates to the following.
“Dude. I see you. And we’re connected because we both love this thing we’re doing right now. We both know how awesome it is to crank the throttle and how chill it is to cruise down a beautiful, open country road. We both know what it’s like to ride through the elements without the protection of the walls or roof around you. We both know how careful we have to be because drivers don’t see us and can take us out in a split second. We both know how serene an escape from the chaos of life a long ride can be. We both know that if your battery is dead and you don’t have a jumper on you, you’re screwed. We both know what it’s like to taste the smell of something gross that’s been squashed into the pavement and what it feels like to hit a pocket of cool air on a hot day. I see you. I feel you. Ride on, my friend.”
And yes, a two second gesture says all of this.
Educators, as far as I know, don’t have this two second gesture exactly, but we do have ways to tap into that same kind of connection.
We (hopefully) have colleagues who encourage us on rough days, push us when we need a push, and cheer us on when our students’ faces finally light up with that “ah-ha” moment. We have Twitter and Voxer and other ways that we can connect with educators across the globe, to share ideas, and to remember that we aren’t really in this alone. We have EdCamps where we can meet with other educators who want to share ideas, make connections, and continue growing.
Both teaching and biking can feel like completely solo exercises. And that’s not always a bad thing–both can be incredibly empowering. But from time to time we are energized by being reminded that we are not alone, and that others genuinely see and feel what we see and feel.
If anyone hasn’t told you this yet today, whether you teach elementary, secondary, regular ed, special ed–Dude, I see you. And we’re connected because we both love this thing we’re doing right now. (Otherwise, why would you be reading a blog post about education?) We both know how awesome it is when a student finally can show you that she has mastered that skill. We both know how difficult it can be to do this well when we’re not at our best because we’re tired, fighting some germ, or stressed about something in our personal lives. We both know how rewarding it is to see our students move on to great things and to know that we were able to guide them on part of their life journey. We both know how careful we have to be because the responsibility we shoulder is heavy, and kids are too important for us to take their needs lightly. We both know that lesson plans are often a pain in the butt to write, and that some of the things we’re required to do are exercises in compliance that don’t make a difference for kids. We both know that when our students move on, we’re proud and excited, but we miss them because our care for them doesn’t end when they walk out the door.
I see you. I feel you. Ride on, my friend.
Anna Muessig (@mrsmues) has worked in the field of nurturing children for as long as she can remember. Along the way, she has nannied, taught preschool, directed a summer camp, substitute taught at almost every grade level and setting within a public school, taught secondary English, served as an instructional coach, served as a district curriculum administrator, as well as nurtured her own two energetic boys in partnership with her amazing husband. She currently teaches English Language Arts to high school students in New Jersey.
She believes wholeheartedly in the value of changing the world one person at a time, taking risks, and reflectively questioning the assumptions we all unconsciously carry.