Terrified and Closer to Joy

On the plane from Boston to Philadelphia this weekend, I had a conversation with an educator seated next to me. At one point, he said he thought many teachers didn’t care about their students. The statement came across as less of an attack than a sort of sad commentary. I volunteered that I thought the vast majority of teachers cared deeply, or at least wanted to care, but that something like fear or insecurity kept them from being able to convey that effectively.

I was reminded of that conversation while listening to Zac Chase’s TEDxPhillyEd talk. (Zac’s written about caring on his blog, but it was great to hear him address the subject in the TED talk format.) He suggested that true caring has to be reciprocal. It’s possible to think that one is caring for one’s students, but for students not to experience it as care. Zac didn’t say this, but I think it’s also possible to want to care, but to step back from the caring ledge.

TEDxPhillyEd 2011

The pic Kevin took turned out better than mine

During his talk, Zac showed a picture of his younger brother. (I think the picture was taken while he was jumping on a trampoline.) On his brother’s face was a captivating mix of fear and joy. If you choose to care as an educator, Zac said, “you will be both terrified and closer to joy.”

I’d like to have the joy without the fear. I think one of the challenges of being a teacher is seeing kids that you care about leave your classroom year after year. Caring opens up the possibility for hurt and disappointment. But then there’s the joy. And the promise of being closer to joy is sometimes enough to overcome the fear.

What are the hurdles to caring in the classroom? How do we overcome them and help others do the same?

Crazy Dreams

One of my students recently wrote a blog post about crazy dreams she had for her life. When I finished reading her post, I started thinking about what, if any, crazy dreams I had. Dreaming often seems the realm of the young. I started mentally jotting down some things and experiences I would like to have hoping that if I could generate a list it’d be evidence that I was still young, at least at heart.

Several days ago Russ Goerend posted that he was creating a board in his classroom where he was going to post things he was learning about. That’s a great idea, I thought, and started another mental list.

I’d pretty much forgotten about the lists until this weekend. Three moments at EduCon brought me back to them.

*The Friday night panel discussion focused on the question of “What is smart?” The question of the relationship of passion to becoming “smart” about a particular thing came up. Jason tweeted the following.

I’m not sure that I agree with Jason. I think there are some situations where passion isn’t enough to enable someone to become accomplished at something, at least by some objective standard. So maybe passion is necessary but not sufficient.

*In Diana’s session on making school more about enriching real life, she asked what for me was one of the most important questions of the weekend- How do you foster joy in your classroom?

*I ducked into the last 30 minutes of Zac’s session on creating classrooms of care. One of the topics that came up was in his session (and Chris Lehmann’s on School Leadership 2.0) was the need for teacher vulnerability in the classroom.


I spent part of our snow day (yay!) getting some of the things that I’m passionate enough about that I’m learning about them even though no one is telling me I have to. (Ok, honestly, I don’t care that much about ancient Japan but teaching it is part of my job and I care deeply about doing that well.)

I also compiled a list of my crazy dreams as a way of sharing with students some things that I dream about. It feels like a vulnerable act. What if they think my dreams are nuts or stupid?

I’ll hang the board in my classroom tomorrow and create a space for students to post things they are learning about and their crazy dreams. (An idea that I got in David Jakes‘ session on developing learning spaces.)

For the record, I’m not committing myself to any of the crazy dreams. (Because I know some of you people will harass me about them :)) I’m not sure that I’m actually passionate enough about them to work toward making them happen. For some of them it’s enough to get them down on paper and in a blog post.

Crazy Dreams