The Invisible Act Which Is Teaching

I just came back from a 2-hour run. It’s been a loooooooog time since I’ve run that long. I had memories of my days getting back into town after 7,8,9 hours – still running strong and thinking, “Hey, look at me! I just ran 100 km and I’m still leaping along like a rabbit!” I remember looking around and nobody having a clue of my accomplishment, everyone just going about their own affairs, maybe a few wondering, whose that sweaty bastard stumbling along the sidewalk? Basically, I was invisible. In my daily training, my daily and even twice daily runs – I was alone, invisible and my own source of motivation. I wasn’t doing it for anyone else, any accolades or cheering crowds whilst coming back into town.

It’s something I think applies to teaching, REALLY applies to teaching, this cloak of invisibility that all teachers wear.

Of course, I replied, “A good solid, livable paycheck” or something such. That comes first.

But what comes second is our own intrinsic motivation. The motor we alone power. Our belief in ourselves and our daily process of doing all the things classroom teachers do – wiping noses, planning lessons, staff meetings, student conferences, cutting paper, commanding students to do this, don’t do that, photocopying, paperwork, teaching (yes, that does occur too!). Too many to list. But most of them are invisible, as too is learning. And it’s damn hard when you don’t see anything building, any visible, tangible outcome day in and day out. I can and often do feel like groundhog day.

Before teaching I was a steelworker. I put up pre-fabricated steel buildings. And in a day, you could see, visibly see your work as a physical object. Your blood, sweat, coffees were all there as a tangible product to motivate you. In teaching, this is rarely, if ever the case.

I’ve written previously about this but it needs saying again – teaching is the art of managing the invisible. It is for teachers to acknowledge this and move with it and even through it. Embrace the fog and the air will clear, your head will be in the space it should be.

So what’s a good teacher to do?  Well, we can try to make learning visible – that helps but is kind of like trying to hold back the sea.  But there are other ways to “see the value of ourselves”.  Engage in professional development. This can make you see your teaching acts as significant and with value and part of a greater whole. Also, talk to other teachers, learn and embrace the chaos and invisible.

The act of teaching is invisible, indirect, ephemeral too …. that’s why it is so hard but too, so rewarding.

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