When I was first out of college, I lived in Washington, DC, and part of my daily walk to work took me past the Capitol building every day. When I first started doing that, I was awed by what it meant to walk past that building, but it quickly just became my routine, and most days I barely even noticed it.
It’s inevitable that even the most amazing of environments becomes routine, and when it does, it becomes easy to lose sight of what makes it so special in the first place.
This can be true of the most incredible schools as well. In the end, no matter how empowering, no matter how amazing, no matter how meaningful, there are going to be days when the work feels like, well, work. And the most powerful learning experience can be unappreciated.
That’s o.k. We shouldn’t fear that. If anything we should embrace that.
We live in a world where we expect the spectacular, and more often than not, people are disappointed when the everyday lives we lead fall short of that. Schools can help us celebrate what we have that is special — and help us re-value the every day.
When I lived in DC, it often took someone from outside the daily routine of my life — a friend who was visiting from out-of-town — to make me realize and remember how special my surroundings were. And at SLA — as EduCon quickly approaches — our entire community will be reminded anew of how lucky we are to be together when 500 or so teachers from all over the country descend upon us.
But it shouldn’t take that. We can make the everyday meaningful in some very basic ways in every school. Here are two simple ideas to make sure that the work we do has meaning and the relationships we have stay vital.
First – students and teachers should take time every day to ask of their work, “What does this hold for me? Why am I learning and teaching what I am teaching today and what relevance does this have?” When this becomes habit, we really can train ourselves as teachers and students to make the work meaningful.
Second – and this again is true for teachers and students alike – we can ask ourselves every day, “What did I do of value today?” And while this may seem like a related question — and it is — it is also important to note how it is different, because it forces us to reflect on our own actions and challenge ourselves to be of value.
There are days when those questions are harder than others. But if we can make those questions routine in our schools, we can work together to look inward and outward as a community every day.