You Are Important but You Are Not Indispensable

from http://www.veoliawaterst.co.zaModified from Kim Schonert-Reichl & others

Every student needs two adults in his/her school who believe he/she will be a success in life.  Every teacher needs two colleagues who believe they will be a successful teacher.

Some thoughts on taking oneself too seriously, especially teachers.
And the importance of being present.

In the moment, when the child is looking to you for guidance, compassion, inspiration or comfort, you are the most important person to the child in front of you.  And, in the moment, you will be that for each and every person you encounter in your day.  In that moment you are very important.  I have heard it said that the present is where we touch eternity.  (The mathematician & physicist in me sees that on a number line).

However, you are not indispensable.  You are not the only one who can do your job.  Others may do it differently.  Overall, they may do it better or not as well.  Doesn’t matter.  They will take attendance and set about the supporting students in their learning.  They may be more or less compassionate than you would be.  They may be more or less thoughtful than you would be.  Regardless, the world will not stop turning simply because you are not in your classroom today.

Today, and on the day when the students leave your class and eventually your school (or you leave the school) you leave a hole.  But the hole is temporary.  Others step into it.

The hole you leave is like the one left when you remove your hand from water.  It quickly fills and there is no evidence of your presence except… the ripples on the surface that travel outward from where your hand was.  What you do is important and how you do it will have lasting impacts.

Inspired by conversations with Angie Burgess 10 years ago and Len Drugge today.

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About J Martens

Educator living and working in Vancouver BC Learning how formative assessment, literacy, inquiry, and technology serve to improve learning and increase engagement (for teachers & students).
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3 Responses to You Are Important but You Are Not Indispensable

  1. adunsiger says:

    I’ve heard what you’ve said here many times before, and I understand your point. I even somewhat agree. I have a concern though: if we always look at ourselves as indispensable, do we always do the most that we can for our students? Maybe we think that there will always be someone else there to listen to the problem, help with the homework, or assist with the class work. I think that your last line really speaks to the value of each individual teacher. I get worried though if the focus becomes on the fact that we can always be “replaced.” Does this change how we approach each day with each student? What do you think? I struggle with this (as a general concern), and I’d love to know your thoughts.

    Aviva
    http://www.weinspirefutures.com

    • J Martens says:

      Thanks for the comment and questions. The post was outside my usual topic but I was processing the experiences of two educators looking back on their careers. The big message was that one needs to focus on being present but time and opportunities to impact students will pass quickly. My concern was the guilt that many feel in the face of the overwhelming challenge of teaching and meeting the needs of a diverse group of learners. This unavoidable sense of inadequacy can be very unhealthy. The audience I had mind when I wrote the post was passionate teachers who are feeling discouraged and overwhelmed; those are in no danger doing to little. My intent was to encourage them in caring for the children that they work with everyday and to give them permission to accept that they have limitations of time & energy. Still working this through… 🙂

      • adunsiger says:

        Thanks for clarifying this! I think that knowing more about your audience definitely helped. I would love to hear more as you continue to work this through. It’s an interesting topic, and certainly a saying that I’ve heard before. I’m always kind of torn on it …

        Thanks for getting me thinking!
        Aviva
        http://www.weinspirefutures.com

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