In your hands

My life as a teacher of English and other curiosities

Lemons and lemonade

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I’ve been trying to write this post for a few months now. I tried to write it in September when we went to school and there were no books to give to our students. I tried to write it again when teacher underwent another cut in their already meager salary. I tried to write it again when the teachers’ unions resisted the integration of Roma students in our schools. But today I read this article by photographer David Du Chemin and all the pieces fell to place. I have been following David for a while now and I love the way he writes because his posts are not exclusively about photogrpahy, they transcend in all fields of life and they are meaningful to everyone.

So in this post (which I hope some of you will read carefully) he talks about photographers but we could very well replace this in some paragraphs with teachers or lawyers or whatever profession you may like. David writes:

 …Things are changing. Is it easy? No. Is it fair? Does it matter? EVERYTHING is changing. It always has. It always will. If you are in business for yourself as a photographer, your job, as the CEO of You Inc., is to meet those changes head on, to navigate the rough waters and do it in a way you love, while not sinking the ship. No one promised you safe passage. No one owes you a waveless voyage. …f you are floundering, it’s not because you don’t have a better camera or the same 85/1.2L lens that that other, more successful, photographer on the other side of town, or the other side of the internet. It’s because you aren’t being as creative as you thought you were or you aren’t hustling…”

 Do you get it? If things aren’t going well in your teaching situation, if your kids aren’t interested, aren’t learning, are bored, are raucous and so on and so forth, it’s not the fault of books, or the lack of equipment. It’s because we aren’t creative enough. OK, the situation is dire, and it’s not our fault, and it’s unfair. So now what? Are we going to spend the rest of our working time whining and bithcing about the indifferent ministry and the good-for-nothing people who make the decisions? Are we going to waste the time of another school year by doing nothing?

 David has expressed it better than me I think: “…Yes, things are changing. They always have. But you can either make the change or react to it. Either way you need to be creative. You can do two things with your time on this earth – play the cards you’re dealt with all the energy and conviction you can, or whine and moan about how lousy your cards are. But whining and moaning never once changed the cards in anyone’s hand. Yes, Detroit was decimated by the economy, and it was left in literal ruins. But it’s making a come back. Not because it sat there feeling sorry for itself (ok, some did, but they aren’t the ones making the comeback), but because they got creative. They stood up, dusted off the seat of their jeans and looked the situation square in the eye and said, “OK. Now what?” It’s hard work. It’ll take time. And if you don’t love that work, give up now.”

 So, to get back to our situation in my poor little country: the (new) third grade book is colourless, badly drawn, the listening material you have to download yourself etc etc. So why don’t you organize a competition for the best coloured book at the end of the year? We have already started but you may want to join us! 

2 Comments

  1. So very well-described, Anna, whining and moaning will not get anyone anywhere! We have to do our best with what we have, otherwise we’ll be bored for all the years to come (and unavoidably seem boring to our learners)! Very good idea to motivate your learners by organizing a a competition for the best coloured book! I’ll try it next year with my learners (this year I have suggested colouring the book as an optional homework activity)! Thank you for this post, really encouraging and inspiring!

  2. Hi Anna,

    Change doesn’t always need to be “ground-breaking”; nor will it come from admin. Change comes from individuals and every small step counts. I’m sure that your students will appreciate their books more now that they themselves colour them in :-)) A lovely way to make a fun change :-)

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