I’ve been pulling more late-nighters in the past week than I have since my children were babies or I was at university in the 1990’s. Writing comments for progress reports? Nope. The flu virus invade our house? Nope. Binge-watching the second season of Riverdale on Netflix? Tempting, but that’s not it either.
It’s the Olympics. Normally, I love watching the Olympics, and the winter Olympics in particular, but this time there is a corresponding fourteen hour time difference between Saskatchewan and Pyeongchang, South Korea. Not great for sleep patterns, but it’s now February break and I can stay up as late as I want to! Last night as I was watching the final two runs of the men’s bobsled - spoiler alert, our Canadian guys win gold – I got stuck on one point that the announcer made. Not the part where she repeatedly compared it to four guys crammed into a bathtub. That just got annoying. It was the part where she said that any errors happening in the top part of the track are tripled in their effect as the sled hurtles toward the finish line. Tripled! And she was right. As a sled bumped against the side in the first turn, that .01 second error translated into a larger and larger time difference at each interval, and in a sport measured in hundreds of seconds, every single point matters.
Of course, it made me think of education and our students. Early childhood interventions. Reading to your preschooler. Interacting with your toddler. Not drinking during pregnancy. Or even before that, taking folic acid in anticipation of even having a baby. All of these attempts are like the bobsledder trying to keep the line through that first turn…and when we bump the side, the effect down the road is likewise magnified.
Those are my darkest times as an educator: when you feel like so many factors have come together before you ever even see a student, and wonder if anything you do THIS ENTIRE YEAR will have a positive effect. In that way, it’s not like an exciting sporting event at all. It’s like an earthquake causing a tsunami and the inevitability that the wave will come and nothing will dissipate it and destruction is unavoidable and certain. That’s more accurate. I have mostly taught in the middle years and high school, and it can feel like there is nothing to try, or that hasn’t already been tried, with a student. Nothing that can fix those errors from the top of the track, nothing that will get us through the next curve, nothing that will help to make up lost time.
I had a conversation the other day that not only brought me some solace, but actually gave me hope. The gist of it was this: you owe each student a year of learning. You don’t have to take a student and get them from a grade 3 reading level to a grade 9 reading level in one year, but you should take that student from a grade 3 to a grade 4 in that year. It’s tempting to look at where a student SHOULD be, instead of where they ARE, and I get that. But it’s not constructive. The bobsled driver knows every turn of that track and where she needs to go. But in that moment, she focuses on one thing. Where. She. Is.
As a teacher, there is no doubt that you will use many interventions and adaptations and adjustments in that year together. That’s what the bobsledders do too. I mean, there really isn’t an option to quit when your sled is hurtling along at 140km/h…you could pull the brake, but science says that’s a bad idea. I could throw up my hands and make excuses as to why that student isn’t learning, but educationally that’s a bad idea too. If I owe students a year of learning, then I need to be like that driver. When I make an error, try to correct it. Work even harder at keeping the line through that next bend. Drive smooth. Navigate the curve. And in the really tough days, just keep it on the ice.
p.s. the Paralympics are just starting now, and no March break here. Late nights, here we come again!!
Kiitos-Hiy Hiy-Thanks for reading!
Perpetual amateur. Lifelong learner. Vice-Principal. Teacher. Musician. Mom. Annnnd if you're reading this, then I'm still a blogger.