I dwell in Possibility –
A fairer House than Prose –
More numerous of Windows –
Superior – for Doors –
Of Chambers as the Cedars –
Impregnable of eye –
And for an everlasting Roof
The Gambrels of the Sky –
Of Visitors – the fairest –
For Occupation – This –
The spreading wide my narrow Hands
To gather Paradise –
Each classroom a world. Each teacher a creator. Each student an inhabitant. Each door an entry–a step into a realm where, for most things, the difference between possible and impossible is a teacher’s decision. Incredible power. Incredible responsibility.
As I have often remarked, teachers have a great deal of autonomy. And with that autonomy–that power, that freedom–we each create a world, a culture in which our kids must dwell as they journey forth in their educational experiences. Incredible power and responsibility–indeed, both of which make us alone responsible for the experience kids encounter in our respective worlds. It is a hat we must wear.
Oh to be fair, there are certainly factors that we cannot control. We can neither control what happened before our kids entered the room, nor can we control what happens after they leave the room, but when they dwell among our four walls, when our policies impact their lives outside those four walls, we have to wear it; we have to own it. After all, we made it.
I tell my college kids that they are not to become managers of classrooms. To be sure, they are to become creators of culture. They are being given an awesome power, an awesome responsibility. And as they prepare to build worlds in their own little corners of the universe, I tell them that it begins with a simple question, “How do you want kids to feel when they cross the threshold into your world?” And I go on to tell them that it continues with what they bring as they, themselves, walk into the room. What beliefs, convictions, and ideals do you harbor about education? What do you believe about kids? What do you believe about yourself? Unavoidably, inevitably, all this and more will play a part in creating the landscape. Oh, I go on to give them tools and guidance, but I cannot build it for them. It is their own world, and they have to own it. All of it.
Of course, each quarter, our discussions lead us to the topic of grading, a component with significant classroom-culture implications. And though, here, it is neither necessary nor expedient to share all the specifics, in our conversation, we always generally arrive at the truth of who’s in charge of grading practices, and most, if not all, are always taken aback by the fact that they are.–at least the degree to which they are. No one hands them the manual on day one. It is sparsely covered in college. They pick up pieces from their master teachers during student teaching. They remember and employ practices of teachers in their past. But beyond that, their grading practices become their constructs. And it is for that reason alone that they must wear what they make. Their hats of autonomy and shoes of responsibility, regardless the stage in their career, must fit, for they made them.
Of course, wise teachers know this, and as they grow, they adjust, making the necessary alterations along the way. Wise teachers know they have to own it. Wise teachers know they create the world in which their kids exist. And wise teachers know–own–that their decisions separate possible and impossible. I want my young, aspiring teachers to reach an early wisdom in this regard. I want them to be the teachers who create realms of possibility. But I do not want them to be me. That is not the goal. To be clear, I am quite adamant about this. I only share stories from my world–stories fraught with failure, stories with only sprinkles of success–to reassure them that though we, indeed, wield “otherworldly power” at times in our positions, we are mere humans after all. We fail. We learn. We grow. We succeed. All to fail again. But if we hold true to our threads, if we perpetuate the possible, then we will rise each time, and continue to be stewards to those we would hold, to those we would host in our realms. And each time we fall, we must rise quickly for the time with our young spirits is but a blink. Let it be that after they blink, they see, they remember we did ALL within our power to make possible their dreams. Make choices that make possible.
Happy Friday, all. Dwell in possibility.