finding flow part two

Flow means a lot to me, and I am growing more and more bound to it every day. As an educator in a large school board, events occur all the time that challenge my perception of my job, and what is assumed of me. This, for the most part, is a good thing; I do crave change. And when things change, I like to ask a lot of questions. Heck, when things don’t change or haven’t changed, I get in on that too. With more questions than answers, it can often look like I disbelieve much. But if I am not asking questions, then I am not learning. And if I am not learning, then what I am modeling for my students?

Sometimes my flow drive puts me at odds with conventional practices. I am not the type to be dissuaded by hitting a dead end in my inquiry, and I definitely do not shy away from having hard conversations. I am patient and strategic and inexhaustibly curious. Also, I know that the right question posed to the right person will reveal the loot bag I am looking for. And, notwithstanding my stubborn stance, the system could never know that it is massive and unaware and that I constantly feel its gravity on me; unless I squeak a bit.

I am okay with this. I am more than okay; I think that I am flourishing. In my current program, I benefit from the optimal balance of board support structures and individual agency and that is a real sweet spot for my brain, my creativity, and my pedagogy. The students that  I am privileged to teach are a part of a program that flourishes because my colleague and I ask critical questions and seek new creative answers. We design unique and individualized opportunities for learning; both curricular and of self; making sure that when our program needs something, we ask. And it seems like we are always asking. Funny thing about asking a valid question, how the question is answered can be more revealing than the response itself.

I read a story, from a keynote, given by the late Joe Bower. In the story, two young goldfish swim under a senior goldfish, and the older goldfish asks the youngsters, ‘How’s the water down there boys?’ The fish swim on, several minutes later, one of the young fish asks his buddy, ‘What’s water?’ Moments later the fish pass each other. The old fish asks, again. ‘How’s the water down there boys?’  This story not only highlights the irony of ignorance but also that the fishbowl, the invisible yet absolute barrier, wins.

If I place myself in the goldfish story almost every element has a connection that can be found in my teaching life. And, in my defense, my pursuit of what’s best for my students entails rocking the fishbowl metaphor a bit. Each time the bowl shifts, not only do I get a priceless view of life outside, but I also get a small chance to jump from the bowl. In certainty, this strategy will continue to create tensions in my day since most of my current questions focus attention on the fishbowl itself.  And to be honest, the fishbowl is a new discovery to some. Teaching is not my first career, my work instincts were honed primarily in kitchens and dining rooms. My views inevitably have some exotic shape and flavour initially; not radical, but definitely sourced outside-the-bowl.

For now, I am starting a conversation with the system; a debate about numbers that are rooted in the deepest elements of our education system. Equipped with the ‘What ifs..?’ that many of my students ask I go to a table with many different constituents and I try to understand the history of board decisions out of context. And like the fish in the bowl, it will take some effort to get to a new point of view. Making connections with and between the offerings of the system and the reality of my students is at the heart of my pedagogy; connections that I cannot always make as clear as I want to, but I am on the verge of mudskipping.

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