As we head into the last week of Winter, it seems fitting to take the time to unpack some winter baggage that seems to be costing double in baggage fees for many involved in education across our country. Remembering that it’s just beyond the halfway point in Term 3 in most states and territories, I’ve found myself having lots of conversations with systems leaders, teachers, admin/support teams and parents about the stressors on students and schools – NAPLAN, behaviour, workload, equity, fair pay, staffing shortages, attendance patterns, system structures and political footballs are all hot items on everyone’s agenda. They are all things that we lose sleep over and feel an increasing sense of frustration that sometimes feels like we are being smothered with the heaviest winter blanket in the closet.
The great news is that these conversations tend to all lead back to the same point – what can we do right now to support the learning outcomes for all students? And without trying to oversimplify the situation, my response is always to ask what we can have direct and immediate control over. I reckon I, and everyone else who has been in this game for a long time, have some answers – we have suggestions that will solve some of the equity issues and improve student results; we know how young people learn, and we work hard to find the best ways to meet the needs of each student; we are experts at finding appropriate resources and designing high-quality learning experiences; we make connections with families and support the social and emotional development of students, promoting attendance and engagement; we can source the right professional learning that empowers great educators and school communities to hit the mark for all.
But, we have no control over a whole raft of other factors that exist around each of these wonderful, educationally driven suggestions – we can’t control the political budgets and decisions made around funding or resource deployment; we can’t control the media commentary on the work that we do, nor can we control the fact that the loudest voices are often the only ones heard (even when they are speaking out of turn or incorrectly); we can’t control the social influences that are deliberately targeting the minds of young people; we can’t control the time pressures (you absolutely cannot have more that 24 hours in any given day); nor can we control the influence of the full moon or the August winds!
So, what can we control? We can control where we invest our energy – surely, the only place for our energy is in our classroom practice! We can control what we do with the great professional learning we are exposed to – surely, we are taking the great professional learning and implementing it in our daily practice! We can control the processes we use to work collaboratively around the core business – surely, we value collective efficacy and the opportunities to work with our colleagues in productive and meaningful ways! We can control the boundaries we set for our wellbeing – surely, we value our physical self, mindful self, connected self, learning self and purposeful self! We can control the restorative climate we establish and nurture in our classrooms and schools.
Ultimately, we are all educators because we have a deep moral purpose that drives us to place students at the centre of everything we do. But, if we don’t take control of the things that we CAN control, we won’t have anything left to sustain that moral purpose – it’s time to throw off the winter blanket, hold our faces up to the spring sun and take control of our language, conduct and mindset to meet the needs of our young people – both they and we deserve nothing less! Let’s control what we can and let everything else be the white noise in the background.