When I first began my teaching career, I made a firm vow to myself that I would always stay current, fresh, be open to new teaching strategies . With this in mind, I threw myself into teaching with a change mind-set, priding myself on being responsive to new ideas, resolute on embracing change throughout the whole teaching journey. So, it was pretty much a shock to my own system, about ten years in, to have some of my assessment strategies challenged by a new colleague on staff. I was being viewed as traditional and unwilling to embrace a new idea being presented. I was taken aback, but there was this gnawing realization that my reaction was more about being personally questioned than professionally challenged. It finally dawned on me that though I had resolved never to become ‘that’ teacher…there I was. That Teacher.
Research consistently shows that the two main responses to stress (challenge) of any kind are fight – push back, hold your ground; or flight – avoid, appease. In my case, after getting over myself (which was a mixture of fight and flight), I started to reflect. I started to really think about who or what was driving my actions, and came to understand that being challenged by my colleague was not only a good thing professionally, it was also personally valuable in its discomfort. What I had begun to do was to view my work as pretty darn good stuff; I wasn’t asking anyone else for another viewpoint to jog me into thinking from other perspectives. No wonder the voice of the ‘other’ came as a surprise. But, in the end, what I thought to be ‘right’ was in need of a reality check, and adjusting my actions was necessary. What had always been done, didn’t make it the right thing to do.
In the same way, a rural neighboring school division has had their accepted traditions challenged by the parent who is questioning the place of the Lord’s Prayer in a publicly funded education system. ‘But we’ve always done it this way…why change because of one parent… are sentiments tossed about at every local coffee shop and in the Roasts and Toasts. I read a suggestion that those children could simply stand outside the classroom during prayer; but who is looking after their rights? The challenge to the accepted practice has hopefully provided a cause for reflection.
And we, in our publicly funded Catholic school, can count ourselves blessed that our right to pray and live our faith is enshrined in the constitution. At our school, we will have our classroom Advent celebrations, attend Mass, invite Fr. Salvador to visit, and pray every day. In our busy December lives, we still must leave time to reflect on our thoughts, our words, our actions – try to see through new eyes. It may not be something public that shakes us out of our comfortable lives. No professional colleague or Roasts in the Herald. What will cause us to reflect upon our actions, to question our accepted ways, to fall on our knees, is the tiny Baby who will come to save us all.