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  • Amanda Ladish

#LoveTeaching Wednesday Wisdom

Guiding Quote by Marian Wright Edelman, founder and president emerita

Children’s Defense Fund

“Education is for improving the lives of others and for leaving your community and world better than you found it” - Marian Wright Edelman

This quote served as my focus when writing my educational philosophy as an undergrad. I based my educational philosophy on Constructivism, building relationships with students and families, as well as serving and advocating for the local and wider community. Eight years later, I am getting reacquainted with that core philosophy.

The challenges for teachers, students, and families are more difficult than ever. The pandemic exposed the rot in the public school foundation that reformists and advocates have been testifying about for years- inequities in funding, obsolete or unsafe ventilation systems in buildings, substitute teacher shortages, crumbling infrastructure, systemic racism and the digital divide.

This past year was a testament to the alchemy required of us to continue teaching students in 2020- no doubt going down as the annus horribilis for so many. Educators and school staff such as custodial and maintenance teams, food service, nurses, librarians, educational support professionals, union members, administration and interns have all stepped up to serve in drive through food banks often while also addressing health and safety, academic, and social emotional needs. The psychological load we are all bearing from the pandemic threatens an emotional burnout. Moreover, the physical threat from Covid-19 reigns ever present. We need wisdom more than ever.

We can share our hard won wisdom with others. Often, we receive it from unlikely and profound interactions with students in less than stellar circumstances. I am reminded of the interactions with students during lockdown drills and the hard topics in much needed conversations when current events, hyperbole, or school drama overwhelmed our original topic. Indeed we can gain and share wisdom even through non models of behavior we don’t wish to emulate. We learn from colleagues that we are diametrically opposed to on some matters, but sharing a united goal of helping students.

When my service as an educator and advocate helps a student because my instructional assistant, my PLC , my administration, and my district collaborated to meet that student’s holistic needs, our reach goes further. Lip service to wokeness or hashtagging isn’t enough. Advocacy and making the community and classroom a better place requires more. It requires listening. It requires being open to new perspectives, but also knowing when to stand firm or use your voice. Advocacy requires wisdom. The term lifelong learner comes to mind. Many in our field claim it, but how many maintain it?

I love teaching because I am challenged to collaborate when I want to withdraw. When my deeply human flaws are on display, can I rise to the occasion to learn more? When I am called out, how do I react? Modeling wisdom for students means admitting your mistakes. How we respond to mistakes says much more about us as lifelong learners than the mistake itself. As we learn to work on ourselves, we are better able to serve others. It is a challenge to balance knowledge with wisdom. The ego loves knowledge. Educators can be esteemed for their pedagogy or content expertise, but this year they learned they better be adept at Zoom, too. Wisdom is all about humility and accepting challenges.

Loving teaching these days means taking the bitter with the sweet. I am trying to use that alchemy to conjure wisdom. This transformative process is how we inspire ourselves and others to make sure we leave our community and world better than we found it. When considering how to cultivate inspiration and advocacy as a teacher, look to the wisdom of Marian Wright Edelman. Happy Love Teaching Week 2021!

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