School can be a place of “light, connection, and transformation”

Kindergarten teacher reading to children in library(Written by Jill Davis, Kindergarten teacher, based on her experience in the “How to Build Collaborative Teams” course)

Once upon a time, there was a teacher that loved to teach. She loved children and she loved helping them learn and laugh. She enjoyed her days in her classroom, but she had found that there were two different worlds at school.

One world was in the classroom, where people talked and touched and shared what made them excited and sad. They explored words in books, pictures, and movies. They laughed and cried together. They learned how to handle conflict honestly. They learned how to lift one another up to be the best they could be. They learned to celebrate one another’s gifts and celebrate each other’s song. This world was full of life and love and learning.

But, then, there was another world. It was cold and dark and long. Minutes felt like hours. It was a place where teachers were made to go. The walls were made of ugly, cold cement blocks. The floor was made of monotonous brown squares. The teachers were made to sit for long periods of time. Sometimes, the lights were turned off and the teachers had to stare at a white square that was filled with lots and lots of numbers. Sometimes the leaders would smile and say the numbers were good, and sometimes the leaders would shake their heads and complain that the numbers were bad.

There was no talk of true learning and growth. There was no enthusiasm for the students that lived by day in the classroom. There was no connection to the teachers. There was just blah, blah, blah that would come back each week after school. As the teacher looked around, she saw no one smiling or happy. The teachers’ faces looked sad and overwhelmed. It was not a happy place.

Then, one evening the teacher walked into a room at another school for a new course she had signed up to take. Here she saw teachers facing one another around a large rectangular table. There was a beautiful chime that seemed to drift her mind up and out. There were deep breaths that seemed to shut out the outside world and connect the teachers together. There were inspirational words shared. There was reflection and life and uplifting activities. People were allowed to see each other’s humanity – to see each other’s vulnerability and move forward into trust and empathy. Real-life conflict was discussed and teachers problem-solved and brainstormed together. There was hope and love and a celebration of life and learning.

This teacher was so touched by this classroom and textbook and TED talks. She was inspired to share what she had learned with the teachers at her own school. She was grateful that teachers could once again connect and collaborate on a human level. She felt hope again that the dark place at school could become a place of light, connection, and transformation. She was excited that the whole teacher could discuss and share emotions–she was excited to finally learn how to grow and manage her own emotions. She was excited that she could be honest and discuss ideas that would make her team and her students learn even more…school could become a real place–not a cold and sterile place. She could be a leader that helped others bring their best and true selves forward.

…And they all lived happily ever after. The end.