True Story: I was out walking our dogs early this morning, and decided on a whim to follow the urging of our older dog--an elderly, mostly deaf german shepherd--and head downhill rather then uphill for my customary dog-walk around the golf course.
Part way round, this same elderly, sweet tempered dog urged me off to the right, on a road providing access to the golf course for a group of residential dwellings just south of the course. Quite uncharacteristically, I followed her lead.
Now you have to realize that my wife Ellen and I live in an age-restricted, golf-course centered condo-community of about 350 acres located about 20 miles south of downtown San Jose. We've lived here about eight years at this point, occupying a pleasant but small condo quite close to the entrance of this "gated'' community. We like the quietness of our surroundings, the well maintained and quite spacious grounds, the predictability of the place.
So it came as quite a surprise to me this morning when I followed my older dog's lead, heading southwards from our usual round-the-golf-course route. I'm a person of fairly fixed habits in such matters, and truth to tell I was mostly thinking about this blog entry--what to use as its title and what to include as examples. I was in that semi-distracted early morning state of mind that I am often in at this hour, that is, while performing this particular dog-walking task.
And it therefore came as something of a shock when I looked up, as it were, from my distracted state of mind and realized I was walking on a path I'd never walked on before. A stream was flowing to my left, the grass was sloping gently towards me on my right, the morning birds were chirping in the trees above me, and the sun was just beginning to brighten the landscape. It was exactly as if I'd borrowed Philip Pullman's "subtle knife" and cut my way through into a parallel universe (see book review).
Now of course what made this discovery especially dramatic, in addition to illustrating just how thoroughly distracted I can become, was that this lovely path along the stream had been there all along, just minutes from where I'd been living for the past eight years. It was not a parallel universe, but rather a very distinct and tangible part of the very universe I inhabited. I just had not paid enough attention to notice this 'part' of my reality before taking my walk this morning with my dogs. It had taken my elderly german shepherd to gently steer me in the direction of a reality I simply had not known existed: a reality right in front of me, wholly coeval with the predictable, 'ordinary' landscape I thought I knew.
Might this same 'alternative path' be there, in a similar way, in the school settings most of us will be returning to this fall? We'll be expecting to take our regular and predictable "morning walks," of course, politely paying our respects to the loquacious social studies teacher, nodding perfunctorily at the permanently pinched mouth of the next-door math teacher, avoiding the principal's office for fear of being asked to take on yet another we-can't-function-without-it responsibility. But what if, rather than gritting our teeth and setting our minds to simply 'surviving' another year, we take a leaf from Pam Cheng's book (see comment by 'spam') and remind ourselves that "it's often our [fellow teachers] that give us the confidence to believe in [our own] worth. This is the 'sun' [we can] take back to our classrooms and schools to share with our students and colleagues. Perhaps if we can reflect the best in those around us, they will be inspired to find it in themselves."
And might blogsites such as this one become wonderful vehicles for enhancing such acts of appreciation among our 'ever-so-predictable' fellow teachers? What if we all committed ourselves to making one act of public recognition per day, via a blogsite for all to see, of the contribution that another teacher had made to our understanding of ourselves, our students, or our teaching. What if we simply set that as our collective task, our collective responsibility, our collective commitment as a whole school faculty? Might we begin to see that that lovely stream-side path, with overhanging boughs, twittering birds and brightly lit sloping lawn, had been there all along, just waiting for us to open our eyes and realize that it was part of our seemingly 'predictable,' seemingly 'ordinary' workaday world?