Okay, Mr. Twain, I see what you’ve got going on here.
The more I get into sustainable teaching, the more I understand one of its key components: reserving space for self-care, play, and laughter. As a result, I’ve given myself permission to step away from the all-consuming demands to teaching to rediscover the joy of riding my bike.
In the process of doing so, I’ve recognized the similarities between the noble profession of teaching and the noble sport on two wheels. Riding a bicycle, like teaching, requires effort and grit, navigating hills and valleys, weathering storms, and enjoying sunshine. Both are art forms and full-contact sports. It’s just you and your goals and your sticktoitiveness. So I would make a small change to Twain’s quote:
“Become a teacher. You will not regret it, if you live.”
During student teaching, my principal told me that once there’s money involved, teaching inevitably becomes more of a job and less of a passion. It becomes complicated, and you can lose the calling. When we as teachers are pressured to teach for the sake of test scores and initiatives and funding, we’ve already over-complicated our “bicycle,” adding things like disc brakes, 37 gears, electronic shifting, and spaceship carbon fiber. If you get caught up in progress for the sake of progress, you can lose the joy of actually riding a bicycle.
Teaching can also become this giant thing, this tangled mass of cables and priorities. Ironically, however, the ritual of taking apart an individual bicycle, allows you to fully understand the true simplicity of the machine.
As you admire the bike’s merits and components, assess its heritage and quirks, and care for its imperfections, you gain insight into the bicycle as a whole. Likewise, learning the intricacies of each student’s strengths, history, and idiosyncrasies gives you appreciation for the student as a whole human being.
In the end, simplicity is actually the key. Eventually, I’ve come to understand that the true beauty of the bicycle is two wheels, one gear, and a brake for when you’re running scared. In the same way, I’ve realized that understanding the student as an individual allows you to help them journey down their own path without losing yours.
Ultimately, the beauty of teaching sustainably is the one smile from the individual student, one “Aha!” moment, one “Thank You, Mr. Lardner.” That is the journey worth taking.
As H.G. Wells said, “Every time I see an adult on a bicycle, I no longer despair for the future of the human race.” Mr. Wells and I both “no longer despair,” because an adult on a bicycle is a vision of joy, the type of joy you felt when the training wheels finally came off, Dad finally let go, you felt the wind in your face, and saw the ground roll by beneath your feet.
Being on a bicycle requires you to be in the moment, releases you from your earthly bonds, allows you the freedom and virtue to be where you are and do what needs to be done for fulfillment. Why should sustainable teaching be any different?
Written by: Bradford Lardner, CSUWP Teacher-Leader and Kinard Middle School, 7th Grade English Teacher
WANT TO LEARN MORE ABOUT HOW THE THEORY OF SUSTAINABLE TEACHING CAN ENRICH YOUR TEACHING LIFE?
Attend the NWP Rocky Mountain Regional Conference, "Mind, Body, and Soul: Finding Your Path toward Sustainable Teaching" which will be held July 12-14, 2019 at Colorado State University. Learn more about the conference here!