During National Teacher Appreciation Week, May 4-8, 2015, the Center for Teaching Quality invites all teachers to share their #TeachingIs story in an effort to change the national narrative about teachers, education, and schools. A number of powerful and wonderful stories have emerged from this challenge. I was particularly inspired by my friend Liz Prather’s “#TeachingIs Messy (And I Like It That Way)” (which was in turn inspired by another great piece by Bill Ferriter: “#TeachingIs According to Twelve-Year Olds”). I was further inspired by Danielle Brown who wrote that teaching is about choices and Sandy Merz who blogged that teaching is 50 shades of grey.
I agree with all three blog posts as well as the many #TeachingIs quotes shared on Twitter and other social media, but the more I thought about the one word or phrase that summed up teaching for me and I came up with “feeding.” I waffled a bit between feeding and nurturing because I am a total word nerd and nuances of meaning matter to me. I do see so much of what I do as nurturing, but the more I thought about it the more I felt that word was too soft, too gentle, too easy a word to apply to teaching. Teaching is hard. Not always. Not every moment of the day. But teaching is hard because it is messy, because it demands hard choices, and because there are so many shades to the work (there are shades within the shades). But feeding – now that is a word that can encompass the mess, the choices, the shades.
Feeding can be as simple as spreading fodder in a field and letting the beasts fend for themselves or as fraught as hand-feeding an alligator. Sometimes those being fed must be coaxed into taking your offering and sometimes they will go to extreme lengths to take the food on their terms and not yours. Sometimes they will take your food and use it in ways you never imagined. That is the essence and challenge and joy of teaching.
Think of the reasons that we feed our bodies, our plants, our animals, and our machines. We feed these things so they can survive, function, grow, flourish. We feed these things to power them. That is how I see teaching – it is my job to power my students by feeding their minds, hearts, souls, and bodies so they can survive, function, grow, and flourish. I am forever grateful to the wonderful teachers who fed me and those who continue to do so every day. What is your answer to the challenge of #TeachingIs ?