Turtles all the way down

Louise Emma Potter

Life is challenging. Being a teacher and living a life is sometimes even more! We all know that, so it should not come as a surprise when we have obstacles we must overcome or decisions that are hard to take. Being a teacher is a never-ending story – we never stop learning and things seem to go in cycles and we sometimes end up exactly where we started, with just a little more understanding about life itself, on a higher level of comprehension… hopefully. When we think we have overcome a modest setback in our profession, something else is just around the corner. I believe that the one crucial point most people are forgetting is that we do not live, work or do anything alone. Teamwork is something essential in our lives, however, one tends to focus on oneself and our own lives, forgetting that we live in a system: if you throw the pebble in the water, the ripples will reach out and affect everyone around you.

Being a leader (in this case, all teachers are) means you are committed to help others find their ways at the same time you are trying to find your own. We learn together, as we go along.

Being a leader does not necessarily mean everyone will love you, because people have different outlooks on life and different goals to reach. However, if you are committed, open hearted and have good intentions, this is something that will probably not concern you as you have more essential things to worry about.

Being a leader is not trying to make people think the way you do and believe that the only right idea regarding a fact is the idea you have in mind. One can be amazed at how much we learn when we change our perspective and begin looking at things from a different angle.

Being a leader is understanding that things will and must change. It is ok to change your mind about something, that does not mean you have a weak personality, on the contrary, it means you are open minded and reflective, and you have taken other ideas into perspective.

Being a leader is taking on challenges you thought you would never take on and realise that you are entitled to make mistakes. Why wouldn’t you? You are human and must step out of your comfort zone, as we always tell our students.

Being a leader is understanding you do not have all the answers.

Being a leader is looking at the bigger picture.

The more one digs deep, we will eventually understand that one can never truly get to the absolute truth of things. Having said that, as teachers and teacher trainers, I do believe we have to encourage our students to dig deep and devote themselves to find an answer. Even if there isn’t one. The process is more important than the product.

This is why it is essential teachers begin to understand what it means to be a role model. Teachers must understand that in order to teach something, you, yourself, must have gone through the same process. Teaching is not about the content anymore, it is how you reach an answer using the content. In order to show our students the meaning and importance of team work, teachers must go through the same process and work within the same parameters. Unfortunately, most teachers do not have a clue how to do this, as they are secluded in their own classrooms. Sharing a class plan is a sin! Sadly, most teachers are still stuck inside their own classrooms and do not see the need to share. If only they knew how much easier it would be if they all shared their ideas and projects. How much more students would learn if one worked in a transdisciplinary context.

Although I can understand that it is much more difficult to plan the school year in this context, not having classes divided into slots of subjects every 45 min. Definitely more challenging but without a doubt, much more fun.

So, I invite the teachers to re-evaluate their roles as leaders in the classroom and dedicate the expression “Turtles all the way down” to all. There is no true answer. We live in a never-ending cycle of living and learning, however, it cannot be done solo. This does not necessarily mean you have to go global and neurotically be on the social medias 24/7. It means to go together with your peers who are within your reach.

“You're both the fire and the water that extinguishes it. You're the narrator, the protagonist, and the sidekick. You're the storyteller and the story told. You are somebody's something, but you are also your you.” John Green, Turtles All the Way Down