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My Revised Philosophy of Education

For years, my philosophy of education could be summed up in one word: engagement. I believed that if my students were interested in our lessons, motivated to come to school, and genuinely knew I cared for them, then everything would work out. And for many years, that seemed true.

I loved my job. I loved kids. My colleagues were my best friends. My kids were thriving at the school we all attended. Life seemed happy and balanced.

I was careful to make healthy choices and pursue regular exercise. I even found time to continue my writing passion and produced a novel every year (in some form: first draft or revision). It wasn’t uncommon for me to teach all day and take my kids night skiing or to pursue another sport with them. I thought of myself as a high-energy teacher and parent. I was proud of that.

At that time, I believed biannual burnout was part of the job. At the beginning of July and January, like clockwork, I would cry for a week from June and December’s intensity. Normal, right?

Almost five years ago, we moved to a new community for my husband’s work. I expected that the kids might take time to adjust and underestimated my own needs. I eventually landed in a school with a principal whose philosophy was counter intuitive to my own: safety, predictable, quiet, calm, routine. No field trips. No excitement. If kids acted out in my class, words like “teacher’s fault” were used. 

For the first time in my professional life, I felt lost and was floundering. None of my usual tricks were working! And after more than twenty years as a public-school teacher, I felt like a rookie. I stayed at school most nights until seven to try to iron out any of the next day’s unpredictability. I felt the parents were breathing down my neck and it wasn’t uncommon to find the occasional poison dart in the planner or by email. I struggled that first year, but stayed an extra two, just to prove to myself that I could. During that time, we financed a suite renovation that allowed for us to take in and care for my husband’s mother.

Two years later, I was at the end of myself. Caregiver fatigue on two fronts. Is this too much information?

Nourish My Imagination, is a re-assertion of my philosophy of education. I still think the best thing I can do as an educator is to create happy, safe, caring, inspiring, and engaged environments. And I believe in the Arts. And books. And Math to empower learners. I believe in laughter, joy, and the unpredictable. And simplicity.

But there’s something else. At the heart of education, is an educator that needs to be nourished, too. The job is impossible. Schools are based on cost-effective ratios not what’s sustainable for any human to undertake. That’s why some of my posts may appear to have nothing to do with the classroom. We have to nourish ourselves. We have to push back against the impossible and create a place where everyone—the teacher included—can thrive. Nourish My Imagination is not just what the student demands, but what the teacher inspires in herself.

Thank you for your interest in Nourish My Imagination.

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A picture from when we lived in Ireland.