Uncommonly Ordinary

This notion of being ordinary continues to pervade my thinking and catch my attention.

I’ve just watched uncommonly gifted athletes compete in the Winter Olympics, my jaw dropping each time there’s a flip, throw, toss, spin, slide or crash. It’s incredible to think that ordinary people are doing these extraordinary things. Anyone who participates and competes at that level of sport is uncommonly gifted – even those who were selected to drive the Zamboni to clean the ice at the Olympics.  For those who did not achieve their dream of acquiring a medal, I commend you for being there and putting your uncommon talents and gifts on the line for family, friends and country. That is no ordinary feat!

Thanks to Donna Miller Fry for nudging these ideas further with her post As It Is, Not As We Wish It To Be. Here she talks about the Olympic experience for those who didn’t achieve their life’s mission of winning a medal and about failed dreams. How we message this for our children can be a valuable way to “make the ordinary come alive and let the extraordinary take care of itself”.

So how does this connect to my teaching?

It’s here in this blog post by Chris Kennedy – They’ll Keep Coming, Until They Don’t. He starts with the challenges of student recruitment but shifts to the bigger issue of staff recruitment – educators, support staff, and leaders. Finding and keeping talented staff engaged in the work of teaching and learning is like finding those Olympic athletes who’ll put their heart and souls on the line. How will systems shift, as all systems must, to accommodate the elusive Olympic athletes of the educational world? These extraordinary teachers make the ordinary come alive and are rarely recognized for allowing the extraordinary to take care of itself. But, they’re being identified, as the Olympic athletes within the educational field and are finding recognition in other places. How can their extraordinary talents be sustained and celebrated, within educational systems, when the market world of educational business is scooping them up and hiring them for more money than school systems can afford?

How do ordinary educators stand out as extraordinary and find their place, sustain their efforts and make a difference to students? With a world wide focus on school improvement, student success, engagement, well being, and global competencies, this is not an easy ask for ordinary educators. This is an extraordinarily complex task, not solvable by individuals in isolation. It’ll take a network of support. It’ll keep the educator as the focus for the endeavour.

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A focused network of support

When being interviewed after their event, it wasn’t unusual to hear the medal winning athletes talking about their team, their fellow athletes, their equipment managers, and their family and friends as being their support system for the work they do as Olympians. Having this wrap-around system of support is an essential factor in bringing their extraordinary talents to fruition, whether there’s a medal in the end or not. This system of support is also essential, as Chris Kennedy points out, for ordinarily talented educators, support staff and school leaders. Sustaining and maintaining quality people in schools and classrooms should be as important, if not more critical, than finding, recruiting and supporting our Olympic athletes. Let’s make sure supports for these ordinary ‘amateurs’ are considered or they’ll be enticed to ‘turn pro’.

Creating and building a quality and qualified team around our ordinary educators is an essential way to ensure their success in the extraordinary work being done in classrooms. In today’s educational contexts, it’s supported through a network of engagement, not found only in the physical space in which the teaching happens. It reaches beyond the geographic confines of city, country or systems. It’ll take ordinary educators to create ordinary networks to support ordinary educators – in that, the extraordinary will take care of itself.

Have you found networks to support educators in the classroom?

Here are some of mine:

These networks bring ordinary educators into ordinary conversations, sharing ordinary events, building ordinary connections with some extraordinary results being created.

Share your networks!

Let other educators know their ordinary efforts are making a difference! Let’s recognize that those “who win, inspire others with messages about working hard and achieving your dreams” (Donna Miller Fry), but let’s also make sure the ‘failed dreams’ become visible for others to see. There are extraordinary lessons in supporting teaching and learning found in these ordinary networks.

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