I admit I’m pretty ordinary. I’m not a shining star or a front page person, and I’m okay with my ordinariness. I certainly want to feel extraordinary on occasion. Being in the spotlight once in a while helps me feel special. Recent recognition of my teaching efforts in two VoiceEd Radio podcasts (Getting Air with Terry Greene & Que Sera Sarah? with Sarah Lalonde) bumped up my feelings of being unique. Being interviewed by Doug Peterson was a confidence boost. Participating as one of the OER Fellows through eCampus Ontario makes me feel extraordinarily special. While I travelled through Northern Vietnam, I was the extraordinary ‘other’ in a sea of extraordinary events and vistas which were ordinary to those who live there.
But, aren’t we all extraordinary in some way? Aren’t our ordinary events unusual and novel to others?
I’m reading a book. For me, that’s an ordinary thing to do. For many people in the world it’s unusual to own a book, have access to books, or be able to decode and understand the text. It would be extraordinary to read a book that you own.
I write and create stuff on my computer. For me, it’s an ordinary thing to do. For many people in the world, who can’t access technology or spend the time in their day to be creative with text and image, what I do would be appear to be extraordinary.
I drive my car to work. That’s certainly an ordinary thing, isn’t it? Not when there are so many who only dream of owning a vehicle, let alone have permission, skill or license to drive. It’s an extraordinary event for many in this world.
I teach at a university. For me, that feels ordinary, but for many it would be unimaginable to attend or be part of a university community. It’s a very uncommon event, in many parts of the world, to participate in higher education.
I’m REFRAMING the ordinary.
My ordinary can be extraordinary. Your extraordinary can become ordinary.
As I go through my day, do I find joy in common events? Do I see anything exceptional in the many tasks I complete?
In a world focusing on the perfection of self and the enhancement of the mind, how can we, as ordinary humanity, find joy within the mundane? With global competition battling for market share and viral fame, while acquiring likes and stars on social media, how can ordinary find a space for joy?
In education, we’re focusing on being the best we can be, maximizing student engagement, designing perfect lessons for our exemplary classrooms and immediately celebrating student success. With pressure to constantly be extraordinary, we’re losing the joy to be found in the ordinary. There are so many ordinary moments in a school day that are missed in our ongoing mania to ‘bump it up’ to make it special. This impacts our mental health, our relationship with the students and their parents, and our confidence in the ‘ordinary acts’ in our extraordinary work of teaching.
Finding joy in the ordinary isn’t easy, but it’s necessary. It’s a false narrative to imagine our every moment will be extraordinary. It’s a negative mindset to think that every action will be innovative and lead to profound insights. Let’s REFRAME the view on ordinary.
In a recent ONedMentors podcast, Stephen Hurley relates that we need the ordinary to recognize the extraordinary. The participants discussed how a culture of humility is grounded in the ordinary, and how listening can be a profoundly extraordinary action. With a reframe on the ordinary, a practice of expressing gratitude in everyday occurrences can bring joy. As I read The Book of Joy, the Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu lament that “our world and our education remain focused exclusively on external, materialistic values. We are not concerned enough with our inner values” (pg 29). Increasing our happiness is connected to our “ability to reframe our situation more positively, our ability to experience gratitude, and our choice to be kind and generous” (pg 49).
So, I’ll ask this question, one that I was asked while struggling through a particularly challenging time in my life – Where do you find joy in your day?
How can ordinary be reframed positively?
Let’s reframe the ordinary. It’ll be an extraordinary thing to do!
Listen to the ONedMentors podcast ‘In Praise of Ordinary’. Thanks VoiceEd.ca for this thought provoking reflection on the ordinary lives of educators.
For those of you who think you’re too ordinary to be extraordinary – this video may help you reframe your ideas.
References and Resources
Abrams, D. (author) with His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. (2016). The book of joy: Lasting happiness in a changing world. Penguin Random House Canada.
ONedMentors radio podcast with Stephen Hurley, Noa Daniels and a panel of educators. Retrieved from https://soundcloud.com/voiced-radio/onedmentors-in-praise-of-ordinary-january-25
Image by Andrew Neal on Unsplash. Retrieved from https://unsplash.com/photos/QLqNalPe0RA