I love this time of year. As the calendar turns and June 1st emerges, I gain a pep in my step. Many would say that’s because I’m a teacher and that means ten weeks off. I’m not going to lie to you, it plays an important role. However, it's not what drives my excitement about summer. Summer is a time for freedom and exploration. I definitely consider myself to be a summer child. The bulk of my most cherished memories took place in the summer. That’s true not only of my childhood, but also my adult life. My wife and I had our first date on a memorable Memorial Day Weekend. My daughter was born on the greatest August 30th ever.
However, that’s still not the biggest reason why I love this time of year. Living a life as an educator gives you a different vision of the world. One of my hopes for this blog is to invite you into that world from time to time and to take a brief walk through that mindset. In the mind of an educator (and many others; we don’t own this), life is about growth, change, and development. I love this time of year because I am enamored with transition. William Bridges, considered by many to be the Godfather of the study of transition’s impact on humanity, once said, “It is when we are in transition that we are truly alive.” Truer words, Mr. Bridges. Well played. That’s it. That’s what it’s all about. We grow when we are uncomfortable. In these moments, we discover who we are and what drives us to be better and to get better. In my opinion, there is nothing more astonishing than the human condition. I’m fascinated by the analysis of how we work and what makes us tick, both individually and collectively as we gather in groups and communities. If you are a student of the human condition, you know how important transition is. It defines what we will become, and it is born from who we are. When we are most challenged and we are most taxed, it is in these moments that we are most likely to lean on our core in the pursuit of success. To be human is to be the phoenix that rises from the ashes created by transition.
In education, we celebrate transition. We schedule it! Every year, like clockwork, we schedule promotion. We schedule the next step. Every so often, we will grant some the opportunity to dress up in regalia and process to celebrate conquering transition over the last 4 years. This is both beautiful and dangerous. Not much needs to be said of the beauty of graduation and promotion. Dangerous is a different story. When you schedule transitions, you deny another aspect of humanity. We are all unique in our own way and that includes the rate at which we grow and develop. I had a colleague early in my career who was kind enough to share this idea with me. Education is a matter of readiness. You never know if that student who is seemingly disinterested isn’t cultivating the soil for the seeds that you’re planting. In America, we have always had a tendency to push sameness and mediocrity. We place ourselves in little boxes when we define success. Don’t get me wrong. We have shown progress in this regard, but we can still see elements of resin and rust in our systems, and our schools wear that evidence. No one knows this better than the educator who sees groups every year with students moving at different paces. Yet all of them will move forward to the next prescribed level. Are they “there” though? Don’t worry because they don’t have to be “there”. They just need to keep moving forward.
This is why I tutor. I have seen firsthand the limitations that exist in the “way we do school”. The truth is that school comprises the bare minimum standard for growth and development on the pathway to being “educated”. To say that someone "is educated" implies a completed state, but the reality is that there is never an endpoint or a level of absolute completion to the lived experience of education. To say otherwise destroys the essence of the word. Education should never cease. I often tell my students that when I experience a day in my life where I don’t learn something new, that is the day that I have stopped being truly alive because, in my eyes, to learn is to live. That is why I’m telling you not to worry if you sense that your child isn’t where he or she needs to be as defined by a monolithic system. Instill in them a mystical belief in wonder and curiosity, for it will be the fuel that drives them to seek education. They will transition into a whole new world when they understand that education is a lifelong process that never ends, and that process is driven by growth and transformation.
Of course, the promotion to the next grade and the achievement of a high school or college degree is always cause for celebration. It truly is special. However, know that the attainment of any level of expertise invites the next transition and the next step. It is at this point that students need the greatest support and encouragement. They are still discovering how to best deal with transition. You are your child’s best tutor in this regard, but the task is not easy, and it often requires help. GBO is here to help you navigate these waters. We would cherish the opportunity to help your child establish a mindset of growth and transformation. The pursuit is what defines us. The pursuit is what qualifies us as truly alive.