My mind is full of doubt and dreams on these first few days after the winter holiday. For several reasons, not the least of which is that we just found out we’ll be teaching online tomorrow for at least two weeks. (That’s more of a nightmare than a dream, but I’m choosing my perspective intentionally here). While I am doubting my abilities, I am dreaming about the possibilities for destreamed English classes which focus on a love of reading and writing, which inspire students to reach and risk and never fear feedback.
I have to doubt. Rather than self-flagellate or call this imposter syndrome, I embrace my self doubt. In fact, I often tell my senior students that doubt can be our superpower; it makes us curious and continually considering other perspectives, moving towards something better, brighter. I doubt myself because this drives my learning and revision. I am not happy with the status quo and never sure that I have the answers, so I learn from others whose visions broaden mine.
I have to dream, because students are depending on us – the teachers in front of them – and those stakes are too high for me to look away or lay blame elsewhere. My dreams are not beautiful and shiny and perfect. They are not encapsulated in a quote, but they are aspirational ones filled with the joy of holding hope despite the mess, the deficits, and failures of leadership or systems or governments. I returned to the words of Radical Hope: a Teaching Manifesto by Kevin Gannon,
Our advocacy of a better future…depends on praxis. Hope is aspirational, but also depends on agency. For our students to see themselves as active, empowered learners…they need to work within learning spaces that cultivate that understanding…The real work of change…is done student by student, classroom by classroom, course by course, and it’s done by educators who have committed to teaching because it and their students matter. (152)
On Thursday of this week, I have the gift of participating in a panel discussion called “Doubting Destreaming” organized by The Mentoree. This VoicEd Radio podcast includes a group of preservice teachers in the Faculty of Education who will share questions with Jason To, Usha Kelley Maharaj, Siobhan McComb, and me as we explore the many implications for destreamed classes in the junior grades of high school. And, despite the doubts, later on this month I’ll get to dream with a small group of educators in a three session workshop model which aims to shift a classroom practice.
Shifting really feels like the right word in light of Gannon’s wisdom on change in education. It is part adjective and part verb describing a movement. And dreaming also feels like the right word because this opens me to possibilities not yet achieved, some consequence of movement. And, because doubt continues to be a part of my patterns of thinking, I am unsure that I’ll be able to generate a shift in these conversations and workshops, but I have to try. Because this is my praxis.