BLOG POST BY PTAC MEMBER DEBBIE REYNOLDS
Let’s face it - we are all exhausted: a truly deep, long, bone-weary exhaustion. The kind that comes from being “on” all the time. The kind that comes from pivoting so much that even in the stillness, you feel the need to keep moving. As veteran teachers in the field, we have spent the last two years changing and growing, and many teachers are exhausted, burnt out and thinking about leaving the profession or taking early retirement.
But what if you took a different look at how you are feeling? What if you approached the past two years as Theodore Roosevelt famously looked at challenges? On April 23, 1910 at Sorbonne, Paris, Roosevelt gave his “Man in the Arena” speech:
"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, and comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; ... who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly." (Roosevelt, 1910)
We have all faced critics, and at times we failed. However, the most important part of the speech is that we showed up. We have been in that arena every day and tried again and again.
You might be asking yourself, “Why is she writing about the arena and all of the challenges we have been facing?” In the 2019 school year, I stepped away from the classroom for a year and headed to D.C. for the Albert Einstein Distinguished Educator Fellowship (AEF). The AEF Program provides K-12 educators the opportunity to work in a Federal agency or Congressional office, bringing their extensive knowledge and experience from the classroom to the national education arena (See, that arena word again!). At the end of the Fellowship, educators have access to a national network of education leaders, a better understanding of the challenges and possibilities in education, and a renewed passion for teaching.
Imagine being the expert in the room and having policymakers ask your opinion! Imagine having the time to delve deep into your own professional learning of interest! Everyday each one of us was invited to have a seat at the table and offer our expertise and perspective. I was placed as the first Fellow for the Department of Defense and was assigned to the Navy. For me, working in US Naval STEM, designing K-12 content, traveling to bases across the country to meet other STEM professionals, and operating with the team across the entire country was an incredible experience and one that I will never forget. Talk about renewing your passion!
Our very first day of the fellowship, our managers showed us a picture of an arena and asked each one of us to say where we were right at that moment. Some of us were on the sidelines, a few of us were up in the stands and one of us was standing in the middle. At the end of our year, we looked back and reflected: we took the risk, we dared greatly and we were all standing together smack dab in the middle of the arena.
Applications for Albert Einstein Distinguished Educator Fellowship (AEF) close in one month.
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