The Importance of Crossing Thresholds
Supporting each other is really important. When I was a pre-service teacher, I spent one of two of my shorter-internships at a school that did this well. At this school, when kids were more successful in some spaces or with different teachers than with other teachers in other spaces, the staff encouraged kids to be where they were most successful. Often, this meant that students moved between teachers to bond with individuals with whom they felt most connected. One of the most amazing stories that remained with me long after I left my teaching block is that the teachers at the school celebrated when kids were successful elsewhere. The teachers where so unselfish! It was the students’ joy and success that mattered most, not teacher happiness or prestige. This lesson has remained one of the most profound of my career.
I used to think this special gift of allowing students to find spaces and connections where they are most successful only existed at that school. True, then I was only brining my own years of school-stories to this understanding. I had so much yet to unlearn…
More than a month ago I shared with kids and staff at my school that I’d be moving schools next fall. The last few weeks have been a sort of a finding-our-way towards transition. For some, the upcoming change is fine. For others, the upcoming change is uncomfortable. In our school, we are a family; we are more than people in a group. We know, or at least try to remember, that what we have together is meaningful. We understand sadness and joy are part of our life-story; we are a family.
The students understand too that they are more connected with some teachers than with others, and that none of us are the same. The staff members at my current school are great at supporting kids: helping them to find a key adult within the school with which to connect, and a space where kids feel connected.
And yet, change happens. For one of our high school students the upcoming change sits before us consuming joy from every moment. For her, the looming is real. We are a family, the real kind. The kind one chooses, creates, and keeps. We have strategies and back up plans for such things as loomings,
Shouldn’t we rely on one another? After all, isn’t that what schools ought to be?
“An’ I got you. We got each other, that’s what, that gives a hoot in hell about us,” (Steinbeck, 1937, p. 104).
Last week this high school student was feeling the loom. There were many tearful chats with our high school student, she knows that when I go in June we can still message and chat, and of course I will read her writing, and see her at Open Mic nights. However, we are a family so I shared something more. I shared how amazing I know the teacher down the hall to be when I venture into her room to share my stories. I shared that I visit her room often, just as I had done that day. I shared that the teacher down the hall -and and the teachers down the other hall the other direction too, also listen. They just look different. Often, knowing someone will listen is about permission, reminding, teaching, approval, modeling, and most importantly, the crossing of thresholds.
I’ve been wondering if maybe change wouldn’t be so hard if we had help, if others listened to our stories, and held our hands while we tiptoed through the process. I’ve been crossing the threshold into the room down the hall myself. I’ve shared. I’ve cried a bit. She listens beautifully. Wow, these people here sure remind me of that school from long ago.
Late last week, this message arrived to my inbox:
I want to share something beautiful with you. Jane (pseudonym) stayed in my room this recess and chatted, and chatted, and chatted. I really think she took your words to heart and is trying to make an effort. I had supervision but I just skipped out on it and hung out with her.
Thank-you for doing that for me, for her, for us. I am worried about her and I really want her to know I will be there for her. Hopefully the seed has been planted and we can care for it and watch it grow (is that lame?) I don’t care.
Let this warm your heart.
Love, respect, and kindness.
M. (The teacher down the hall)
Next fall I return to teach at the school that I once thought of as magical. And perhaps it still is. However, I know the treasures I saw there I often also see here every day, living in the kindness of those with whom I teach. Listening isn’t such an anomaly as I once believed it to be. I think this is because I too have gotten better at crossing thresholds myself, sitting down and allowing others in.