I always enjoy visiting with my younger brother Jeff. He is a United Church Minister and we have wonderful conversations about the connections between his work as a preacher and mine as a teacher. Once we get passed the obvious difference, it’s amazing how similar our work is.
Today’s conversation was driven by a couple of questions I was mulling over during my run, which I sprung on him over breakfast (as an aside, older brothers always have to keep younger brothers off guard with conversation topics). I wanted to know what constituted a successful Sunday service for him and what he hoped to accomplish in a year in the life of a parishioner. I was hoping to relate that to a successful lesson and a successful school year. Our conversation produced some interesting connections for me.
Reverend Jeff’s notion of a quality Sunday service is contingent on two factors – how he feels at the conclusion and the feedback he receives. While he intends to “bring it” every Sunday he also recognizes his own capacity and knows that on the occasional Sunday his reserves are a little low and then he must do the best he can in that moment. I know that my intent as a teacher was always to inspire and create learning connections for my students. I try to do the same in my current role as a speaker and consultant but some days I need to rely more on my experience and learned skills. Those days do leave me feeling like I didn’t do my best but did the best I could.
I loved his response to what he sees as growth in a year for anyone in his parish. He wasn’t able to quantify it nor did he want to. “My push is to create the conditions where growth can take place, and to recognize that everyone is at a different place on their very personal journey”, is how he phrased his view of his role. As I think about schools today, I wonder if we might be able to embrace a similar view. Can we create the conditions where learning and engagement on a personal learning journey drive what schools are focused on rather than the rigid view that every fourteen year old must do grade nine Math and every other grade nine course? Can we connect purpose and passion with an eye towards future possibilities?
As always, our time to connect as brothers and colleagues concluded too quickly. I look forward to our next time in the same room together. In the meantime I’ll generate some more questions to explore. Feel free to share any you might want examined.