“The Machine’s always been broken,” she said. Like me, she’d been teaching for decades, and so I’ve learned to trust her perspective on these things. “And look at the wonderful things it’s able to do. Just as each of us is broken, all of us in our own ways, and look at all the wonderful things we’re able to do. We may all be broken, but we do great things in the classroom, anyway.”
I realized then I hadn’t been talking about The Broken Machine so much as complaining.
I still believe that exploring teacher well-being in a world that devalues our work and effort and seems dismissive of our needs is a conversation that is currently not happening and is certainly worth having. I’ve seen my job here at The Zen Teacher as reminding us that, as educators, we need to take care of ourselves and each other in the face of an educational system that seems completely oblivious to what would help us thrive.
And I personally have seen this intra-industry apathy cause skillful, engaging, and committed teachers to go elsewhere. It has also meant that fewer college students are entering teacher prep programs than ever before (I’ve seen my anecdotal evidence has now been confirmed by recent media reports).
But my fellow English teacher’s wisdom has given me a new, more positive outlook and brought me around, Zen-like, to an inescapable conclusion: Detaching from the immutable conditions of a situation and accepting what is and moving forward will yield far more results than dragging our feet and complaining about what isn’t and what should be. We can always take what we have and do our best and make something good with it–namely, students who care about others and want to learn in perpetuity forever after.
I’ve always been proud to be a teacher, but hearing that a broken machine (and its broken cogs) can still do great things gave me a renewed sense of hope and commitment.
And I hope that I am sometimes able to provide that for you here as well.
You know, one broken cog to another. TZT