There is a scene from the "Star Trek: The Next Generation" episode "Ethics" that often plays in my mind. (It's actually a pretty mediocre episode in my opinion, save for this debate.) I've found a copy of the scene online... Picard and Crusher discussing whether to allow Worf to undergo an experimental treatment.
Here's the two lines that I'm going to pick apart:
Picard: He can't make the journey you're asking of him. You want him to go from contemplating suicide to accepting his condition and living with a disability, but it's too far! And the road between covers a lifetime of values... beliefs... he can't do it. But perhaps he can come part of the way.
Crusher: The first tenant of good medicine is never make the patient any worse. Right now, Worf is alive and functioning. If he goes into that operation, he could come out a corpse.
Here's the thing. Part of the way no longer feels sufficient. So if I can't make a full conversion, maybe I end up leaving the teaching profession. I've seen the research, I know where we're headed, and I know the benefits of applied math and group work, but right now it's still too far from the core of who I am. And the road between... you know the rest.
Some teachers are able to pivot and try new things right out of the gate. Others feel energized by the learning that occurs in an unstructured environment. There are also those who are very good at coming up with tasks that involve "real world" mathematics. I am working at all of this, but it feels harder with every passing day. I used to be alive and functioning. Now, going though this shift, I feel like I'm going to come out a corpse... or at the very least, as only a ghost of my former self.
BLACK AND WHITE
Part of the problem is that I am very much all-or-nothing. But the all (at once) is too much, while the nothing is unfathomable, which leaves me spinning like a top, trying to implement pieces of the whole. I get all the exhaustion of the change, but with none of the exhilaration. I am constantly reinventing, while knowing that it's insufficient. The worst cut is how I see my practical traits, and my meticulous and detail oriented nature becoming a hinderance rather than something of any use. But I can't shake off that part of me... nor do I even want to.
It's all internal, of course. No one else is (directly) telling me that I don't measure up. I am my own judge, jury, and if necessary, executioner. The jury is still out. A couple remarks from Mawi Asgedom (who spoke at OAME 2014) ring true at this point. The first is with respect to pushing beyond your circle of mastery (can do) into your circle of growth (can't do). Even if you don't make it all the way, as long as you are pushing the boundaries, you are succeeding. I passed that message on to my classes.
I now ask: Is succeeding enough? More troubling, do I like what I'm growing into?
His other remark, which I tweeted, was "You can never forget the larger story [of why you became an educator] or you've lost a lot of your power." I've previously blogged about "Yi Teach", effectively boiling it down to "to be able to push others forwards, to places beyond my reach". Also a reason why I write. I want to use what I know to spark something in other people.
But now the game has changed. What I know seems to be of limited use. I question whether I would be hired today.
Like politics, it's as if there's two extremes, and I'm somewhere in the middle. I'm not happy with either side, I'm not happy with where I am, I'm not happy with the route I'm taking, and I don't know how to make peace with myself on the journey. It's left me rather paralyzed.
If this really is a linear continuum, perhaps I should take a step off, moving into a third dimension. But I'm not sure where that would lead either, and (as I've said) I'm not a risk taker. So I'm simply going to toss two questions out into the internet:
1) Is it just me? I know I'm not the only one having difficulty with the shifts in education, but am I the only one feeling actual paralysis as I attempt to "better myself"?
2) How can I change what I do, in order to function in my profession, without sacrificing the quirks that make me who I am?