I fell in love with the movie "The Greatest Showman" the first time I saw it and though I have heard this song many times, for some reason when I listened to a Youtube video of Pink singing, "A Million Dreams", with her daughter Willow, the floodgates opened. This song. At this moment. Awoke something in my soul.
'Cause every night, I lie in bed
The brightest colors fill my head
A million dreams are keeping me awake
I think of what the world could be
A vision of the one I see
A million dreams is all it's gonna take
Oh, a million dreams for the world we're gonna make
-Pink, A Million Dreams, The Greatest Showman: Reimagined
When I left the culinary classroom to be a Tech Integration Specialist after 22 years of teaching, I had never loved teaching more. I was saying goodbye to a room that had made a metamorphosis into a magical place where students were immersed, empowered and ready to leave a legacy. My classroom wasn’t the only thing that went through a transformation though, I had as well. I wasn’t the teacher that four years prior was ready to call it quits and run to the comfort of a local coffee shop to perfect the art of making a latte. I was leaving because of the million magical dreams that filled my head and kept me awake at night. I knew that if my heart could be restored with joy, passion and a love for teaching and learning, it could happen for others too.
Two years and a few months later, I know it was the right decision to make. Who knew that the decision to leave the classroom to help others find joy would drop me in the middle of a global pandemic that has caused enormous disruption on our world and education as we know it. Certainly not I. Leaning into the tumultuous change isn't easy. In fact it threatens the joy, passion, and love for teaching and learning that we are all so desperately trying to hold onto. When we are forced to shake up the status quo and reimagine our teaching practice in a way that fits our current reality...it's uncomfortable...super uncomfortable. It reveals inequalities, gaping holes, and inefficiencies. We also mourn what was, and everything we loved about how things used to be. But here's the deal, we can't sit back and wait for things to go back to normal. Our kids are looking to us to bring the magic and make learning come alive. We can't waste a moment dreaming about what was, we must make the most of what is and dream about what could be.
I left the classroom to be a Tech Integration Specialist, but secretly I really wanted to be called a Joy Specialist. My heart longs to restore the joy of teaching and learning that so often gets clouded with the pressures that come with education. Joy is contagious, but it also is courageous. We have to choose it. Every day. We must decide to be intentional about choosing to find wonder, and magic in the world around us and go beyond what is comfortable to find what is best. I see how incredibly hard educators are working. There are many great obstacles that none of us ever would have imagined we'd experience in education. As if education wasn't challenging enough... add in social distancing, masks, screen time, hybrid and distance learning, Zoom, Learning Management Systems, to name a few. Each one adds a new complexity that threaten our sanity. It's easy to gravitate to the negative when it feels like everything that was comfortable has been taken away. It's painful. We're mourning. Yet, there are magical things happening in the midst of the disruption. I see it first hand as I peak into virtual classrooms and hear the stories as I chat with teachers during virtual office hours. Teaching and learning may look different right now. We may feel like first year teachers again. However, when we tune in to the positive, our perspective shifts and helps us focus on everything we love about this incredible profession. We begin to realize that our kids are looking to us to bring hope, joy, and magic to a world that seemingly has gone mad. The stress, uncertainty, and fear that threatens to suffocate our students, can be replaced with the desire to thrive and leave a legacy on this world.
What if joy became foundational to all we do? What if joy was the heartbeat of our schools? The reality is, most would love to infuse heaps of joy into their brick and click classrooms, but it seems like a futile dream. The stakes are too high, the pressure too great. What if I fail? What if the parents peeking into my Zoom classroom think I’m crazy? What if my test scores don’t improve? What if? What if? What if?
In the book 18 Minutes, author Peter Bregman shares the story of the overnight sensation, Susan Boyle. She walked onto the UK television show, Britain’s Got Talent stage to only be mocked and ridiculed. It wasn’t till the music started and she began to sing that the millions of people watching were stunned by the angelic voice coming from a seemingly ordinary person.
“There is grace in being molded by your own gifts. To allow yourself to be molded by your own gifts takes courage. You have to be willing to stand there, exposed and authentic , while the audience rolls their eyes at you and sneers, expecting failure. And then, of course, you have to fail, laugh or cry, and keep going until, one day they stop laughing and start clapping.”
-18 Minutes, Peter Bregman
When I think of every educator in our world right now. I think of courage. You are showing up every day exposed and authentic, while sometimes the audience rolls their eyes and sneers, expecting failure. And yet, you keep going, failing, succeeding, laughing, crying...because your students need you. What if we leaned into our disruption and discomfort and let joy propel us? How would that shift teaching and learning in our schools? How would that change the way our students view education and life-long learning?
DREAM IN BRIGHT COLOR
We may feel ordinary or awkward, but if we dare to dream in bright color think of the possibility! The truth is, the magic is in you. We don’t need to remain caterpillars, we can become butterflies! But, it takes courage to dream and to believe that there is more; that we don’t have to do things the way we’ve always done them. We can do better.
When I think back on my journey, I think of how, like my classroom, I’ve gone through a sort of metamorphosis as an educator by daring to dream. There were people that scoffed, snickered, and ridiculed; there still are. But once I knew that what was happening in my classroom was making a difference, I began to ignore the naysayers. There was no turning back. I stopped focusing on, “What if I fail?” and began to focus on, “What if they fly?” Right now whether we chose this journey or not, we are all in a metamorphosis. We can try to stay huddled in our cocoons, waiting for everything to go back to normal or we can embrace the transformation and prepare to fly into a world waiting to be explored.
FIND THE JOY SEEKERS AND SUNSHINE SPREADERS
I choose to find the joy seekers & sunshine spreaders; the people who inspire, challenge, and encourage me to keep going when I feel defeated. We all need people in our lives that tell us through their words and actions, “I believe in you!” Sometimes you will find that those you think are going to be your biggest cheerleaders, are the ones that let you down. Don’t let them take you down. Often times it’s their own insecurities that prevent them from finding joy in your transformation. Find your peeps and hold onto them. So grateful for those that continuously support and challenge me to keep seeking joy and following my dreams.
START DREAMING...YOU HOLD THE MAGIC!
A Million Magical dreams has become my anthem. It is the first on my running playlist every morning. Just listening to the words fills me with joy and inspires me to keep chasing after my dreams and all that I believe in. What could our schools become if we dared to reimagine them as magical places of joy? Listen to this beautiful version of 'A Million Dreams' sung by Pink and her daughter Willow and start envisioning what would happen if we dared to dream in bright color. You hold the magic!
Tech Integration Specialist in Southern Oregon and author of Make Learning Magical. I'm passionate about finding innovative ways to transform teaching and create unforgettable experiences in the classroom.