- It might be true that the answer to everything is 42.
- The answer to a long and healthy career in teaching might come from gathering together with some colleagues, pouring a cup of coffee, and sharing ideas, experiences, and memories.
Have you ever searched for the answer to everything?
You should try it sometime because there is actually an answer! And if you’ve read Douglas Adams’ book The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, you would know what it is. It’s 42!
I could give you some examples if you don’t believe it:
• What is the distance to the closest star? 4.2 light years
• What is the specific heat capacity of water? 4.2 joules/gram/degree
• How long is a marathon? 42 kilometers
• How many lines per page of the first Bible? 42
• How long does donated blood last? 42 days
So, is all this a coincidence or simply the conspiring of several sci-fi geeks who like to play with numbers because that’s what they do?
Did Coldplay have to title one of their songs 42 or did the writers of Lost have to include 42 as the last number of that sequence? Sometimes these things just gain momentum, and it provides a nice distraction from some of the harsh realities of living in a complex world.We all learned something from each other and will all go back to our classrooms reinvigorated with new ideas and a mindset for success, both for ourselves and for our students. Click To Tweet
Here’s another one that falls into the same category. I heard this one in a Lasting Learning podcast episode where Dave Schmittou spoke with Martin Silverman. It was stated that the average length of a teacher’s career is 4.2 years! This, my friends, is far too short. What’s happening that is causing teachers to leave the profession?
Well, I’m sure that there are lots of reasons. But, when I hear these sorts of things, I just want to ask them, “How can I help?” Can I offer up a suggestion or connect you with a mentor? Can we meet for coffee and can we commiserate together and establish a community so we don’t feel so alone and isolated?
I did just that today. I held a little seminar to discuss my book called Beyond the Classroom.
It was a small group, and we discussed the “whys” and the “whats” of teaching. There was me along with Debbie, Karen, and Regan. Such a simple activity…just a small group of teachers discussing teaching, but what a profound discussion it was!
I’ll give you some examples. When we talked about being “different” in our approach to teaching, Karen explained how over the years, she wanted to know what she had done in the classroom that had a lasting impression on her students. She wanted to grow as a professional by asking the very people most affected by her teaching. Brilliant! But it goes further than that. Through contacts and social media, Karen connects with students she taught 10 or 15 years ago and asks them to talk via Zoom with her current students. She gets her students to formulate questions to ask her former students such as: “What do you remember about our teacher?” or “What did you want to be when you were in grade 10 and how did you get to where you actually are today?”
The reason Karen brought this up is that Debbie was reminded by something I had said about a teacher I remembered from grade 8. This invoked a memory for her of a teacher who would, each Friday, play the guitar for the class, taking requests and singing songs together. And I’m sure you can imagine the smile on Debbie’s face when she remembered those days so vividly.[scroll down to keep reading]
It makes me wonder if those teachers that are leaving the classroom after 4.2 years are taking with them talents they never thought to utilize, the very ones that will be remembered 42 years later.
Regan said that she is always sure to include lessons and activities that are as much for her benefit as they are for her students because it makes her happy. Are you working things into your lessons that make YOU happy? You should be!
Regan said that she is not a good artist, but she loves to paint. So, she has filled her classroom with her paintings and points them out every time a student says they can’t do something because they aren’t good at it. Regan reminds them that she is not an artist but tries her best, perseveres, and gets results. It reminds me of the great baseball manager Yogi Bera saying that “baseball is 90% mental…and the other half is physical.”
This all came from 4 teachers, getting together for an hour after school and kicking around some ideas about teaching. We all learned something from each other and will all go back to our classrooms reinvigorated with new ideas and a mindset for success, both for ourselves and for our students.
It might be true that the answer to everything is 42, and certainly, I don’t have all the answers. But today, I found out that to have a long and healthy career in teaching might come simply from gathering together with some colleagues, pouring a cup of coffee, and sharing ideas, experiences, and memories. Perspective goes a long, long way. Don’t do this alone, folks. There’s power in community.
About Tim Stephenson
Tim has been teaching in Langley, British Columbia for over 25 years. He’s a science teacher, particularly astronomy, which is a course he has developed into a full credit senior science course. In his school, he is known as AstroStephenson. Way back at the beginning of his teaching career, he wrote a book, really to himself, that contained his teaching philosophy. It was a project that would define his career. He is a possibility thinker, a dreamer and a doer, an innovator.
From the very beginning, he knew that he wanted to teach by putting students and relationships ahead of content, and putting experiences and emotions ahead of curriculum. The result has been a long career of rich and rewarding experiences for both himself and his students, the pinnacle being in 2018 when he was the recipient of the Prime Minister’s Award for Teaching Excellence.
Now Tim would like to share with you his thoughts and experiences on teaching with the hope that by reflecting better, you will feel empowered to try new things, teach in new ways and see the possibilities that are there for all of us in the teaching profession.