Before you read on, this blog post is about the personal reflection that was created, from an others actions. I urge you to not consider too much the catalyst of my thoughts, but rather the outcome.
Yesterday was Armistice Day; November 11. It marks “the armistice signed between the Allies of World War I and Germany at Compiègne, France for the cessation of hostilities on the Western Front of World War I”
The “eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month” of 1918.
After a career in the Royal Air Force (which ultimately led me to teaching), this is a special day for me. I pay my respects to the generations that gave their lives in sacrifice for today; but I also give thanks to all those that have served, and continue to serve today in operations that are as brutal, and which are arguably more complicated than they ever have been. I remember my own service, the comrades I have served with, and the servicemen and women who have sacrificed everything in recent times.
This November 11 saw me in a new town; a new parade. As always, I ironed my suit and polished my shoes, just as I would have for parade every year. Sometimes I pin on my medals and dust off the beret, but not this year. I subtly donned my poppy, veterans badge and tie pin, and with family in toe, wandered to the town’s service of remembrance.
The local gymnasium was standing room only, great to see…not so great with a three year old, but he stood proudly next to his mother and I, holding my hand, still and reflective just like Daddy. The main speaker took the stand a few minutes in, after the obligatory reading of In Flanders Fields. Within minutes, my thoughts had been swayed from the service. I doubt many in the audience would have felt the same way, but I couldn’t help it. The speaker had moved (probably unintentionally) the onus of the service from the sacrifice of war, to the sacrifice of Christ, with him making the statement “more importantly, Jesus Christ gave his life for us”. Now, I was raised attending a Methodist Church; I’m accepting of others beliefs, but as an adult I have chosen to not follow the path that my grandparents had so devoutly did – largely due to my service. Never the less, my view on what was “more important” was very different from the speakers. Here I am, November 11, Armistice Day, Veterans Day, Remembrance Day…what ever you wish to call it. A service to remember the fallen; being told that “more importantly, jesus christ gave his life for us”. In addition to this, the decision was made to not read the names of the fallen. I zoned out, my eyes turned to the audience, scanning and wondering about their own stories and reasons for remembrance. I looked for the guys and girls who stood like me, as proud as the day the joined their chosen service, holding back emotions which are hard to contain. After the last post, and God Save The Queen, the parade stood down and the audience began stacking chairs and departing to go about their Fridays.
As my family and I said our hellos and thank you to familiar faces, my mind wandered. Remembrance parades typically have an element of prayer or a lesson from the bible, just as I’m sure other faiths will thank their own gods…but I “more importantly”…these were the words I was struggling with. The speaker had decided for the masses what was important based on their belief and faith. This is where I made the link to my teaching practice. The lessons we deliver can be so easily biased by our own assumptions and beliefs. If I think about the lessons I designed and delivered a few years ago, they were largely based around lessons which I had been subjected to some 20 years previous; I expect many of us have fallen to how we were taught as a default at times – after all, it worked for us, right? For me, the reason for this ‘default’ was a lack of formal training before hitting the classroom at a sprint, rather than a walk. It has been the PIDP program which has developed my practice, encouraged me to experiment (and fail regularly), to listen, to reflect. I do my best to not not make ‘leap of faith’ statements, without considering the consequence or effect on the learner.
This speakers comment made me think about a certain student I had a few years ago, who had a very solid background in the subject I was teaching. I wonder how many times they thought ‘yeah, I don’t believe this’ or ‘thats not how I understand it’…This particular student was the epitomy of introversion, at which point my teaching could not empathize fully with. This student probably wasn’t given the freedom or confidence to challenge what I was trying to teach; for that I apologize. There are so many mays this blog post could go, but honestly, my take away point is this – just be careful. Motivation, the positive learning environment, our validity are all very fragile. Education is fragile. What you think is more important, might very well not be a priority for many others.