Question: I am a teacher and I feel a great contradiction between the expectations of what I understand education to be and the reality. What I can do?
Answer: I understand you perfectly! You are one of many teachers who have chosen the teaching profession by vocation. At the end of training, these teachers dream of being able to carry out the task of education as taught by the great pedagogues. However, when it comes to the crunch they encounter a structure that often makes it difficult instead of facilitating this, and that frustrates them.
Stop and reflect. What frustrates you? You started your professional practice with great enthusiasm, with the expectation of being able to provide students with everything you learned at university and perhaps other training courses too. You imagined an ideal educational model, as it should be. You saw yourself as a teacher, with the support of the institution, school directors, faculty and parents, all collaborating together for the same cause, the education of children and adolescents.
This is precisely what frustrates you: the gap between reality and your expectations.
You have landed in a school and have been finding many deficiencies and limitations. An institution that is not supportive, and instead demands a lot of paperwork that takes up the time you want to dedicate to students. Perhaps directors who do not support the projects that you think are basic to enable the implementation of the many things you learned in training. A faculty where some colleagues look out for themselves, where small groups are formed and constantly criticise the others. Parents who demand but do not collaborate… All these and other shortcomings make reality very far from your expectations. This is precisely what frustrates you: the gap between reality and your expectations. The experience of frustration is very dangerous because it can damage and nullify your vocation and passion for such a wonderful and rewarding task as education should be. Little by little you can end up demotivated and turn an initially vocational task into a simple “modus vivendi”, waiting for the weekend and holidays to arrive.
The way to avoid frustration is to try to avoid a gap between expectations and reality.
What is the way to avoid frustration? The way to avoid frustration is to try to avoid a gap between expectations and reality. Do not expect more than each concrete reality can offer. In other words: do not try to apply a project to given reality that requires another reality, very different to the one you are immersed in. There are concrete realities that are determined by the cultural customs and rules developed over many years. Ways of doing things which have been reinforced by these customs and rules are not easily changed. It will surely take a lot of time, perseverance and patience to introduce new customs and rules. As they gradually gather strength they can begin to displace the old ones.
Therefore, when you are assigned to a school, do not arrive with any specific project or expectation, except the openness to meeting teachers and students, and accompanying their educational process. Before preparing any project, take the time to carefully observe how the school, its customs, directors and classmates operate. Before making a proposal, ask yourself whether this is viable and coherent, taking into account the set of elements that converge in the concrete reality in which you are immersed.
It is sometimes better to accept that certain innovative projects cannot be carried out than to initiate a struggle that generates sterile conflicts, since the changes you propose are too complicated for the context.
Do not forget that health is coherence, and it is sometimes better to accept that certain innovative projects cannot be carried out than to initiate a struggle that generates sterile conflicts, since the changes you propose are too complicated for the context.
We must bear in mind that reality is usually more complex than we can see. It is better for individual and social health to lower the bar of our expectations and demands, and develop an attitude of tolerance and understanding that contributes to sustaining harmony within ourselves, and also with the environment.
We must not forget that all ways of doing things are provisional and oriented towards expiration. A specific way of educating may therefore be very appropriate in a specific environment and/or time and not in another.
The most coherent approach to education is based on a more holistic vision that takes into account more aspects of reality, and promotes perennial values. These should never be lost. They are valid in any culture, and should endure, regardless of how and in which direction society evolves.
After what I have just said, some readers might think that I am in favour of a resigned acceptance of reality as it is, doing nothing to change the customs and rules that are no longer valid, or should never have been, as they are not based on the laws that regulate the natural processes of life, but serve political, economic or social interests. Not at all! That is not what I propose.
I am proposing a way to change things from within, from the base, without confrontation, without struggle, with compassion and love.
I am proposing a way to change things from within, from the base, without confrontation, without struggle, with compassion and love. If a farmer wants to replace the type of cultivation of his fields, how will he do it? If he has always collected cereals, for example wheat, and he wants to collect legumes, chickpeas for example, he will sow chickpeas instead of sowing wheat. If you want to contribute to improving the customs and rules of a school or of education in general, sow the seeds of new ways of doing things and let the seeds that you are sowing go through their process until they bear fruits that improve the customs and way of function of teaching.
Never criticize what others do without providing well-argued alternatives that improve on what is currently being applied. But, even if you can contribute alternatives, do not impose them. Let your proposals seep into the consciousness of colleagues, parents and students. When you start to collect the first fruits they will strengthen the new seeds and motivate the educational community to plant the new crop. The process of predisposition and adaptation of the educational community is necessary for changes to be assimilated. If you try to impose educational forms or systems in a hasty manner without respecting this, the forms may change, but there is a risk that the new forms are worse than the previous ones, since they will be empty of content. What I am trying to say can be compared to nutrition: what feeds us is not what we swallow but what our body assimilates from what we eat.
Ramon V. Albareda
Psychologist. Theologian. Sexologist
Creator of ESTEL, Centre for Personal Growth and
School of Integral Studies