For all the time, energy, policy work, arguing, thought we spend on education, is it in the end really worth it? I've been reading a lot about education lately, from this article about how to make better teachers, to the latest Rethinking Schools issue, to an article in the New York Review of Books that made me totally rethink the grad school teaching education I'm a product of--and sometimes, in the midst of all these competing theories and different things to focus on and little bickering arguments and who knows what else, I can't help but think who cares about this, anyway?
Those are my hopeless moments. Those are the moments when I think that this problem of how to help people learn is way too big for anyone to tackle, that it doesn't matter what I do because it will never be enough, or if it is enough, it'll be enough of the wrong thing. It's hard to read all these hundreds of articles--and these are only the ones I know about--and sort through what makes sense, and then try to act accordingly in my classroom. What's more daunting is that after all that reading, even if I could figure out the right thing for my classroom, I'm still surrounded by millions of other teachers, administrators, and who knows who else in this huge, overwhelming system that is going five million directions at once. How will anything ever get better?
That's when I have to take a deep breath and realize that I'm defeating myself before I even begin. I'm not going to fix the whole system right now. I'm not even going to fix a fraction of the system right now. But I can try to be the best teacher I can be. That's the start. Maybe I will make a difference in the large-scale scheme of things and maybe I won't, but I can certainly try to make the biggest difference I can for my students. And maybe that's all I or anyone else needs to be doing right now. I don't think that's it, but at least it's a start, a positive step I can take without being paralyzed by the hugeness of what I'm stepping into.