Labor, particularly emotional labor, is the difficult task of digging deep to engage at a personal level. Emotional labor looks like patience and kindness and respect. It’s very different from mechanical work, from filling out a form or moving a bale of hay.
Every great teacher you have ever had the good luck of learning from is doing the irreplaceable labor of real teaching. They are communicating emotion, engaging, and learning from the student in return. Emotional labor is difficult and exhausting, and it cannot be tweaked or commanded by management.
– Seth Godin “Stop Stealing Dreams”
This labour of digging deep with students holds in it the most robust potential for realizing true change in education. Engaging with individual students and relentlessly seeking the learning opportunities and connections that will bring their passions, curiosity and motivation to the surface creates learning spaces where tomorrow’s leaders are born.
Godin’s recently published manifesto, “Stop Stealing Dreams (What is School For?)” is available for free download in a number of formats here. Many of his ideas resonate with me and I don’t doubt that you will find them provocative and compelling as well. Discussing what he calls the “connection revolution”, Godin says that a key piece of transforming education includes using “flipped learning” where students watch pre-recorded information sessions or lectures via the internet as “homework” in order to create time in the classroom for the teacher to work more meaningfully with students on going deeper with their learning.
While I think that the idea of flipping learning in this way is very interesting and opens up the conversation about how we design learning experiences for students and ourselves, the more salient idea is the importance of the connection between student and teacher. I know that in my work with teachers, those who are focused on connecting with individual students are the ones whose students take risks in their learning and go beyond the status quo. The teacher focused on the students is driven to learn and grow his or her own practices in order to better meet the needs of the learners. There is no room for mechanical work, even if the environment seems to favour it. That relationship is golden.
And while I agree with Godin that this emotional labour cannot be commanded by management, managing distractions so that the teacher can focus on establishing that connection through the labour of learning together is one of the most critical aspects of a school leader’s work. And if I don’t see that connection happening? You can bet I’m going to ask the teacher what he or she needs in order to encourage it.