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As teachers and students gather each day, they experience a wide range of issues and challenges. By this time of the school year, everyone has gotten to know each other. Procedures have been laid out, assessments have been given, and classes are on their way. We all want to settle into predictability and the truth is that along with our routines comes a fair amount of uncertainty. The stuff we didn’t ask and don’t bargain for.

I call it the stuff that gets in the way. 

We wake up in a bad mood. Students come in grumpy or unprepared. The principal says, “Hey, I want to observe your class today!”. Our most challenging student is inviting us to engage in the let-me-see the-steam-coming-out-of your-ears game. This is the yucky stuff. No one wants it and yet we get it all the time.

The yucky stuff gets in the way for teachers. It gets in the way for students.

On the way to making a difference we encounter obstacles. Not enough time. Not enough resources ( fill in your favorite “not enough here _____”). You know the drill. Uncomfortable stuff shows up inside of us. Fear, anger, frustration, sometimes despair. It can bog us down and get in the way of making a difference.

If you experience any or all of this, congratulations, you are just a human like the rest of us.

This making a difference stuff can get sticky and uncomfortable. And at the same time we will respond. No matter what we encounter or experience we will always do something next.

What if being uncomfortable is part of this thing we call learning? What if we can notice “who is important” to us ( see my September 24 post) when the yucky stuff shows up? What if we can help students do the same thing? What might we do next?

What if we got a little curious about the yucky stuff? Well, it just might get in the way less often and we can go on and figure out what to do next instead of messing with it and wishing we didn’t have it. Our bad mood wouldn’t stop us form doing what is important. The principal will come in and we won’t run screaming out of the room. We won’t pick up the rope to play tug of war with our resistant student. Our student can feel lonely and stay engaged instead of finding someone to pick on.

The matrix can lead us to experience that yucky stuff doesn’t always have to get in the way.