Do you know the difference between alignment and balance? With a car, balance refers to the tires, the things that touch the road every time you drive. When you balance your car, your tires are equal and uniform. When you get your tires aligned, you are checking the tires as well as a few things that deal with the external side of your car: the steering axel and suspension. With a body, being balanced and aligned take on a similar connotation. A balanced body is one that “drives straight” or someone that has it together externally. In order to align your body you must make sure that the inside is congruent with the outside. In teaching, it is important to understand the difference between the two and to strive for the latter.
Being balanced or aligned is a metaphor for a few aspects of the teacher slash educator. A balanced teacher may be doing well to serve their students on the surface but may very well be doing them a disservice in the long run. It always perplexes me when I walk into a class and it is dead silent. A room of 25 students and it is silent day after day. Where is the learning happening? When a teacher becomes unbalanced or has days that move beyond being simply balanced, an understanding of how classroom management, compliance, and curriculum can all be interwoven, to create effective learning for students. Teachers are the drivers of learning, and in school, the fastest way from point A to point B may be a straight line, but the fastest way isn’t always the most productive. A “balanced” attitude may lead one to get to point B more quickly and efficiently, but efficiency should not mask effectiveness.
A second analogy regarding this whole balanced versus aligned allegory finds grounding in an understanding of the transparency of an educator’s pedagogy. To put it more succinctly, an aligned teacher educates her students in a way, and about topics, that she feels are important to their growth and self-esteem. This type of understanding derives from a humility about the job. There are many things that are out of our control as educators, but the things we can control (lessons, context, style, methods) are all factors that make up who we are as educators. If grammar, handwriting and mechanics are important to you, then allow this to come out in your teaching (the teachers who hold handwriting and grammar on a pedestal probably don’t need my advice in doing this!). If you are passionate about diversity and equity, find ways to include this in your math and English lessons. Aligning your passions and intentions as a teacher with your actual practice is vital and will serve you better than simply being balanced, or representing something artificial to yourself.
Teaching requires a constant recalibration. No two days are the same, no two students are the same. This reality requires teachers to constantly tune their “vehicles”; but to keep yourself running smoothly and moving forward you must move beyond the surface fixes to make sure that everything is aligned and firing on all cylinders.
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