I came across this quote the other day:
“Education should not be the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.”
(William Butler Yeats)
It really struck me and I wondered what we spend more time doing in education? Do we look to fill the bucket or light the fire? Maybe we’re such fine educators, we do both? That would be a pretty happy place but is it realistic?
With teachers, perhaps with all of us, there’s the question of time.
When I was a teacher, my days were taken up with teaching, my nights with curriculum and content design, my weekends with assessment and reporting. Light a fire? Be a beacon of inspiration? I could barely inspire myself to get out of bed on some mornings!
Don’t get me wrong, I loved teaching. It was hard, it was consuming and there was never enough time to do everything, but I loved it. The best part about it: the students. The banter, the funny anecdotes, hearing about their lives and of course when you have a lesson that works beautifully. But did that happen all the time? No.
Yet, perhaps that is part of what keeps teachers going – the chance to discover those serendipitous moments when the curriculum and inspiration collide in beautiful ways. When you’re not thinking about being overwhelmed or overworked, when it’s just that amazing buzz and energy in the classroom.
Someone once said to me ‘teaching is the only job where you wake up feeling guilty.’ Yes, there’s always more to do. And even when you do that ‘more’, there’s still ‘more’… and there’s no free set of steak knives either. It can be a pretty thankless job, even when you’re going above and beyond and putting in countless hours at home.
But you know what, in any job you put your heart into, you’re going to want to do more. You can’t help yourself. And because you’re willing to work so hard, you’re already ‘lighting that fire’. You’re already a beacon of inspiration! It’s in your dedication, your carefully crafted lessons, the conversations you have with parents and all those extra bits you do. Inspiration doesn’t have to be a big flashy entrance or the classroom equivalent of Dead Poets Society.
So, to go back to the original quote…
Education is about lighting a fire, yes, but it might burn brighter on some days more than others.
And that’s ok.