I have accepted, for the most part, that in many ways I am a beginner. Probably best to have that attitude until my dying day, anyway. Although I’ve spend a few decades as a grown up and see my progeny already starting down that road, I’m only a few years back into my “career”–that is the one for which I had formal training, and only my my second year with my own classes to teach, let alone having so many students with learning difficulties.
It makes it easier that all my colleagues are around the same age (no whippersnappers who don’t know what they don’t know), that we all recognize the uniqueness of our school and students, that we are a village when it comes to needing to team up on their behalf, and that no one size fits all. I’m also thankful that the masks are minimal–feelings are expressed, failures and frustrations admitted, advice and solutions offered with a light hand, humbly, and with a lot of humor. Humor with an edge of sharpness or sarcasm, even cynicism, but only among ourselves. The hard edge is a kind of protective shell over the love and anxious hope for these students.
I even get to witness the struggle to balance the challenges at work with those at home, with finances, with the systems that impact our lives. If it wasn’t for staff lunch, I’d have been toast months ago. Lunch to which the principal is always welcome, though he never sits down–maybe in deference to the official barrier between staff and administration that exists in larger schools. I only wish the front office staff could be there too, as they know the students as well or better, seeing all the arrivals and departures, the lunches, the visits to the principal, counselor, or just a bench away from what’s overwhelming them in the classroom.
Come to think of it, I am a hypocrite, as I don’t reveal much, and feel I have been hard to get to know. Part of my personality, sure, being the kind of person who will answer anything honestly, but not initiate much, or ask good questions, out of insecurity about whether what I have to say is worth much, and little skill in offering the “hook” or framing things in a compelling narrative, at least orally. People don’t know what I’m thinking, and I tend to stay quiet and see what I can learn by watching and listening. And reading.
Except, in the classroom, I think out loud. That’s my hook, I guess–when I think of the times I just say what I feel or wonder or came up with, head turn and eyes lift from screens, which maybe shows that what students need, all kneaded in there with what useful, authentic, twenty-first century knowledge we want to offer, is, is…okay, so I don’t know the name for that. You might not catch it if you come to observe my classroom. in fact I can guarantee you won’t, even if you are my best friend. But the students know.