Took one of my classes out for a bit of air last Tuesday, hoping they’d be able to experience the delight I did walking down by the creek–maple buds swelling, Indian plum leaves flaming upward, yellow Oregon grape flower starting to unfurl. I had heard robins, a sparrow, seagulls, seen a black squirrel and a varied thrush. Felt the mist where the stream thunders over the rocks down toward the bay.
Protocol had to be followed, with permission forms signed and returned. Only a little over half came in, the last few students probably waiting to see that it was a nice day. Some didn’t like being outside, or anywhere unfamiliar. Even then I had to tell them it was mandatory and counted for participation points, and a few colleagues leaned on my students to get those forms in. Also tried to entice them with the idea of beauty, getting out of the four walls, and the research on the anti-depression and anti-anxiety effects of time in natural spaces.
I guess the trip was a success. Can’t apply a standards based assessment on that one, but some were collecting fallen things to view back in class under the stereo microscope, others took some pictures, a few did a bit of sketching. They all stopped by the thunderous, misty rapids where the quiet, khaki stream takes a sudden leap over the bedrock. They accepted my offer to teach them the names of three plants, and used the eye lenses a little to look up close. And I think it did their souls good, though they might not say so. If I could just get them out here every week, especially as the weather warms, to see the seasonal changes, and get more at ease in the woods. Yes, a few took off without permission, one to go have a smoke, but we tracked them down, not surprised.
I am still working away approximately ten hours a day on my four and a half hour a day contract–but I know that the first years of teaching are a kind of internship with stipend. I spend hours viewing, collecting, and adapting curriculum, and write some of my own. I have to learn and do dry runs of labs, figure out what all is in my science cabinet and what it’s for. I climb the learning curve of teaching students with special needs, absorb and process the wisdom and styles of the teachers around me, get a feel for how the school rules are interpreted, learn from my mistakes.
My family is mostly supportive of this need for me to work so hard, and are glad to see me so interested and engaged. When I was stressing about the cool stuff my class budget couldn’t buy, my husband gave me a green light on using some of our own money, which was a nice vote or support. The principal also encouraged me to be creative and dream up some cool stuff. So I feel more freedom there–bought a worm composter, some stuff to build watershed models.
That was last year. I miss that job, and still harbor a wish to go back if they are looking for a life science teacher. Maybe it’s foolish to already be thinking of leaving my current job, which is long term pending a successful probationary year. It seems a better use of my skills and remaining energy to work with tougher kids. I made it though the test year, and felt I was accepted. Didn’t have a crisis like the previous teacher, and want to leave like it’s rumored the replacement teacher is being pressured (by students) to do.