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Monthly Archives: March 2017

Age of fear

Your lips are tight, old man

Have you no power to ask for what you need?

No one here knows you, and your time is running out,

Why not leap into that terrifying empty space,

while you have the will?

 
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Posted by on March 21, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

Inspire

I described a teacher to those middle-schoolers, and they saw what I saw, and what a beautiful sight, the kind that doesn’t quite toe the line, who knows he or she might not be pleasing the powers, but that truth and love and a clear conscience must come first, and the gift, the one they carry burning in a holy bowl within, must be passed on to whomever would receive it, the vertically- and especially the horizontally-aligned standards be damned! Young people must be nurtured, and sparked, discovered, led forth, reminded of their freedom and their power, introduced to the very thing that could be so explosive, the opposite of “classroom management,” each other.

I went on about that “each other,” each one being unique and themselves, but also in flux, looking around and asking, “That person, do I want to be sort of like that? Ew, that one, could I, oh, oh, am I sort of like that?” So that each person is in effect formed by the presence of others, and how we choose to be shaped by that. And we have the power to shape, and form, and even normalize, and dull sharp edges, but that we all ought to be careful of one another’s souls, not to damage them in the process of trying to make others be a certain way in order to make our own lives more pleasant.

As I described this teacher, their eyes glowed with understanding. The one I guess I was sort of speaking especially to, though not having planned that in advance, nodded and said, “like Mr. N——,” (who teaches a few doors down) and another, “like The Dead Poet’s Society.”

 
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Posted by on March 20, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

What I like most, besides actually teaching young people important things, is the variety.

I can’t decide which part of this job I like best, but I know for sure that without Tuesdays and Thursdays, weekends, and the occasional break or professional day, I’d be burnt out exhausted by now. As it is, planning for five different courses (oneĀ  being Algebra II, which I am relearning after many years), supposedly standard in essential content but all instruction packed into into two days a week is a real challenge, but mostly I think I’m doing okay. My quieter Tuesdays and Thursdays are broken up by teaching a third grade math/science class on each, and then I tutor a mix of students, mostly in math, for an hour or so.

For a “break,” I get to plan five other classes I teach to middle schoolers on Fridays. Those ones are what is usually called “passion-driven,” with no homework and each, if I want, stand-alone within the topics. Those are hectic but leave me pumped at the end of the day, in an exhausted kind of way, daydreaming of what I could do for the next round of Friday classes. Then I drag myself home for dinner and a hot soak followed by a book or another episode of “Sherlock.”

I actually sort of dread every single class I have to teach. Maybe not dread, but feel the importance of the task and my lack of sufficient preparation, a sense of how much higher I could have aimed. Just beforehand I get psyched, feel pretty useful and engaged in the middle of everything, though rushed, with barely fifty minutes per class. Afterward think, that was okay, with a few really worthwhile moments, and I can’t believe I get paid to do this. Then I plunge back into my stack of grading and try to get a firmer hold on my long term planning, data collection and analysis, and find ways to adapt lessons for various students who need that. Every now and then I realize monthly reports are coming due, or I have an imminent meeting I haven’t glanced at the agenda for, or am supposed to be solving or finding someone to solve technical problems of various kinds, since I agreed to be the school’s tech person. Never a dull moment.

That doesn’t leave much time for a home life, though, but I guess for now it’s okay. My family has been very understanding, and no one is particularly needy right now. A walk around the neighborhood with my husband and our two dogs, a quick date in town for stuffed mushrooms, a fireside chat with my sixteen-year-old daughter or thirteen-year-old son now and then–I guess we’re holding together okay. There’s toilet paper, dishwasher soap and basic groceries in stock, and we all help keep the laundry machines going and help out on garbage day. My husband has stepped in with gusto and professionalism as far as keeping the house clean in my absence and preoccupation, and is taking over some of the banking, school/kid and doctor appointment arrangements, and is building our new fence to boot.

I think Friday classes are my favorite. They remind me of what learning should be, sort of–a teacher hanging out a shingle of what she cares about and can do, and people sign up out of interest (and a bit of wanting to get out of the house and in among peers). Some kids listen and forget and a few couldn’t care less, but most of them are really curious and enjoy finding out and learning to do useful things. A few even take notes without being told to. That feeling of choice and freedom is too rare in schooling situations.

Today, just a half day due to a workshop, the journalism students let me share some quotes from writers and a few interesting youth journalism websites, then finished off their articles and sent them to their editors, one for a publication on The Storm of ’17, one on Donald Trump, One on alien sightings, and one student, an outside-the-box thinking eighth grade girl, single-handedly created a cooly odd little paper oozing with off-the-wall ideas. I had some students review and edit for peers, others do layout, and tried to keep them driving on to the finish and not get caught up in gimmicks and web searches, sort of like a real journalist’s deadline.

Second period we looked at earthquake hazards around the building and how to secure tall furniture. Third period was a nice small group of about eight who worked on hand sewing and embroidery.

After the parent workshop, I worked a few hours more in the quiet classroom tying up a few of the many loose ends educators live with, and got a few more of my files set up. A big drawer each for biology and environmental science, one for all three maths, all ready for next year. The word is, though, that the only courses I’ll teach again will be two of the maths, and I’ll have to take on high school physics, to all ages, since it will only be rotated in every four years. Just so I don’t get too comfortable. I haven’t taken physics since 1983.

 
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Posted by on March 17, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

Various self doubts

In our staff meetings I listen humbly and try to be a good employee, taking directives, adding to my “to do” list, and making whatever contributions I can, without monopolizing the floor. I am insecure–it’s only my first year, and I wrestle with self doubt often. Why can’t I move through the curriculum faster? Am I grading fairly? Should I really be giving all this homework? Am I doing all I can to customize learning for students with learning challenges and different learning styles? Am I really any good at this at all, or should I shift to a different line of work? How long will it take to tighten up my routines and know my curricula, so I don’t have to keep working sixteen-hour days? Am I showing enough appreciation and deference to the office staff who have been here much longer than I? What is the right amount of passion to show about issues affecting our students and our world?

 
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Posted by on March 16, 2017 in Uncategorized