I was on a field trip with our seniors all day Monday in the rain. The seniors have been involved in problem based learning projects where they have to solve real world problems, make proposals, and come up with solutions. Today we had an opportunity to put those skills in to practice. We sanded piers, cleaned trails, built picnic tables and cleaned cabins. The students organized themselves, kept to a schedule, got the task done, and with great success and 100 percent participation. This kind of project adds Relevance to what they are learning. Will this type of experience help raise test scores? Probably not. But what it does offer is practicality and collaboration, both of which are necessary for the 21st century student and 21st century teacher. There seems to be a nationwide, state wide and local misconception about teachers, and teaching today. I don’t believe that misconception, and I won’t accept that misconception about the teachers I work with. . I would invite you all to come in, any day, at any time to any of our classrooms, and sit with us a while. You’ll see us differentiating instruction, engaging students in discussion, and teaching with rigor and relevance. What you will see won’t be the same in every classroom but our common goal is the same. According to the authors of Nine Shift “ the optimal work environment is different for each knowledge worker.” This translates to our classrooms. Draves and Coates go on to say “ Some people work best in a room with other people, some work best alone. Some work best with music playing, others in silence.” Teachers recognize this in students. I am hopeful that you can and will recognize this in your teachers. We work hard. We are committed. And we want the best for our kids.
Part of being a teacher is the ability to flex. We flex around abilities, around class offerings, and, unfortunately, around schedules. Everything can be adapted, shortened, modified, and pared down. The transition from block schedule to a traditional 7 period day, wont be easy, but can be done. In 50 minutes, a teacher can review skills, get a lively discussion started, and just as lightning strikes and the ideas flow freely, the bell will ring. And she or he will have to recapture that energy the following day. It can be done. A good teacher can surely make up those 4000 minutes that will be lost in the change of schedule. One of our hidden talents is that we are magicians. At the end of the day, I will always be a teacher, and I will know, and do know that I am doing my very best. Schedules come and go. Teachers endure.
Grading is the worst part about teaching. I know my students need feed back, and I realize that grade points count toward GPA's and honors points and placement tests and all that jazz. But I sure wish I could just teach for teachings sake. I wish I didnt have to assess what a student knows based on points or letters. If I could teach just to teach, to help a child grow..to bring him to a new understanding..to watch the light buls go on inside his head.....that to me would be true teaching. And I do some of that I suppose. Right now I'm teaching well. We are sailing through Gatsby at the senior level, and my sophomores are a joy. AP is exploring poetry. However, my grade book is a little empty. I know I'm teaching. know they are learning and growing. I just hate that I have to use numbers to prove it.
Sometimes, teachers, like actors and actresses get pigeon holed. We play the same role, teach the same grade level, year after year. Sometimes we get a bit stale. This trimester I inherited a bunch of Sophomores for English II. Now I havent taught this level for about five years. I was dreading it. Those of you who know me well know that I growl at the seventh graders who dare cross my path, and anyone under junior level usually gets a glare when he or she nears my room.
So I am wryly surprised when I reflect that I kind of like these younger kids. There is a bubbly exuberance about them....an unjaded goofiness that I find almost refreshing. Don't get me wrong. I love my seniors and juniors and always will enjoy the dialogue and the discourse I can have with them. But there is something to be said for stepping out of my comfort zone, and interacting with these underclassmen. Through them I'm finding the "art" of teaching again. And I think that is exactly what I need.
I love my job. Teaching is an art and I enjoy learning and growing along with my students. I can't think of any thing else I'd rather do.