Sunday, August 23, 2009

Anticipating the Rubber Hitting the Road

I find myself in the same quandary every year. I can't recall what teaching teens is really like. By now, my eighteenth year of teaching, I feel like Dante at the beginning of The Inferno, midway in life's path with a dark woods, threat of beasts, and a bit off the trail. No, teaching is not a journey through hell despite its rough moments, piles of essays, and lost weekends of work. It's just that I never can recall the pace or timing of teaching until the rubber hits the road.

Maybe I'm not supposed to. Every year is different as every class, every student is unique. And I'm changed, too. Every encounter with students is a new one despite my experience, the tricks in my bag, my attempts to keep up with slang, and the four four-drawer file cabinets filled with instructional materials. I've traveled to Africa this summer to steel the authority of my teaching Heart of Darkness and Things Fall Apart, and read a couple of books on "understanding by design" and "differentiation of instruction" to hone my practice in general.
Yet, students always show me the way. Rather than Virgil, a shade of reason to guide my journey, it's the rationale of student inquiry more than standards, student character more than habits of the mind, and student energy more than AYP (annual yearly progress) that charts the scope and sequence of the year.
Until there are twenty-five students--expectant, tired, nonplussed--facing me and I say "let's see who's here" will I know what teaching is really like again.


Cat said...

And while teachers like you are discovering that same thing here in C-bus, our libraries will become, once again, very quiet, populated during the day by unemployed and elderly adults and truant teens. My co-workers are looking forward to school starting with anticipation - I, however, always feel sad to see my playmates go back to school.

Teacher Knows Best said...

Every year is different and no matter how long you've been teaching I don't think one is really truly ready. Teaching is a tough career in all aspects. As each year passes I think the only thing that changes is our flexibility and our expectations.