12.06.2008

Oh Yeah, and I'm a Teacher

Thank goodness November is done. It's a month full of crazy weeks and plenty of days off, but this makes it a real planning challenge--and a challenge to keep a room full of kids' attention with a 5-day weekend staring them in the face.

I realized I haven't posted about what's happening in the classroom for quite a long time. I've been so frantically busy that processing teacher stuff here has become less appealing of late, while posting about non-teacher-related issues has been hard to resist. I'm theorizing that this has something to do with that whole process of incorporating my teacher identity into who I am. There are times when I need to talk about every little thing that happened throughout the course of a day, and other times when it's the last thing I want to discuss. And these don't match up with good and bad days as one might assume. Instead, it's more like there are days when I leave school (days! ha! funny. the sun's never still up) and I just want to leave that identity behind for a few hours and be my old self. Or my new self. Either way, what happens in the classroom sticks with me all the time. So at times talking (or posting) about it is sheer redundancy. And sometimes it's absolutely all I can manage to converse about, to the chagrin of plenty. . .

Watching my classroom communities strengthen has been miraculous. The feeling of togetherness and trust is amazing and absolutely lives up to everything I could have asked for. I was modeling the use of Nancie Atwell's Character Questionnaire the other day--we're working on creating interesting, multi-dimensional protagonists facing authentic problems for short stories--and I looked out into a sea of faces who were so genuinely engaged and invested in what I was saying to them and what I was teaching them that it just about took my breath away. I know it seems like a simplistic example of what is going right, but it was truly a moment for the books--an example of everything I've been working to develop with these kids for four months.

And with all that trust and togetherness comes a certain measure of comfort--sometimes a little too much comfort. There was a clear and evident descent into madness during last period on Thursday. This is an 88-minute block at the end of the day, with the same kids, every day. Needless to say, we have our moments. We were reviewing their word study for the week and I decided to include the Hebrew word, chutzpah, as I had used it in passing a couple times and none of them were familiar with it. Somehow, out of nowhere, it became let-me-tell-you-how-many-Hebrew-words-I-know-hour. Well, I try folks. I try so hard to keep a straight face. But kids are funny. They are hilarious, actually. And that's partly why I chose this profession. So try as I might to the contrary, I lose it from time to time. And I lost it. And when I've lost it, we've all lost it. They find one another pretty amusing, but there aren't many things they find more amusing than when you think something is hilarious enough to lose it in their presence--especially if that something is something they said or did. Perhaps their amusement is due to the fact that this is a rare occurrence. I think some people view emotional honesty with students as a weakness of some sort, perhaps a threat to their power. But I'm not in it for that. And when I need to laugh, I need to laugh. And when I need to be frustrated, I need to be frustrated. And the same goes for them. I believe it's not only honest but important to let kids in on how adults manage their emotions--this is, after all, part of what we're supposed to be teaching them. Remaining emotionally distant teaches them to do the same. If I feel genuine disappointment or unadulterated glee, why aren't they deserving enough to know it?

So that's a little snap shot into what's new with the kids and me. I know that I'm teaching Language Arts and I barely touch on instructional practices, etc.; I will try to be better at posting about this. It's just that all that stuff, the "skills and competencies," seem so secondary to the other dimensions of teaching that I like to discuss.

Oh, and out of the mouths of babes: "You were at the top of your class, Ms. [Me]? But I thought people at the top of their class became lawyers and doctors." Yeaahhhh. How's that for the social perception of teachers?

3 comments:

enc said...

I think it's great that you let bits of yourself show. I remember liking my teachers more, and understanding them better when they let the mask down for a little bit. Not that I'm implying you had a mask on, ever. I don't think that's who you are, but I think all teachers have to keep a bit of distance, or an imaginary plate of glass between themselves and the students. I hope you know what I mean.

I'm happy to hear your students are doing well and that you're reaching them.

You did the right thing, becoming a teacher. Who needs more doctors and lawyers? Teachers are the ones that really reach the kids. And that "reach" lasts a lifetime.

Meg said...

One of my cultural theory professors has this quote on his door which I think applies to this post...
"Teaching is leaving a vestige of one self in the development of another. And surely the student is a bank where you can deposit your most precious treasures." Eugene P. Bertin

teach people not books said...

enc--i hear exactly what you mean. it's a fine balance for sure. i wish my kids felt the same way about the profession. one day they will!

meg--i always said this exact thing; each professor left a little bit of him or herself with me, and i hope to do the same for my students. mmmm. . . cultural theory. . . oh to be in school again. . .