Wednesday, September 14, 2016

On being a teacher nerd

This semester, I won the English class lottery--four good classes! And yesterday, while teaching a lesson on conjunctions (those pesky ands, buts, yets), I had a sacred moment. In fact, several, as I heard:  I get it. Ah...I see. And in my students' seeing, I saw, too. I'm a different teacher this semester, and it is paying off. More patient, moving slowly through lessons, repeating, repeating, repeating. It's not always the demon texting that has students' attention; sometimes, they simply need to hear a concept twice, three times, and more to grasp it. When I took classes last summer, I churned new ideas around and asked often, "Can you repeat that?"

Yesterday, I was all set to leave home early for a Professional Development workshop, when I opened my email.  It's been cancelled. The day before, at the same workshop, only one person showed. But I'll show, I wrote. Cancelled came back, with the handout emailed to me. In a sea of nerdy English teachers, I hold the title. I Love professional development!

When I first began teaching, each time I wrote my day's agenda, I learned. In fact, writing an agenda was similar to writing an essay. I began by thinking on the page about how to discuss a book; Frankenstein was my text du jour in those days. I didn't know where I'd take it, until my fingers were on the keyboard. Is knowledge dangerous, was a question I loved exploring. As I wrote, ideas and beliefs exploded on the page. I discovered what I didn't know I knew, deep in a place I'd never explored. Today, my agendas are set, except for the few stray readings I may select, that are fresh. But, usually I go with what I've done. It's easier. I choose easier, often. Learning-by-agenda has lost its glow.

Yes, I love to learn. But i-confess. I printed out the handout that was emailed and put it somewhere without looking at it. Maybe what I really like is the feel of the classroom, with me as student, watching someone else do the work. I love the way I can regress to fifth grade or not "get it" and then get it! I love to pick up a trick or two, to talk English teaching talk, to engage face-to-face, rather than technologically. Is learning fun because I'm long past my school days when it was required? Now, it's a choice. Or, do I just feel young and alive, still taking on the world?

One of my classes is situated right beside the glass doors opening to campus. I love to arrive early and go outside, sit on the steps, gaze. It's not the Ivy campus where I had many years ago hoped I'd teach. But that's not important anymore. What is important is the world that looms up at me, what I can reach for. 

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