Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Refresh the Resolve

Of course, we're all on different schedules across the country, but here in NW PA, it's a little under three weeks till school gets started. (Boy, shouldn't we do something about that? I mean, a student moving from PA to TN would find themselves suddenly several days behind, or one moving the other way would have to do the first day all over again, so we probably need a Common Core School Calendar so that we are all always on the same page on the same day. But I digress.)

In the weeks before school starts, I try to focus on my personal big picture to get myself cranked back up for school.

You know how it is. In the back of your head, you have ideas about big important concepts and respecting and building on the humanity of every student and over-arching themes that you want to thread through the whole year's instruction. And then before you know it, it's October and your thoughts about the many important domains of student learning and growth are being pushed aside by concerns like if Chris laughs that annoying laugh at some inappropriate moment one more time, you are going to bust a gut.

There is a dailiness to teaching that can get in the way of our highest, best intentions. I want to stay focused on global objectives about language use, but right now I have to make sure I have enough scissors that work safely. I want to make sure each class starts with a warm welcome, but I just found out that the copy room didn't send down all my copies. I want to have a full and open discussion of the readings, but today the period was cut short and interrupted three times.

So it's an important part of my work to try to keep my focus, remember what I'm doing and why. It has become even more important for me since I've spent so much time staring into the maw of education reform and the many forces intent on breaking down public education in this country (and others).

When you first learn to drive, you have to learn where to look. If you get so scared of the telephone pole that you stare at it, you will then drive straight toward it. You can't ignore the obstacles, and you have to pay attention so you can react if some hazard throws itself in your path, but first and foremost you have to keep your eyes on the road, keep your gaze focused on the place you want to go.

So that is my August practice. Get out the stack of education books that I've been meaning to read. Spend some time being mindful of why I do it, and what it is I want to do. Refresh my resolve.

This year, I'm going to extend the exercise to this space with a series of essays to help me keep my focus where it needs to be. because no matter how many years I have done this, there's always more to work on, and some of the work is better done on days when I'm not trying to get copies made.


  1. Deep breath, teachers. It's going to be okay. My opening day is Monday, August 15. Do I have butterflies in my stomach about this year? Yes, I do because I'm going a little rogue and am not going to follow the district's curriculum guide, mainly because it is little more than hours of specialist's time put on paper that says your textbook has a table of contents. Follow that. But our Pearson materials (#pearsoncrappyproducts) is often incoherent or omits content that shows up on the state test. So I have worked out my own curriculum that will cover everything the district wants, only not in the sequence that they want. It will include with the proper emphasis everything that is emphasized on the BS test. Most important, it is geared to the pace that the students can keep up with. And that, friends, is the most important criterion of all. As for 'Chris', he had a different name in last year's class, but when he put his farm animal toys on his desk (HS student) as I was explaining a concept to the class, all I could do is laugh. Everyone, including Chris, laughed with me. Keeping a sense of humor is the best thing we teachers can do.

  2. Thank you, Peter, for good advice. I've been fretting over the minutiae of my first unit. I'm going to step back and look at bigger goals, as you suggest, over the next twelve days.