Well, it's over. The school year, that is.
When I look back on my meager blog posts this year, I know that the reason I had so little energy for blogging is that I have just completed the hardest year in my teaching career. Ever.
I think what was hardest were simply the changes--changes are rarely simple. As I was driving to my school yesterday (a teacher work day--no students), I was giving a fake keynote address to myself in the car about the current conditions of teaching. I am so rarely in the car by myself, that when I am, I find myself giving fake speeches about things I feel are important. Yes, I know it's weird. Hopefully, I just look like I am singing to myself in the car to passersby.
Anyway, my speech addressed the hard thing about being a teacher in this day and age.--the fact that I found myself in a constant state of self-reflection. Everyday, I had to ask myself, "But is this good for children?"
Because some if it isn't.
And we, as teachers, are all that stands between our children and a bunch of stuff that may or may not be good. The jury is still out. Some of the changes might look good on paper, but in practice are unrealistic and possibly damaging. I reflected a lot on the Hippocratic oath that doctors take, where they promise to abstain from doing harm, and I thought it was a pretty good place to begin as a teacher, a pretty good standard to be accountable to.
Do no harm.
The thing is, we who teach, we who stay in the profession, do so in order to make a difference in the lives of children. We do so to make our world a better place. Lofty goals, but important ones.
There's a lot of teacher bashing out there. There probably always has been. Everyone thinks they can teach because if they completed high school, then they know all of the things a child in grades k-12 should know because they've lived it. The spent thirteen years learning it.
But knowing the content is not the same as being able to present it in an inspiring way so that others not only remember it, but learn it themselves. It is similar with writing. Everyone who knows how to write can write a book, they possess all of the knowledge that is necessary. But everyone does not write books. That is because something more is needed. Something more.
A friend of mine once told me I was crazy to be a writer and a teacher because both professions demanded a piece of your soul. I know this to be true.
Stephen King claims the only time he seriously almost gave up writing was when he was an English teacher.
So, there I am feeling seriously depleted as I pull up to my school, giving my fake keynote to myself, wondering why it all matters. Isn't the plan to just replace all of us with robots someday anyway? As I stumble out of my car to go and finish cleaning my room, I come upon some older teen skateboarders and their dog sneaking onto the school grounds. They see me and pretend that they are headed to a trash can to throw some trash away--like finding a trash can was the only purpose for being at the school on a teacher work day. Now, our school is famous locally for the skate stunts one can perform on our many stairs, rails, etc. Dangerous tricks that are a big no-no.
I see them with their dog, which is also a big no-no on school grounds, and say, "Hey, guys, you can't bring your dog here. It's against, er, um....some kind of code." (Obviously, I used all of my good words in my fake keynote to myself.)
Skater: Oh. Hey, are you the Art teacher?
Me: No. That was Mrs. Hawes. (Mrs. Hawes and I both let our hair turn silver and choose to wear it long. She retired last year.) I'm Mrs. Thomas. The Story Queen.
Skater: STORY QUEEN?!? YOU'RE STILL HERE??
Me: Hey, I'm not that old. Actually, to you I probably am. But yes. I am still here.
Skater: Do you still do those puppets?
Skater: Well, Storyqueen, when I went here (to this school), you made my life a little better.
He didn't have to say that. He didn't have to say those exact words. He could have just rolled his eyes and skated on, or made an unpleasant gesture or something. But MAN, those were words I needed to hear so badly.
And so maybe it does matter after all.
Maybe the moments we carry with us from our educational lives matter far more than all of the mandates imposed from above.