Wednesday, December 21, 2011

My Teaching Timeline, So Far

With the introduction of the new Facebook Timeline, the year 2011 coming to a close, and the fact that we moved (again) and I found a box, no "the" box, of my prized college papers... essays, journals, articles, notes, and the all-too-familiar-to-an-English-major...examination blue books... educational psychology, non-violence crises intervention, Othello, "Sonny's Blues," a celebrated frog, and much, much more... I felt the need to reflect a bit. There are years of stories, faces, smells (yes, there are smells), nuances, fears, and embarrassments of teaching, but this is a single blog post, and my teaching timeline, so far... in a nutshell.


1994... Still in high school, I decide literature is the subject I will study, and eventually teach...Science is in my blood, business is in my family, but literature is in my heart.

I imagine that I am a pretty typical English teacher in that I chose to teach this subject because I love to read, analyze, discuss, write about, and create my own literature. Literature has always been something I am willing to wake up early for... oh but I have a thought, what about this?, add this, delete this, why this?, move this, write this, compare this... My ideas, thoughts, creations have been jotted down any and everywhere from gum wrappers and grocery store receipts, to the palm of my hand.. I love to write. I love to share. I love to learn. Literature allows me to do all of these things: ideas, cultures, perspectives, glimpses into author's mind, surroundings, hearts, souls, and worlds. Literature reflects time periods, is up for interpretation, allows us to be taken on a journey of words, teaches us new languages, gives us adventures, and provides challenges.

What happens when you go from being a student of literature to being a teacher of literature? Well, this is what happened to me...

Student teaching...

1998... Fresh out of college, tutoring, subbing, saving, travelling, moving, beginning

Enthusiastic, ideal, passionate. At first, I studied everything, for hours, the nights before the lessons, words from the dictionary, characters in the plays, themes, techniques, insights. Even though I had analyzed my share of literature, teaching it was a whole new game. I rolled out of bed early, drove in the dark... coffee, scones, textbook, notes. How will I explain this? How will I get the students excited about it? How will I guide them though this? So much of teaching was intuition, connection, patience, going with the flow. I learned to take the spotlight off of me, and that it didn't matter if I was having a bad hair day, was in a bad mood, or didn't feel like going to work. I was a teacher now. Everything I did was for my students. The hours I stayed up late were now for them. The sleep I missed in the morning was for them. The ideas scribbled on paper were for them. Learning how to teach was exhausting. Pedagogy, group projects, classroom management, journaling, juggling.

"Real" teaching...

1999-2001... My Alma Mater. Familiar faces, and some familiar places. The teacher's lounge, department office, faculty restrooms. I had never ventured here, had never been inside these walls, these worlds...wait call you by your first name? I had my own classroom, my posters were up, kids were acting out plays, writing, administrators wrote positive observations. So much of first year teaching is survival. The early years for me were spent as a solo artist, alone with my canvas, doing my thing. Where did my students go when they left my room? Math, PE, lunch, science, home. I focused on my curriculum, on my piece of the big picture. Wait. What was the big picture? There was a shift taking place... test scores are important. We need to be more aligned. We need a stricter pacing guide. We need a red line. Oh no, we do not have much time. We need to keep the students moving. Does this train stop in "Literatureville?" Not anymore. We used to go there, but that station is shut down- for now. No newspaper, no magazines, novels not recommended, at least not until after testing in April. Where is my focus? Where is my creativity? Lesson plans are done. Where is my inspiration? When was the last time I thought? In many ways, it became easier. Sometimes, I even felt relief. Routine. I worked less at home. I was jealous of the "older" teachers who had tenure, who ignored the new rules, who did their own thing, who still took the kids outside to read novels, who weren't afraid to dream.


2001-2007... Should I leave? Starbucks? Target? How can I contribute to the world? I am a teacher, right? Am I the only one wondering these things? I threw my energy into coaching volleyball, took on a new position that allowed me to work with students more than with set curriculum. I had two children. We moved away, we moved back. I had our third child. I got my Master's Degree.


2008 to the present... 13 years later, I still teach. I am dedicated, determined, challenged, and aware. I create change. I embrace change. I collaborate. I connect. I experiment. I evolve. I make mistakes. I integrate. I fail. I know my weaknesses. I know my strengths. I find new weaknesses. I find new strengths. I read. I write. I read more. I write more. I use technology. Teaching is learning. I am learning, guiding, breathing, exploring. Be purposeful. Ask why. Students are the focus. My children and husband are the focus. I am the focus, sometimes.
I still wake up too early, while my family is asleep, before the coffee has started to drip. Teaching is who I am. Creating me is creating for them. I am not done. Learn and grow, and do not be afraid to dream.