I keep asking myself how school and life fit together.
The last few years I've done a range of long-term, temporary and shorter teaching jobs. I've taught Math, Social Studies, English, PE, Spanish, Health. There have been kids labeled as bilingual, autistic, "Talented and Gifted" and ADHD. Kids that go to Paris for the summer and kids that go to Mexico for Christmas. I've taught little people who are wiggling out of their skins and I've taught middle schoolers that are growing into their lanky limbs. I've taught in a school with a parking lot full of Hybrids and dirt-less SUVs, where kids play golf, do archery and climb in their own rock gym for PE. And I've taught in places with few books, where children have bright, snapping brown eyes and timidly test their English words on me as they eat their free breakfast, warming before school.
There is so much to learn about the art of leading a classroom of people. I now know that I don't actually speak Spanish, but that I'm pretty competent at teaching it. I know that to play hangman with my name at the beginning of class can setup a group to be more productive in the remaining forty-five minutes than they could've in an hour without it. I know how to simultaneously give a nasty snap at the chitter-chatters, and delightedly listen to another. I know that standing at the door and looking each kid in the eyes as they come and go (even when they're too cool to see me!), can earn a teacher a few hugs and a lot of respect. I've learned that bodies sprawl in funny positions when people are really reading. I've learned working usually sounds like a low murmur--the whir of the brain. I know that there are things in life that are way, way, way more important than the grammar worksheet. I've learned that often the more softly I speak, the more clearly I'm heard. I've learned to sparingly and sharply deliver a deadly, evil eye and to find true joy in the quirky doodles of the quietly overlooked boy in the corner. I've learned to let go, not worry so much about being "in control of the classroom" as much as to respect and defend the learner-ship of the people in it. And I've recently noticed that not only do I need a lot of help, but that kids like to help out (if they like you). And that they usually like me if I like them.
Gosh. That's just in these first six weeks, not to mention the lessons over the past two years.
This is my third year of substitute teaching. I can't decide if I like it this way. On one hand, because I don't have my own bins of journals to grade and piles of lessons to plan I have space to think and cook and enjoy life with David and family and neighbors; but on the other hand, I'm frustrated by the in-and-out nature of a substitute's relationships with kids. Funny trade-off. I want to know, are the options mutually exclusive?
I'm thinking about these things because this morning I watched a fascinating video about education, creativity and expectations of and on schools and little people. Sir Ken Robinson said, "Most people are getting educated out of creativity." Is there any hope for the re-imagining of education? Are public schools stunting learning?
So, after all that, I still think it comes back to the teacher and her thirty kids. Is the teacher a learner? Is the teacher a lover? And then, the big question in my mind, how to allow the teacher enough life-room to be a learner and be a lover?