Jan 31, 2011

The [Winter] Phase of Teaching

We're at the peak of winter. The end of a semester. But, the sun decides to show it's face on this occasion. Rays glimmer through the trees and onto the tennis court. "40-15!!" I yell moments before tossing a tennis ball into the crisp air. "Wuuuubiiing" "Game!... what is it now? 2-3?"


It's teacher buy back day. Our campus sans students becomes one giant playground during our hour-long lunchtime break. Your forget how cool your co-workers are and how fun it'd be to chill during the daily grind of teaching. As a good teacher friend in the Bronx once put it: "Eat, teach, breathe, sleep... repeat." You also forget how beautiful the campus can be. Someone sweeps leaves off the court. I like the sound. Redwood trees stand like giants overlooking our impromptu tennis match. The air smells fresh.

After it was game over, another teacher friend and I decide to change gears and shoot hoops right across the way. "Let's play P.I.G." "But, we gotta get back to the meeting. We got like 3 minutes." "Alright, howbout I.T." ".... Fine."


While at school sans students, springtime teacher talk begins to infiltrate our conversations. I'm talking the type that goes like "so, you planning on coming back next year?" "you looking around for something new?" "did you know you could make 10 grand more per year if you taught at ____ district!? Oakland, man, I'm tellin' you... Oakland. [SMH]"


Monday. Start of a new semester. Excited to see my students. Happy to see my students. But am brought back down to reality when frustration meets me. "y = -3x + 2"... simple enough, start w/ the y-intercept. Down 3, over 1. "y = 5"... oh no, now you doin' too much Mr. G.

You forget the level of patience required to teach. You forget the subconscious mantras you must repeat: "They're only 15. They're only 15. You can't expect them to act 25." You forget the never-ending bell-to-bell flurry that is one period of teaching, juggling a multitude of tasks while meeting the needs of each student and maintaining composure in front of your soul-hungry audience. They're ready to throw tomatoes at you at any second.

And you remember the friends you came into teaching with. You remember how they've laid down the ultimatums: "This is it. This is my last year. I mean, 4 years is more than good. You can't blame me." For a second, you wonder how much greener the grass feels on the other side. It must feel so soft on your feet to run barefoot.

Then, you feel pressured to do better. To teach better. To plan better. You're challenged for not putting in enough effort and you question everything about your teaching self. The CST's are looming, your students grades can be higher, and you're wondering quite frantically what more can you do. Have you put in your all, Mr. G? Have YOU?? Really!?

Copy room afterschool and you can't help but participate in a venting session with another young, like-minded teacher. It's a tough time of year, we conclude. A tough time of year. Fittingly, in the copy room is posted this sign:

[Edit, graph should not be titled 'first year' of teaching for this happens annually]


Though, you must accept that this sort of winter to springtime thoughtfest is part of a teacher's natural cycle. Start at August. End at June. Teachers have the liberty to rethink and readjust paths each summer. That's a good thing! Coming back for another go round makes it that much more meaningful.

As for me, I'm 95% sure I'll be back on this campus overlooked by giant redwoods. No doubt though that I've stepped into a disillusionment phase and am looking forward to getting past.



Bkcpisme said...

I have the utmost respect for you, sir. I expect you to be teaching my kids in no time. You of course will have to be promoted to the Westwood district for that to happen.

Eyawn said...

Thanks, Benjamin. As I do for you.