Eat, Sleep and Breathe
(Or, why this is a top 5 list instead of a top 10 list)
Yesterday afternoon: after the soccer game, while the kids are playing on the woodpile in the backyard, I sit on the deck and finish reading chapters from Kiterunner assigned for AP Lang on Monday, then glance at an article from the Virginia Community Colleges faculty journal about moving from lecture to “learner-centered learning.”
Last night, around 10:30 p.m.: kids in bed, I change the rabbit’s cage and then mop the “man zone,” my unfinished basement office. Then sit and read “Graduation” (an excerpt from Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings), the assignment for the freshman composition class I’m teaching next Tuesday night at Northern Virginia Community College. Head up to bed with lesson ideas swirling in my head.
Last night, 12:34 a.m.: wake up because the dog is whining at the door. Go downstairs to let him out in the yard and, still half asleep, jot down lecture notes for Tuesday’s class on a napkin. Elements of personal narrative... point of view, plot vs structure, “flow” and direction, details that show instead of tell... remembering the NOVA article, I consider various ways to present the material... web and outline, assign topics to groups... go back to bed.
This morning, Sunday, 8:30 a.m.: head down to what should be a sparkling man zone to pen today’s screed, and discover that the dog was whining last night not just out of desperation, but also guilt. Clean up what didn’t make it to the yard and crack open the bible to read Standard XV. Such is the life of an aspiring artist of the profession.
Standard XV: Professional Community
Accomplished Early Adolescence/English Language Arts teachers contribute to the improvement of instructional programs, advancement of knowledge, and practice of their colleagues. (EA/ELA pg 65)
5. Through collaboration, we contribute to and gain from the practice of our colleagues, both at school and beyond.
4. We are team players who strengthen the school by developing strong lessons in our discipline and across the curriculum, and partnering with administrators or specialists to provide, for example, “custom-tailored instruction” to “properly identified students.”
3. We create a safe place for honest, open and appropriate communication, comforting students during difficult times (like the transition from middle to high school) and using our keen knowledge of human nature to differentiate between “typical angst of the adolescent” and true red flags.
2. We educate and learn from colleagues by training and mentoring new teachers, setting up staff development opportunities, presenting at workshops, serving on task forces, joining professional organizations, and, of course, publishing.
And the number one thing teachers do as members of their professional community?
1. We improve instruction, climate and the practice of ourselves and others through collaboration.
Wait, did I say that already?
Am I awake or asleep?
Was it John Dewey or Melvil Dewey who figured out how to categorize books?
Should my opinion and those of my colleagues who actually do this job matter at all in the world of education policy (note: scroll down to Monday, May 15 and look for the bulldog), or should we just accept the fact that those who write about, speechify over, and make laws that profoundly impact education are in a world that is separate from the one in which we teachers eat, sleep and breathe (you know-- the one with the actual classrooms and kids in it)?
Stay tuned, loyal readers. The answers to these nagging questions may come to me in the middle of the night or when I’m walking my dog. I’ll be sure to jot them down on something handy and share them with you here.