There is that pesky “default setting” that starts to think that this whole world is just in our way. When we get stuck in that for too long, we start feel miserable and annoyed. We start to live a life that we will forget the next week or the next day because we are barely thinking. One of the big problems in the world is that so many of us our thinking that way.
Teaching isn’t about a great class or an amazing lesson. It is about a full year that builds toward our student learning the content at varying paces and, hopefully, becoming better and more complete people.
But now we are at Easter, my favorite time of year has always kind of also been the hardest time of year.
While we should be encouraged and heartened by the amazing students from Parkland these days, I think any teacher just shakes their head and imagines the genius they see everyday that could very easily be leading marches and changing worlds.
Belief looks different in every moment. But I’m pretty sure it means sometimes sitting down on a dusty floor and holding the hands of a crying 8 year old. I think I believe in my students, but that teacher with a dusty pair of pants has been my inspiration for this week. Hopefully she is yours as well.
Why did you punch the security guard in the face?
How do we restore you to a positive relationship with the school?
Fear gives teachers guns for protection, but love does the hard work of listening, advocating, speaking up, and changing. It’s love that is moving students all over the country to march, walk out, speak up, and demand action. It’s love that moves us to do the same.
A “that was an amazing lesson” or a well-meaning “you are a great teacher” could keep us from making the revisions that would actually make us great.
Restorative practices, and the conversations that surround them, are some of the more important conversations that we are having in education today and I would never suggest that we should stop this work. However, I think this work needs more context. It needs a more nuanced approach that addresses one of the most fundamental problems in education: there are groups of people in our society for whom schooling has never worked. This tragedy is disproportionately impacting students of color. We can look at almost every measure available to tell this story, but systemic bias and racism, low expectations, and bad school models are creating environments in which so many students never enter successfully.
Although some people use the original airdate of this episode (October 13) as the official Treat Yo Self Day, mine has always been the Monday after the Super Bowl. Not only do I get to enjoy staying up later to watch the game instead of my usual insanely early bedtime, February is smack-dab in the middle of the school year’s winter blahs. It’s the perfect mid-year opportunity to get refreshed, and I look forward to it every year.
I think I'm going to start making student observations a more regular part of my practice. I'll come up with a more organized form to help the students give targeted feedback and conference with some students before I throw them on the spot like I did the other day. Then, I'll invite them in when they have a free moment and see what they notice. They are, after all, the client. I should be orienting my methods and styles to their methods and styles. I should be building a classroom that caters to them far more than it caters to principals, folks in business suits, or myself.
In this country, we have allowed for the existence schools that are failing and tried to find ways to ignore the problem, while entire generations of students, largely students of color, are slipping on our ignored sidewalks. The result is much more disastrous than my sprained ankle.
Let’s go get our shovels.
I don’t know if it was the beer, or that Trump-supporting poet, but yesterday in the barber’s chair I talked a little bit more.
In the middle of a school day, one of those red-and-green-frosted cupcakes looks like how I imagine any opportunity to act the role of a guy who needs to get his shit together looks to Vince Vaughn. They’re impossible to resist. And so, I sometimes fall victim to eating them by the handful, just as Vince plays the same character 4 times in a row (Wedding Crashers, The Breakup, Couples Retreat, AND The Internship). My decisions aren’t calculated. But, I’m hungry and worn down, and they’re right in front of me...so it seems like the best answer to the problem. Even though it isn’t, and I know better.
One time, I heard Adam give an 22 minute best man speech at a wedding. Half of the audience ate it up as one of the best stand-up routines in modern history, while the other half was disgusted as Adam, champagne flute half-raised in his right hand, stood willfully between them and the cupid shuffle.
Shit was hilarious.
That’s ironic though, because in life as well as in my few trips to black churches, I am nothing more than the awkward white guy trying desperately to clap with the beat.
Teachers are endangered, and pushing toward extinction. You can still find them in their natural habitat, roaming dusty hallways and classrooms, but they are vanishing. And we should be worried.