Saturday, February 11, 2012

Doing it for the Kids

     Change is a scary thing.  We have to take a risk and move out of our comfort zone.  We might fail - big time. It is hard work and the pay off might not be worth all of our efforts.  Sometimes the bad we know is better than what we might get.  The present may not be perfect, but it is safe and reassuring.
     Unfortunately our students are unwilling to let us stay in that safe zone.  They expect us to give them everything we've got and then to give even more.  They don't care about our fears or the time it takes or the amount of work.  To them, these are just excuses, and they refuse to give us what we can't give them.  Our students also decide to play it safe.  They stop taking risks and thinking in new ways.  They don't do the work we give them because if it isn't worth our time to create it, it isn't worth their time to do it.  When asked to read or write, they question why they should do something we don't even do ourselves.  Playing it safe doesn't work for us or for our students.
     As a new teacher I thought my students would sit at my feet and hang on my every word like the disciples of the Greek philosophers.  Luckily my students let me know that wouldn't be the way we would be doing things.  They questioned, pushed, debated, argued, and negotiated what they needed.  I begged, cajoled, bribed, and threatened before I stopped being defensive and listened to what they needed.
     Being new, I spent hours developing curriculum for my students.  Everything I heard, saw, or read was likely to end up in my lessons.  It was scary and difficult to live day to day, not knowing what I would be doing next.  It was also exhilarating to create something new each day that fit what was happening around them - the music, movies, books, current events...a sparked discussion from today's lesson might lead me a whole new direction.   Still, I longed for the day I would have all of this down and I could stop living day to day.
     Fast forward twenty years and I'm still not there.  I rarely do the same things twice.  Even if I do the same book or theme, there is always something I can do better than the way I did it before.  One of the blessings of teaching is that you always get a fresh start; nothing is set in stone.
     The kids I teach are the same age as the kids I knew twenty years ago, but the world has changed and so have they.  I am preparing them for a world that I can't even begin to comprehend as an adult.  How do you explain how a man could blow up his sons in a horrific show of violence?  How do you assure them that although we must practice a lock-down drill, they are safe and I will actually risk my life to get them out of the bathroom if they are locked out while a gunman lurks outside?  Reassure them for the millionth time the world won't end just because the Mayan calendar ends?  Help them choose the best classes for high school credit with all of these new choices?  And this is just this week.  None of it my doing.  None of it my curriculum.  All of it asked because I am one of the adults they trust in this crazy world they live in.
     If I try to teach with the lessons I prepared twenty years ago, I prepare them for 1991.  It is hard.  It is scary.  It takes lots of time.  My students deserve nothing less.  

No comments:

Post a Comment