Since the school year is about to start up, I think it’s time to get this blog rolling again. If I could design a “Coming Soon” poster for my school year, it would probably be one of those epic ones with big words, silhouettes of like 12 characters, and a witty catch phrase (insert your own here). I imagine I would be standing somewhere in the center, holding a 3-ring binder like it was the key to saving the world.
My first day back to work is Monday. Most of my colleagues return Tuesday, but my first day is Monday. I’m not complaining, though. It just feels right to start on the first day of the week. I have training all day at the board office for Read 180. My schedule for this year arrived in the mail last week. I’m teaching 12th grade English (Hamlet, yay!), Speech (debate time) and of course Read 180 (building lifelong readers).
I recently started an ebook by teacher and blogger John T. Spencer titled A Sustainable Start: A Realistic Look at the First Year of Teaching. Although I am not a first year teacher (starting my 9th year), I discovered John’s refreshing honesty, humility, and vulnerability when I stumbled onto his book Teaching Unmasked. It is really inspiring to read from the point-of-view of a teacher who really is in love with his profession and approaches it in a humble way. I pulled the following quote from Sustainable Start and I just may post it where I can read it every day:
“Someone once asked me what is needed to make a difference in the twenty-first century classroom. I answered with one word: love. Let that be the foundation and you’ll see humility.”
As a Christian and someone who believes in the power of love, this just floors me. They didn’t teach me this in college. None of my new-teacher-mentors taught me this. I don’t recall a single colleague or coworker giving me any kind of advice like this. And yet… here it is.
What’s most amazing about this is that John is like me. He is not Super Teacher. He hasn’t been on Oprah. His students sometimes disrupt class, don’t turn in their assignments, and laugh at his misfortunes. He might even be the kind of teacher other teachers talk about (negatively). But he is genuine with his students, with colleagues, and with parents, never afraid to admit mistakes and encouraging his students to make mistakes, be vulnerable and humble.
I’ve been stressing this week over what to teach, how to teach it, how advanced to make my lesson plans, how many project-based assignments to cover. I’ve been tempted to watch Dead Poets Society to get my brain inspired. Instead, I think I’ll focus on a few things first to prepare myself. Like some personal questions that need answered.
Spencer has a lot to say about identity, being who you truly are, genuine to yourself and your students. The type of students I have can spot a phony from across a field. They despise and fear people who are fake. So this year, my first expression of love to my students will be to be genuine 100% of the time, to admit my vulnerabilities, to not be afraid to be my dorky self, to be humble and accepting.
Here’s to a new school year.
“The best journeys answer questions that in the beginning you didn’t even think to ask.” — Jeff Johnson, 180 Degrees South