Saturday, August 20, 2011

Buzz Words and Pedagogy

Each season, there is a word or phrase that comes in to its own. It doesn't matter if it is politics, fashion, or education. The buzz words are the new idea with which everyone is supposed to lemming-ly fall in to step.

Let me take a step back to say that I have a very odd, underlying feeling of trepidation this last weekend before the new school year starts. It feels differently than other years, from what I remember. But then again, I have a feeling that the beginning of each new school year is very similar to child birth - we end up forgetting the feelings of inadequacy and unpreparedness once the kids get here.

Ok - back to the main purpose behind this post. Our new buzz phrase in school is "Building personal relationships with students." At the risk of getting fired, I have to ask "REALLY?" Who on earth gets in to teaching to form personal relationships with the students? I don't have time for that, on top of all the data collection, data dissemination, test taking strategies, etc. To have to worry about the kids in addition to our list of duties is honestly asking too much.

Seriously. WE do not teach for the money. WE do not subject ourselves to scrutiny over how effective we are in the classroom for the fun of it. WE do not drag ourselves out of bed every day, wondering if the lesson will work for every class in the same prep and whether we should just scrap the whole thing, doubting ourselves time and again for the mere masochistic thrill of it. WE (and I use capital letters to emphasize true teachers) are there for the kids.

What is disheartening is that administration actually had to come out and state that we needed to work on this. What is disheartening is that, even as it was being said, members of the faculty scoffed and rolled their eyes. These are the teachers who need to retire or move in to the private sector. Teachers, and I mean WE again, are ONLY there for the kids. I posted last year about 2x that I was ready to look for a job outside of public school, and the kids changed my mind. Again. It happens every year where I doubt my future in education and I cannot help but return because I made an impact on some one's life. And even if it is just one student a year, it is worth it.

I was feeling hesitant regarding this year. I was questioning my preparedness for the year and willingness to jump in to it and give up my time and my energies. I think one reason why I'm feeling this way is that, for the first time, I have 2 classes that are almost entirely students I've had in the past (42 kids), and 4 classes with students about whom I know almost nothing (92 kids). After sitting through a week of meetings stressing numbers and testing and accommodations and parental contact, etc., and then being told to form those relationships, I got worried because I know nothing about my 92+ kids.

But then I went grocery shopping with Snickerdoodle. As I was strapping him in to a cart, I ran in to a former student who failed last year. He nearly failed summer school, too. We had a rather candid conversation about what happened during the year last year, and what happened during summer school. And I have hope for him for this year. And believe me, I'll follow him this year to see how he does. At the beginning of last year, even though he was in a class of kids I knew, I didn't know him. But he opened up to me and I formed a relationship with him. And twice over, he is one reason I keep returning to public education. He knows I'm hard on him because I care and because I see his potential. And I know I can do it all again, regardless of the 92 names that do not tell me anything as of right now.

I live close to my school. And unlike many of the teachers who live in this area, I deliberately go to the stores in this area because the kids see me. And I become human to them rather than just a teacher. I want them to see me outside of school. I want them to joke with me about squashing my bread under canned goods (true story) or tell me, after they've graduated, how well they're doing in their college English classes. I want to foster as many relationships as possible from the moment they first see me, even if they don't have me, to the moment they decide to move out of the area to follow a career.


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