There are few professions more confusing, or misrepresented, than high school teaching. Education is a ubiquitous experience — public or private, we are all taught by someone, somewhere — and yet it remains misunderstood. I have now begun to write about teaching because I profoundly respect this vocation. I refuse to allow politicians to corner the rhetorical market on this subject. There are stories that need to be told.
from 55 Thoughts for English Teachers by Nick Ripatrazone
My official school year begins on the 19th. On the 20th, the new batch files into the hallowed halls of our fine institution. Usually, this is a time of anticipation and excitement for me. I don’t know them; they don’t know me. We are a mystery to each other, a puzzle waiting to be sorted.
Sadly, this crew coming up is tainted by the stories and biases of colleagues who’ve had them previously and who’ve been scarred by recalcitrance and indifference and entitlement (both on parents’ and students’ parts). I was not looking forward to teaching this year and vowed to harden my heart, tuck it away from my sleeve, and be that “file cabinet teacher”. You know what I’m saying; we’ve all had one. It’s the teacher who does the same thing – year in, year out – and pulls all her lesson plans from a rickety old file cabinet.
I wasn’t going to try to be creative or innovative or genuine. I was going to go on cruise control.
And then I was looking for a 5 Things topic and was perusing my bookmarks and stumbled on this article by Nick Ripatrazone. There are 55 gems in his article and don’t be surprised if you see me referring back to him and it during the course of the school year, but for now, these are the ones that resonated with me and brought me hope that this could, indeed, be a good year:
- You need to love words. You don’t need to love a certain type of book or a particular writer, but you need to love letters and phrases and the possibilities of language. You will spend most of your days dealing with words, and students can sense if words do not bring you joy.
- Create a space for safe confusion.
- Write. Talk about your writing. Show them your drafts, your edits. Write along with them.
- Your students are not data.
- Students have a reason for everything they do.