Since being back from break, I’ve been guiding my class through their own drafts of “This I Believe” essays. I like teaching this assignment, because it is a very personal essay style and there are a number of great resources out there, including sample essays. The NPR show also attracted high acclaim from radio listeners for decades, but was unfortunately taken off-air and continued only in podcast form after last year.
I most appreciate the time I get to take to hear of my students’ beliefs and then reflect upon my own. I’m continually challenged by any number of things related to teaching, and I’m more confident of my career after boiling down the lifestyle I’ve lead over these past six months. After all of the rush, I feel more connected to what I’m doing than ever before. After all of this self-reflection, I wrote my own essay to solidify the writing process I was teaching, and my students read my essay last Friday. I received some (anonymous) feedback and I think I will definitely do this again.
This I Believe| 01-2011
Over the last year as a new teacher, I’ve started to live in a world of “nexts”. There is nothing trivial about any of the checklists, steps or events that I now live by. I simply let my mind be possessed by the flow of my teaching (and all the background work I put into my lessons); of my interactions with students (and the many needs they have); of my coaching (and the real adults my students mature to); of my continued learning (so that I can find something to contribute to this spinning planet); and of the friends I need to catch up with (someday, at least…).In my own high school years, I had many wise or otherwise influential teachers who have since retired. Whether they were white-haired, grey-bearded, just plain jolly, drank absurd amounts of coffee or pushed my mind in continued refinement, I could never measure their great joys or their overwhelming disappointments. (I had no idea what I was in for when I walked into my own first classroom.) There are days that I felt I could not have taught more or any better. There are nights that I have a hard time sleeping when I know that I let a student down. There are mornings I decide I won’t grade anything that day. And, with the good and the bad carried over my shoulder, I climb higher so that I can keep setting higher expectations for our kids’ futures and restultantly for our own.
I am proud to say that I am impressed almost every day with the strong individuals that my students choose to be. I readily want to ask them, “Who are you going to impress today?” They may sometimes have an answer, but if they don’t, they decide they will impress someone tomorrow. Some of that I can attribute to their parenting. Some I can attribute to their role models. Others, I know will always ever be strong and smart in their own way because of their own choices or internal drive.
But I only ever recalled their power and their influence on me when I sat down with a cup of coffee in a big chair with a few pillows and stared at the crate of papers I needed to grade this winter break. The sun was brightly bouncing off the snow and ice outside, just glaring into my eyes that seemed to only be open because of the caffeine. The Christmas tree was lit and standing directly across from me in the middle of the room, solo. Gifts littered the floor, each with a distinct form and decorative design. With this juxtaposition, I graded (dammit). And I felt that with each new portfolio, I was appreciating more than just the quiet of my house. I had begun to appreciate the higher bars that my students set for themselves, even when I knew they lived by the next event, just as I do.
On a day-to-day basis, I believe in whatever is next — be it the next list; the next meeting; the next semester; an intellectual discovery; a spiritual realization; the next laugh; the next love; the next cry; and the next loss. We haven’t enough time to sleep, but when we aren’t resting, we’d best me moving. (There’s a reason we broke our hours down to minutes and minutes to seconds.) But as a teacher, I believe in the gifts we impress people with every day and the unique packages we have to sometimes unwrap in order to appreciate what we and others represent.