Wednesday, August 17, 2011

A lot to learn

This fall, my friend Julie is teaching high school English for the first time as a 'real' teacher and she is unabashedly excited.  Her students will have what every student deserves--a teacher doing what she/he loves.  Julie returned to school after becoming a mom; several semesters of coursework and student teaching later, she received her Master of Arts in Teaching.   

When I saw Julie the week of new teacher orientation, she made a passing comment about seeing the Benchmark results for classes taught by her colleagues (the other English teachers) as part of the formal presentation...and wondering how her own results will look next year.

Yesterday, the Mayor posted on Facebook (the fact that our mayor posts--and 'likes'--frequently is one of many charming things about our city) a quote by educational philosopher Robert Maynard Hutchins:
The object of education is to prepare the young to educate themselves throughout their lives.
One of the responses to the Mayor's post came from a friend of mine, the single father of a son starting sixth grade:
Now the object is to prepare them for the Benchmark Exams, not to educate.
This morning, a shared link about Molly Ivins caught my eye and connected the dots. Julie, the Mayor, and Molly Ivins, three highly educated people, committed to their own education and the education of others.  Maynard Hutchins and a single father wondering about the object of education.  And they can't all be right.

Except that they are.  

We need Julie's enthusiasm, the Mayor's willingness to engage in the dialog, Hutchins' legacy (which, by the way, is a continuation of a far older Socratic legacy), parents who challenge our educational priorities, and Ivins' example of refusing to abandon the belief that speaking out (over and over again) will make a difference.  

I have so much to learn...

Monday, August 15, 2011

Can those who do also teach?

It's another semester where I am not teaching and I find myself wondering why it is that I miss the classroom so much during these semesters 'off.'  Classes start a week from today and I already miss updating the syllabus, making revisions to course plans, and wondering (as I do each semester) how many of the names I'll actually be able to attach to the faces.  The specifics don't matter as much, I suppose, as the yearning.

What is it about the learning that I miss?  I've pondered this question a fair amount over the last few years.  And, in the final analysis (which, of course, we never reach) it seems to be the creativity, the lack of rote, the newness in the sameness.   Nothing seems to satisfy as much as the opportunity to re-invent--or to believe that we can.

When my daughter was younger and we had a near-steady diet of child-friendly fare, I realized how many stories deal with beginnings, with cycles, with birth-death-life.  Each day, each season, each year allows us to re-new, re-create, re-discover.  The resonance of beginnings, of the freshly sharpened pencil, the empty grade book, the chance to get it better, righter, different this time.

Whatever the reason, I miss being part of the preparations.  And I am counting the weeks until January.