Another Year Down
I finished my second to last day of school, my desk now full of old papers to grade, papers long forgotten by students who are too excited to start their summers and their futures. After I left school, I headed to the small gathering of teachers at a nearby backyard where we could all eat snacks, drink beer, and vent about students and administrators. This small ceremony is almost more important as a signal of the termination of another year than any other more formal graduation ceremony, a practice whose practitioners find more tiring than its participants find glorifying. Our small ceremony has signaled for us the end to another year, and perhaps for some of us, the end of something greater.
This particular ceremony signifies the end of my third year of teaching, a milestone no doubt, in itself signifying the end of my probation as a new teacher. This ceremony may also hallmark the end of my innocence of teaching, as I now find that I’ve been too idealistic, too hopeful in changing the status quo and paradigm of the English Language Arts classroom. In many ways, I’ve grown into a more fully-fledged teacher, one who better recognizes what is truly important in a curriculum while simultaneously noticing that the way things are is for a reason. Too often I’ve tried to change and rebel against what has existed as the tiresome, old, dry and dusty curriculum of the past; I’ve tried to build my own from scratch, a scratch new and exciting, with appeal to new students of a new age.
Realization of Truth
But now I realize the painful truth of why old teachers burn out or give up: they fight the good fight for too long and must eventually admit defeat or leave. I haven’t left yet, leaving being too dramatic a life-changer for me, nor have I completely admitted defeat. I have, however, begun to admit to myself that curriculum has been done for a reason; that curriculum has been created with specific goals in mind; that curriculum has been decided by what is easy for the teacher. Easy curriculum fills our schools, remaining easy because teachers are in constant battle and must come out on top through some device (namely finding ease where it is possible), filling our schools completely, because standards don’t truly exist in the way we want to see them but more as in lowest common denominators that teachers eventually fall back to, schools deciding to persist in the attempt at betterment in the face of years of practice already acknowledging a perfect balance of struggle, success and failure.
My New Plan
I must surely have an evolved plan, then, to replace my old, idealistic attempt at creating future thinkers, students set on defining their own measures of success, built upon their own determinants of what is truly authentic and intellectual. This new plan entails a more guided focus on writing, specifically writing as it pertains to sentences as the individual unit. I’m currently reading a fantastic book about just this, titled “Building Great Sentences: How to write the kinds of sentences you love to read.” My new curriculum will surely rest on the old curriculum of sentences building, this curriculum being not old to the world but only compared to my novel and unrefined new curriculum.
This new curriculum will surely rely on the act of modeling as a measure for increasing individualism and creativity, two goals whose pursuit I’ve attempted through encouraging time for creativity rather than a basis on fundamentals which eventually sets free the student to pursue their own creative attempts. This new curriculum will rest on some old ideals, set forth from teachers before me, but I will use it to build not only strong sentences but strong writers as well.
Post Script, School’s Out
I will write right now, to finish this article, by saying that I don’t mean this change in thought to sound too dramatic, too unhinged and fatalistic–I mean this article to symbolize that I have given up some ideals in the name of ease, but that I hope to still teach, influence, and build better students.
I’m renewing my dedication to this blog as a means of improving my own writing, a practice surely beneficial to my future students in that it will help to have an improved writer leading them as well as one who has, through writing, better built a curriculum through written reflection.
Thanks For Reading.