At the intersection of writing and life with the author of the Cameron Ballack mysteries

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Back to School

Tomorrow I start my fifteenth year in teaching. While that pales in comparison to other seasoned veterans, it still represents a decent haul for me. As I look forward to another year (five Ethics classes and a total of ninety-one students), I find myself irresistibly looking back on things I've learned.

1. I never feel totally ready for the first day. There's always some last-minute rush, something administrative that ties me up. Today I was scrambling to do seating charts, with the seating diagram to my right, my class rosters online to my left, and the IEPs of students who will need preferential or strategic seating in front of me. It took me a total of ten minutes, yet somehow it seemed like forty. I put the assignments for the week at the edge of my white board, seconds before I realized I had to revise my syllabus and then print it out. A curriculum mapping meeting chewed up a little bit of time, and then I had to fill out forms for our new employee vision plan. By the time I came home from our final day of in-service, I was ready to collapse on the sofa.

2. I have a REAL attention problem! Part of the joy of writing is that you can sit (or stand, or lie down) and pound out your story when it's flowing well. The down side is that world tends to crowd into everything else. And it gets pretty bad at school. At least ten times in meetings this past week, an idea for my present writing project (a.k.a., novel #5) would pop into my head and I'd have to write it down. The problem was I'd often be off-kilter and had missed fifteen seconds of what the speaker said. Yes, I have a problem.

3. My view of teaching has changed. Yes, there are principles you should carry into the classroom and there are nuts-and-bolts things to take care of. But more and more, I look at my role more as a storyteller. I get to tell students the story of morality and how humans have tried to resolve moral quandaries. I get to use illustrations and anecdotes that students will harvest in their hearts, because people love stories that resonate. And most of all, I get to share my life with students as they share theirs with me, and we find ourselves as characters in God's unfolding story, yet to be written.

Those are heavy thoughts as we approach the first day, but there you have it.

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