Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Fountain of Youth?

I've been reading Teacher Man by Frank McCourt, and it is funny because it sometimes seems like an eloquent rendering of my blog. (Not so much the impoverished Irish upbringing part, but more the young teacher without a clue part.) I can't believe that beginning teaching in the early sixties could be so much like beginning teaching now. He writes the following:

In any classroom, something is always happening. They keep you on your toes. They keep you fresh. You'll never grow old, but the danger is you might have the mind of an adolescent forever, That's a real problem, Mac. You get used to talking to those kids on their level. Then when you go to a bar for a beer you forget how to talk to your friends and they look at you. They look at you like you just arrived from another planet and they're right. Day after day in the classroom means you're in another world, Mac. (32-33)

I think the first two years of teaching aged me twenty or so years and now it is reeling me back in and reminding me of the wonder of childhood. I was so young when I started teaching, and I know you're probably thinking that I'm young now, but I was twenty-two then (barely). Suddenly I found my self in the midst of pressure, responsibility and work.

I think before you enter the classroom as a teacher you believe what we, the teachers, wanted you to believe. You believe that schools are safe and happy and removed from the hardest things in life. As a teacher, you find that the school isn't removed from any of that, but you learn to do your best to protect the students. I was so naive when I started teaching, and I had to grow up, but now I am starting to appreciate what the students bring everyday.

I realized today how much I am enjoying teaching my class this year. Every day the things I teach are new to them. It is fun to see how exciting a map can be. It is great to hear excitement over division or writing or whatever.

This year, more than ever, the hard things have found their way into the walls of my classroom, but God has been reminding me how to look at the world with a little more awe. I am looking at the same issues I have been (politics and work and stress), but the glass looks half full.

I was teaching my kids about explorers and I mentioned that Cortes was searching for the fountain of youth. They wanted to know if he ever found it. He didn't, but I think if he did, he would have discovered that it's like Frank McCourt said. It is a blessing and a curse. You never grow old, but you get very used to relating to children on their level. As I told them, though, exploring is probably worth it-- if only for the adventure.

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