School has started once again and too early this year as well. My school district has moved to a modified traditional calendar: mid August start, a full week off at Thanksgiving, three weeks off at Christmas, and two weeks off at Easter. Sweet. The most surprising part was that while the teachers weren’t too crazy about starting in August, the students were stoked. The last week and a half has gone about as good as any start of the year I have ever had. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised, we all remember how unbearably bored we’d get towards the end of August when we were young. Now, just as the little darlings are driving their parents completely insane, they get to go back to school.
By far the best parts of the fresh school year are the fresh student faces that I get to meet. I’ve already shared my feelings about the 1:35 teacher to student ratio. Teachers who do not appreciate the benefits that the students bring to their lives personally truly do not appreciate teaching 100%. I get excited at the beginning of the year because I know that my life will be greatly enhanced by the relationships that I will form with my students. Friendships that will extend through the year, through the students’ term in high school, and into life beyond. I regularly hear from and meet with alumni whom I have taught in high school. It is an awesome gift to know that a life is positively changed through the experiences and opportunities for learning and success provided in my classroom.
I know that some teachers like to keep their emotional and personal distance from their students for “professional” reasons. With all the news about inappropriate teacher/student relations, it’s easy to get freaked out and worried about being accused of some unthinkable act, or wrongly sued for misconduct. Clearly we teachers need to be hyper-aware of our surroundings and our environments at all times. But I have to tell you, had the teachers in my younger days who were instrumental in changing my life for the better decided that they were unwilling to share their lives and their stories with their students, I would have never chosen to become a teacher and would most certainly be a very, very different person today.
Those teachers knew what it was like to participate in and contribute to the formative years of a child. They knew the personal benefits and the enriching experiences that only teachers are allowed to enjoy. They know, like we know, that teaching a child to discover who they are and what they can do is by far the most thrilling experience in life. More thrilling then jumping out of a moving airplane, riding the tallest rollercoaster, or swimming in a frenzied pool of hungry sharks; all three of which we do everyday in our classrooms anyway.
Some more fresh faces on campus this year are the new teachers added to the staff over the summer. It’s a huge group this year of over 20. But the best part for me is that three of the new hires are my teacher credential students. It was a proud pre-service day for me when I sat in our auditorium and heard the names called and watched as these three young teachers stood in front of the veteran body to be introduced. The idea that three of my own protégés would now be teaching along side of me is not just rewarding, it’s amazing. I’m so excited to see them succeed in their classrooms and adventure out solo into the educational wild lands. And even more exciting is the knowledge that the students of our campus will have the opportunity to learn from these three who bring fresh ideas, fresh energy, and a fresh attitude to our beloved profession. Awesome.
The new generation of teacher comes to campus better prepared, better educated, and with a clearer direction then any of their predecessors. While we vets complain about the inconveniences of standards, NCLB, CAHSEE, API, and AYP, the new teachers have never known teaching without them. Plus, they are standing on the shoulders of giants, gleaning all that they can from not just their teacher credential program, but also their student teaching experiences and their personal classroom experiences as students. Teaching just keeps getting better and better and it’s the students who benefit.
I met up with a not-so-fresh faced colleague on the way to the parking lot this afternoon. We exchanged niceties. She told me that at the onset of her 4th year of teaching she wasn’t sure if she wanted to continue in the classroom. (Sound familiar? That’s what I said.) I admitted that I didn’t even decide that I wanted to be a teacher until closer to the end of my fifth year, about the time I had to renew my credential. The first five years are tough, there is no doubt. So if you see a struggling face as you are walking towards the parking lot at your school, stop and give them a stroke or two. Tell them that they are doing a great job and huge service to the world. Tell them that the students need them and that it will get better, because it always does.
As I look around at the beginning of the school year there seem to be fresh faces everywhere. I’m a fresh face this year as well. Not on my own campus, but at The Apple, a website for teachers. Check it out at http://www.theapple.com/. Over the summer I was approached through an email (that I thought at first was SPAM) and asked to be a featured author. After checking out the site I consented. They’ve posted a bunch of my previous essays and some curriculum. From what I’ve seen so far, the editors have done a terrific job of collecting and providing useful content and giving teachers both a helpful and fun place to hang-out and meet some fresh faces.