The teacher opens the door
It was one of those lovely days when the weather and all of its possibilities came together in a delightful way.
I sat on the porch watching dust motes dance over the railing, as a few of the teachers strolled by, chatting about the last day of the school year…and it brought back bittersweet memories.
It’s the end of the school year.
Tests are marked and recorded, report cards done and distributed, books corralled and checked in; all of the end of the year “business” things completed.
The halls of the school have a special kind of quiet noise about them, reverberating with the memories of the past year and the anticipation of what the summer break will bring.
I can remember sitting at my clean desk with all of its piles of material carefully stored away, the always- green blotter dusted and the bulletin boards cleared. My classroom, warmed by the afternoon sun would have invited dust motes to float in the air to sparkling in the absence of children over the rows of desks, a kind of benediction and celebration.
It was an ending, but also a beginning.
I would gently muse about how I would approach the unknown of next year’s students. At that moment, the feeling that something good had occurred, something that would help me make it even better next year, was fully in charge.
In the language of the teacher plan, it became an anticipatory set. An energizing, proactive push to design something even better.
It is difficult to capture the power of the ending of the school year.
In some ways it’s like reading a book. You open its pages with anticipation, begin your journey through its chapters, sometimes stopping to look up a work and finally finishing it.
Only in the classroom, each student is a book on whose sometimes-blank pages, your work is to have them write the words that they can use to finish their own chapters.
Teaching is not the imparting of information. Those that teach, and I use the word teach here when it is most inappropriate, by being the font of knowledge, are missing the real mission of the educator.
The teacher is the door opener, the inspirer, the catalyst, the person who points out the ways to seek and find truth, the magician who finds the door or the window for the student to walk through and discover.
I was totally unprepared to teach in 1963.
Yes, I had a year of training, 30 hours of classroom time and “practice teaching” that was for all that it cost, useless.
Designed for graduates who had no undergraduate hours in education, the graduate teacher program at SU did not even include something as simple as how to write a lesson plan.
With five preparations and over 200 students, I spent my first year at the doctor’s office with one stress induced malady after another.
I even kept a bottle of cough medicine in my desk drawer. It was tough enough that there was a good chance that I wouldn’t return after that year.
But there were colleagues who believed in me and I learned to teach by being mentored by the “greats,” Howard Carey, Cindy Crosby and John Dalton. I struggled mightily and with their help at the end of that year, I sat in room 188 in what is now the middle school, a bit worse for the wear, and decided that I could make it.
I can remember sitting in my classroom in 1968 on the second floor of what was then the new high school and thinking that I had become the teacher that I wanted to be.
The administration had authorized the addition of anthropology and psychology courses, the courses for which I was initially hired to teach. The classes were universally welcomed.
And I had worked with Cynthia Crosby to design a curriculum for the students in the General Education classes, classes that up until then didn’t even have textbooks.
The new curriculum would have real usefulness for the students when they left school. We pulled that one off gratis.
I was teaching. I loved it, every minute.
I loved it even more in the late ‘80s when I returned to Marcellus after a long hiatus to teach in the middle school. Six so satisfying years. What wonderful kids! They actually paid me to find joy again in the profession of my choice.
I remember those end of the year dust motes and wonder at the ones dancing now on my porch.
So, I dance with them as if no one can see me.
Feb 17, 2019
Feb 17, 2019
Feb 17, 2019