Sunday, March 18, 2012
Many years ago, in a land far away, when my teaching load averaged well in excess of 150 students, I assigned short answer and multiple choice tests and closed my mind to the inner critic who pointed out that these methods of assessment were not the most effective way to teach critical thinking. But I was one woman doing my level best and the standards and expectations were very different.
This teaching job, which requires preparation of students for college and critical thinking in the world beyond, cannot be effectively done via those methods alone. So my students write essays and analytical arguments and I read and respond to every word they put on paper. In-class lessons are offered in a variety of ways, but most often via an old-school Socratic method, which can sometimes be exhausting. That politics is constantly changing also means the lessons must be evaluated and re-structured every year. Twice a year I write a comment to every student in my classes, explaining their strengths and weakness and assessing their progress. I take that responsibility seriously and crafting 75 honest and useful assessments of other people's children is no easy task. Suffice it to say that I'm a busy classroom teacher.
I'm not complaining about any of this; there are truckloads of evidence that the method I use is quite effective. I know that my students are engaged and I see that they are learning. But no matter how much I value the process, by this time of the year I am growing weary.
Tomorrow's return from Spring Break, which also heralds the start of JT's Little League season and has me marking the time between now and that day in May when my students take the AP test, has a tendency to offer up a relentless pace. It's a blessing that the marathon comes with the company of warmer weather and spring blossoms, a welcome addition to my days and a relief when things seem most busy. This year, I've got a happy heart, which is no small addition to my ability to bear up.
I took no schoolwork to Florida. Last week, I graded a pile of exams and papers in time to give me a free weekend. Teaching plans and lessons for the rest of the year have been in place long before today. So I'll return to a clean desk tomorrow. I'm well-rested and re-organized for spring, the laundry is caught up, the house is clean, the garden is ready for planting….in short, I'm as ready as I can be.
Even so, I know there will be days that overwhelm me. This spring, in addition to my usual methods of organization, I'm also determined to draw some stark lines in my life. I'll shut off the computer, get to bed early, take a deep breath, hit the gym, or go for a walk in the woods when it all becomes too much. I'll enjoy the moments worth enjoying without regretting what comes next. I'll remind myself to do it for my sake, for the sake of those I love, and for the sake of the 75 children who are in my care each week.