It's that time of year again, where teachers dust off their briefcases and book bags and start heading back to the classrooms where they await, anxiously, the appearance of this year's crop of fresh faces. This is the time that we teachers gather together to discuss all the ways that we hope that we can find to squeeze that one little bit more of learning out of the marathon ahead. We call this "professional development."
Starting my sixteenth year as a teacher, I am always impressed to find the tip or technique that will help me grow as an educator. Learning, as we tell our little darlings, is a lifelong process, after all, and I expect to take something from every class, seminar and meeting I attend. But first, I have to cross the bridge we call "The Icebreaker."
Inevitably in these classes, we are asked to mix about and introduce ourselves to a colleague from the sea of faces that fill the multi-purpose room. I stand up, and shuffle about, looking for the moment of eye contact that says, "I surrender. You might as well talk to me." I introduce myself, and describe what it is that I do: I am the computer teacher at an elementary school. This is just before I get the response that chills me.
"So, you're not a real teacher?"
Not me. I'm a virtual teacher. Human cyborg, technology. I perform many of the same functions of a real teacher, but I won't immediately be confused with them. I don't have my own class. I have all of them. I don't fill out one set of report cards. I make sure they all get filled in and printed. I don't deal with the same two knuckleheads who sit in the back of the room all day long. I deal with them on Tuesday at nine. Then at ten, I get another couple of reluctant learners. At eleven I get the girls who haven't stopped talking to each other since first grade. I get them all.
I don't say this. I merely nod and smile, adding that once upon a time I did a tour of duty in fourth grade and so I can relate to the challenges of real teachers. The ones with twenty or thirty kids. They have my everlasting respect. And me? I've got three hundred and twenty-five of them, and I'm still waiting for that respect.