Last Friday, this question occurred to me: What would it be like to teach a class of kids who were all rapt with attention, hanging on my every word?
How would it feel to give a set of instructions to students who were eager to get on with the work of the day?
Wouldn't it be nice to have quiet hands raised for clarifying questions or salient observations?
The answers: Yup. You betcha. Of course.
The reality in which I live suggests that those answers won't be forthcoming anytime soon. Those questions were generated by years of working at a school that is historically under-performing. It is a school that has its share of challenges. More than its share of challenges. It sits in a very urban portion of a very urban school district. It's the kind of school about which TV movies are made. That lone, crusading teacher who comes along and turns that room full of miscreants into a devoted team of scholars. You know the one. Year after year I thought that teacher might be me. Year after year I have had my list of victories, some of them more Pyrrhic than others. Year after year I have felt discouraged when I realize that there are students at our school who are not learning all the things they need to learn before they head out into the cold hard world of middle school. Year after year I am relieved to see that we have managed to bring some of the magic knowledge to the children sitting in our rooms. Those same kids that I was sure had no interest whatsoever in what their teachers were saying. Including me.
Year after year, I run into former students. Some of them have stood up to the challenges of middle school. Maybe somewhere in there we lit the fire inside of them. They may have had extremely long fuses. They may have wandered into their own TV movies once they left our campus. Some of them thank me for the time we spent together. They ask about their old teachers. Most of them are gone, but I'm still there. I'm working on another group of kids, working on my game and trying to teach them to raise their hands and think and ask questions.
And I'm going to listen, and answer.