Thursday, July 16, 2009

What I Learned while Teaching Secondary Science (Part 1): Weekends

Reemerging from my 'anything-education-related' hiatus, I do realize that a thoughtful conclusion of my high school teaching experiences is in order. I've learned a great deal over the past two years and have a ton of stories to keep with me as I continue my journey into science and education. While the understandings are fresh in my mind, I intend to consolidate these experiences into a top ten list format.

Here I begin a collection of entries that compose my Top Ten List of Stuff I Learned while Teaching Secondary Science:

#10) “Weekends were made for teachers”

Education is the great equalizer, and knowledge is power, but there are certain well-concealed truths that I know now all too well. One of those is the above quoted and oft-repeated refrain of a friend.

A little over 2 years ago as I prepared for the Teach For America summer institute, I must have thought the web designer was being cute when he obviously edited the schedule of events to scare us novices into thinking that we'd be working 15-hour days. So you're saying my life outside of education has reached its end? Please.

Juxtaposed to that memory in my mind is another of me finding my roommate passed out on the floor of our living room after a long day at school, clutching a bag of goldfish that had partially emptied on the floor. I thought I had a homicide on my hands. Nope, just parent meetings.

A typical Monday for a teacher begins a little after the typical college student might decide to go to bed, using moonlight and sometimes cell phone keypad ambiance to help light the path to the car. Upon arriving in the classroom, there begins the rush (assuming the teacher isn't late). Writing of lesson objectives on the board. Sparring matches with the printer and Xerox machine. Fiddling with any teaching props/materials/realia that need to be fiddled with and properly arranged.

Then the bell finally rings to start a day of learning, meaning differentiating lessons for different learners, responding to varying levels of behavior incursions on his plans in effective and nonjudgmental ways, answering the same questions each about three-hundred times, walking 10 miles distance in roughly 1000 circles around the classroom as he circulates to different student desks, eating lunch, grading assignments during a preparation period, attending department meetings and arranging collaborative efforts with other teachers, and a wealth of other necessary job-related activities.

...Roughly nine hours later, the teacher is driving back home, only to grade more assignments, further plan for any upcoming lessons (read: tomorrow), work on outside curriculum homework to get necessary credentials/degree, develop and maintain grade and behavior databases to let students know if they are learning or not, call parents for myriad reasons, and make time to eat and sleep.

The typical Tuesday is more of the same, as is the rest of the workweek. The job is, to put it briefly, all-encompassing.

But, oh, what bliss the first Friday evening and Saturday brings! Time to rejuvenate his body and mind, connect with friends and family, and rest! Responsibilities do not go away; they are, however, put on pause for a time, and that moment of respite, of lulling tranquility, is of utter importance to the psyche of the teacher, to reflect on all of the joys of being an educator that make the job desirable to him without the necessary evils that accompany those visions of grandeur. The weekend was indeed wrought with the teacher in mind.

As are summer vacations for that matter.

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