Monthly Archives: September 2012

Teaching is Flammable.

Education is not the filling of a pail,
but the lighting of a fire.

—William Butler Yeats


Teaching is an Infinite (Self-)Journey.

“Swans” by M. C. Escher, 1956

Teaching is Exhausting.

Since starting our student teaching experiences, I have been shocked by how tired I am. Physically, socially, emotionally… (I’m so tired I can’t think of the other realms of exhaustion I’ve felt!) By the end of the day, my body is sore, I don’t want to be around people, I’ve usually cried at least once (sometimes from the sadness of a story or interaction, usually from an overwhelming momentary happiness I call “overjoy”). As I walk through the school parking lot to my car, I feel totally and completely drained.

Most days I drive from school to tutoring, hoping the whole way that it will be a quick session, my posture and expression so obviously saying, “I can’t wait to get home.” The 16-year-old that I tutor always asks me about my day, wonders if I have any more stories from another 6 hours spent with the first graders. I always have stories to share. As the anecdotes start spilling out, as I continue verbally reflecting on the joys and challenges and events and moments in the classroom, I begin laughing. Every time.

Our tutoring session usually goes by quickly. Time flies when you are working one-on-one with a student! While I drive home, I start thinking again about the stories and anecdotes I shared at the beginning of our session. In stark contrast to my drive from the classroom-to-tutoring, my drive from tutoring-to-home is characterized by the definite conclusion, “I can’t wait to see the kids again tomorrow!” Almost every day it seems, this cycle repeats.

Teaching young learners is hard work. I used to babysit 4 kids every day in the summer, which seemed like a lot of labor (at the time :]). Take this experience, multiply the number of kids by 6+, then add on the requirement of actually teaching all of them a (standardized) curriculum, individualizing/differentiating instruction to each child, managing them all and making sure each of them are listening/learning, and fitting this all into a very structured time frame. (Try getting 24+ kids just to eat lunch in 15-20 minutes—that’s only the tip of the iceberg.) Then on top of this direct work with the kids, actually finding the time and energy to design/plan lessons, (re-)organize the classroom space, meet with parents/colleagues, reflect on the day’s practice…. Ay. This is no easy task.

I thought I had a good idea of what I was signing up for when I applied for my K-8 Teaching Certification Program. I had no idea how naïve I was at the time. How am I going to find the time + energy to do the (additional) social justice + public health work I got into teaching for in the first place? This is going to be one of my biggest challenges. I need to remember this focus.

I also need to hold on to the pure joys I feel as I drive from tutoring-to-home, the “overjoys” that greet me every morning as the kids walk into the classroom and I greet each of them with, “¡Buenos días, ______! ¿Cómo estás?” Who knew a 6-year-olds response to this (simple) question would be my motivator for getting out of bed in the morning?

Teaching is exhausting. What good work isn’t?