I hear it in the copy room when the line is long and teachers care less and less about making it to class on time. I hear it in the teacher’s lounge passing by the stale donuts that turn me into Homer Simpson every time I see them. I hear it walking through the quad when I see any other teacher. It’s some version of, “15 days left!” or, “Man, I’m done.” or, “I’ve got nothing left.” I even do it myself. Just this week on Monday morning, I saw another teacher and said, “It’s almost Friday!” He laughed viscerally.
But really I’m not about that. I read a book this spring break called, “For White Folks Who Teach in the Hood, and the Rest of Y’all Too,” by Christopher Emdin. I have a hard time reading books about teaching because the person writing them usually isn’t in the classroom. Exceptions are Paulo Freire, who went to jail for his pedagogical views, and Jonathan Kozol who gets so real that I even get uncomfortable sometimes. Plus he got fired for teaching a poem, that’s a free pass. Otherwise if you aren’t in the classroom, and didn’t get jail time or fired, I need more coaxing to read what you wrote. NB: teachers don’t have time to do the real scholarly research necessary to write the things that we should be reading to really improve our practice so when I ignore real researchers because they aren’t in the classroom, it is sort of like ignoring a real chef teaching me how to cook just because they don’t cook at home for a 4 and an 8 year old. Anyway this book, seriously this book is what is going to get me through the next 10 years, if not the next 3 weeks. It’s good critical race theory for teachers who need to reach kids who don’t look like them. It’s good for a lot of other reasons as well, read it at the beach this summer!
In my geometry classes, we are working on our project about zombie proof housing, in my algebra 1 classes we are working on our project to find solutions to eliminating space junk. Fun stuff and maybe I’ll share more about those later, but what has been getting me is the new spark from the book and the stuff I have already started doing because of it.
My students are teaching my classes the content, I’ve been leveraging my standards based grading to get them into peer tutoring groups (tutors can raise their grades to an A or a B in a concept, students can raise their grade to a C or a B). My classes have been humming and are ready to explode. Not only that, as tired as I am, I am getting excited about teaching at the END of the year. There’s so much more I need to help them see, there is more I need to understand about all of this stuff, and that is exciting.
Yeah, I can’t wait to play with my own kids and go hiking and play my guitar and read fiction at the beach. But nothing beats making connections with kids and showing them that they are smarter than they realize, that there are people who believe in them, that there is something beautiful ahead. Come on teachers, let’s do this!