Wednesday, September 15, 2010
A new generation of plotters
After a 20-year hiatus, I found myself back in a classroom.
Two decades ago, I was a very young, very SHORT teacher trying to teach 150 kids art and spelling, whether they aspired to more than drawing a stick figure or could spell more than C-A-T. I thought I'd failed those kids (and in a way, I had), so I left the classroom. I was determined to dig ditches before I ever darkened the door of a classroom again.
But you can't NOT be a teacher if you're a parent, and I am first and foremost a parent to The Kiddo. Teachers are so swamped these days that often at least a quarter of the teaching of content subjects is left to the parents. I'm not saying teachers intend for that to happen. I'm not even saying that's a bad thing. But I can assure you that I've been mighty proud of all those education methods courses I toiled over in college. They've come in quite handy as I've shepherded The Kiddo through her elementary school career thus far. I honestly don't know how parents who don't have that background knowledge do it.
Between that homework-at-the-dining-room-table time and my previous successful (if I do say so myself) stint as a college English instructor for remedial students, I realized that I wasn't a half-bad teacher. I realized that I loved showing people how to do things. And the thing I especially love? The high that won't quit? The moment the lightbulb dings on for your student, whether she happens to be a 50-year-old returning college freshman or a 9 year-old Kiddo who finally understands the difference between conduction and convection.
In the midst of my job-hunting, I counted up my blessings, and one of them happens to be a defunct teaching certificate. In order to renew it, I'll need some time with the books (10 professional learning units or six semester hours of college courses), but it's doable.
But was it right for me? Would I be okay in a classroom? Would I even like dealing with whippersnappers all day long? Or would it be an utter failure like I thought I'd experienced two decades ago? The questions led me to volunteer in The Kiddo's school. No, I'm not in her class, but Tuesday was the first day that I served as a sort of reading coach to a third grade class.
And you know what? I had a ball! I learned a lot about classroom management from the teacher I was with, and I got to try out the skills I'd been honing on The Kiddo on a new crop of unsuspecting guinea pigs. They didn't seem any more the warped for it.
On Friday, I get to teach a writing lesson. Imagine! Me! Teaching third graders about writing! No, I'll spare them the lectures on deep POV and conflict (for now!). But I'm rubbing my hands together in glee at the prospect of turning the lot of them into -- gasp -- a whole class of plotters! Linda Grimes and Tawna Fenske will probably organize a protest!