Friday, August 29, 2008

Everything Old is New Again

I’ve enjoyed this first week of classes; I like my students, my schedule is a good one, and I’m happy to be with my school friends again. Everything feels a little fragile, though. When I go back to school in the fall, my life intimidates me. My rhythms are still on summer time, and the pace and the volume of people I interact with each day surprises my system. I have to get up at what time? I should go to bed already? When do I iron? Pack lunches? Did I really do this last year? Personally, I need to draw deeply upon the memories of having done this before and it having gone well—in fact, I enjoy it!

Because I teach pretty much the same class preps over and over, I recycle many of my jokes, my anecdotes, and my pieces of advice. When I open up a lesson binder, I remember the first time I taught the lesson, the things I want to change, and the hopes I have for the lesson this time out. Remembering the past plays a big part of my preparation. That hard-won wisdom and experience, however, needs to be balanced by the fact that all of this is new to my students. While I want to bring my memories and trusty old anecdotes with me, I need to make the experience fresh and new for my students. My “first day” speeches might be old hat to me, and the people I meet in six hours might be more socialization than I have had all summer, but I need to ensure that my energy, my affection, and my openness are genuine and in the moment. I never want to seem disaffected or tired even if it is the third time I’ve given the same “first day” speech, let alone the fourteenth year…

This guardedness will pass as soon as I come to know these students. Someone asked me recently if I get bored teaching the same things over and over. One part of the answer is, yes, if I let myself do the same exact things over and over. But besides new lessons, new students prevent boredom. I compared it to sailing the same ship year after year, but always across new waters. Navigating new waters changes the entire journey, and as soon as my new students become simply my students, I know I won’t have to worry.

co-posted on Between Classes: Living a Balanced Life as a Quality Teacher

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Even after years of teaching I approach each new semester with anticipation - and not because I don't know the students, but because I'm not sure what I will say and do the first few days.
Luckily I have preps from previous years to the ready to help garner my self-confidence and go where I have gone before. Yet as I greet each student at the door as I have countless times before, and other than the litany of what materials are required, I know that I will rarely repeat the thought in the same manner.
I do worry that a lesson which worked beautifully a previous year (or a previous class)may not register the same appeal another.
This alone heightens my senses. My anxiety level is as high, I suspect, as my student's first day back. I sometimes wonder if my toes can sustain me for a few days, at least until we all relax and enjoy the year.