Friday, October 10, 2008

Teaching Journal 08-09
Day 24, Friday, October 10

The other day, in a discussion about a story we were reading, one of the 8th grade students remarked that a character needed to learn to "cherish" his life, and I was especially struck by the word "cherish". First of all, it was an unusual word to hear from a 13-year-old, but it was also a word that immediately started me thinking about myself, and my work as a middle school English teacher. I started wondering, in particular, if I truly cherish the words the scholars say in my class. Each day, thousands (perhaps tens of thousands) of words are spoken by the students, and how many of those words, I wondered, do I really cherish, admire, hold dear? Do I take each of them, one by one, into my mind and heart in an attentive manner? More importantly, do I let the scholars know that I cherish their words? Do I make it clear to each student, even in some small way, that I appreciated the words he or she spoke during class?
We started on the collaboration projects in 9th grade English today, and it's caused me to reflect, again, on the value of this kind of teaching and learning . Having kids work in fairly independent, self-governing groups is, to put it mildly, a humbling experience for me. It brings me "back to earth". It reminds me that I'm not nearly as important as I sometimes pretend I am, and that I shouldn't take myself all that seriously. The students' lives will continue to be thoroughly productive whether Mr. Salsich is their English teacher or not. Working on their own today and producing excellent results, the students put things in perspective for me. As their teacher, I can be helpful, yes, but in no way am I necessary or indispensable. I'm merely one ripple in the vast current of learning that will continue to unavoidably sweep them along.
The student who is this week's "teacher's assistant" worked the computer projector for me during a review of capitalization, and I think she was quite proud of the way she handled the responsibility. She called on students in an authoritative manner, and generally exuded an air of confidence and conviction. She's normally a quiet and somewhat self-effacing girl, so this was, I think, a heartening experience for her.
The 9th graders are excited about their collaboration project, which makes me excited also. It was gratifying to see their heads bent together in close consultation as they searched for consensus on how to proceed with this intricate project. They were focused and earnest as they shared their ideas -- probably considerably more alert than they are when I'm conducting a lesson. (Again -- humility time for the teacher.)

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