Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Teaching Journal
Day 30, Tuesday, October 21, 2008

On Preparing

In the newspaper this morning, a football coach was quoted on the importance of preparation: “If we prepare well during the week,” he said, “we’ll have an excellent game on Sunday.” I did a little work in one of my favorite dictionaries and found several definitions for the word “prepare”, each of which sheds light on my work as a teacher of middle school students. One meaning of the word is “to make ready beforehand for a specific purpose, as for an event or occasion”, which is something I do each day, usually early in the morning before school. English class, for me, is an “event”, in the way that a rock concert is an event. It’s a special occasion for me (if not for my students), a time when we gather to experience something out of the ordinary, and I must be thoroughly prepared . Another definition says the word means “ to put together or make by combining various elements or ingredients, as in ‘prepared a meal’” – and I guess you could say I prepare a “meal’ each day for the scholars and me. I’m a sort of a chef, I suppose – carefully mixing activities to create a lesson that will, hopefully, be both exciting and beneficial. And one last definition: No doubt I am, in a sense, engaged in preparing the students for a journey, of sorts – an expedition through their many years of English classes. My job is to outfit them with all the tools and skills they will need to survive and prosper in their future literary studies. Like a skilled ship’s chandler, or a football coach, I must thoroughly equip them for the arduous adventures ahead.
I must remember to not use the word “quickly” when I’m talking about an activity in class. This morning I said to an 8th grade class, “Let’s quickly look at the assignment”, which surely implants the notion that the assignment is relatively unimportant and therefore deserves only a superficial glance. Whatever I plan to do in class is important and therefore should be done carefully rather than quickly. It doesn’t mean we have to spend long lengths of time on each activity, but that we should do each one with the utmost care. Even a 2-minute examination of an assignment can be carried out with precision and thoroughness.

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