Friday, January 28, 2011

Who is doing the work?

When I was in my first year of teaching, my principal handed me Harry Wong's First Days of Teaching and told me to read it. At the time, I was indebted to my principal and the book. Being a young teacher, I did feel underprepared in terms of class management and organization (the organization problems, please note, have never gone away, regardless of how many Professional Growth Plans I've come up with). If that book did one thing, it was to calm and give me a strong sense of what I wanted my students' behaviour to look and sound like.

As I went on in my career, I heard other people voice some serious criticism of Harry Wong's methodology: how he values method over product, and routine over spontaneity. I understand that, and still, one of the messages from that book has never left me- something to the effect of at the end of the day, it should be the students doing the work, not me.

I wonder if I cling to that notion out of desperation, instead of any sense of wisdom. Is it wishful thinking to imagine such a life? As an English teacher (and as an inherently lazy person), I constantly collect and collect assignments and papers and then proceed to drown in them. The other day in a presentation I think I referred to myself as a 'swirling paper vortex'. This needs to change, for environmental reasons: saving both the trees and my home life.

I've begun to think about that concept of treating assignments as currency, and referring to course work as an obstacle or a barrier. So many times I'll say or hear my colleagues say 'We have to get through this', 'we have to go over it' or 'we have to cover this'. It sounds like I teach in an obstacle course instead of a classroom. On second thought, of course, it occurs to me that maybe the notion of obstacle course is as salient as anything else.

Am I the obstacle?

As I start this second half of the year, I am going to have to really try hard to avoid a few things.

  • being as obsessed with grades
  • lecturing, and pretending that is my love for Hamlet and not my love of my own voice that leads me to do so, and
  • making any sense at all

No comments:

Post a Comment