Ask a Teacher

This is Not the Way it Should Feel to Teach

What’s up with teaching.
There is something amazing about that first sip of coffee on an almost cold enough to snow Sunday morning. Even at pretend 4:30 AM (because it’s still 5:30 real AMs to me), and at sixty-three real degrees in my living room, even though I have the thermostat set for what I now know is pretend 70. Seems the furnace got added to the list of things in need of fixing on this week’s agenda. It’s not a long list but there’s now one more thing on it.
I look at the sunny side, though. I still have heat, and I have a home to heat to begin with. I’ll pay a little to maintain a vehicle that no longer costs me a lot. I’m not just a glass is half-full type; my glass is full. I’m just a little clumsy so a drop spills here and there.
“Still full!” I say because I don’t allow the lost drops to diminish my glass.
A glance at the clock, and I gauge my inner-being to see if he’s prepared to take the dog earlier than usual.
If I go down to the furnace to open the first-floor zone, the dog will see me. She’ll think “Time to get up,” and…
My inner-being interrupts to tell me I really have no choice and should prepare to get the dog out. That means start the coffee, bundle up, put shoes on, grab a few treats, do the furnace, get the dog, take her outside and have coffee waiting when I come back inside.
I’m generally not this methodical, but when confronted with a set of challenges there is something about the teacher-brain (part of the inner me) that kicks into gear. It lays out a plan lickety-split. It’s a skill that gets honed in the classroom because the pretend routine establishes a tendency towards the procedure, while the reality of persistent confounding variables enhances a knack for on-the-spot problem-solving.
But back to coffee. Remember the coffee? This is a story about coffee.
Sorry, I got distracted for a moment.
I know it seemed like forever, but consider:
In the time of that ramble off-course with real me, pretend me got bundled up a little, went to the basement and got heat to the first floor, got the dog out the basement door (remembering to put on the don’t run off red collar), let the dog do her business after showing her how, came back in the side door, and poured a cup of coffee.
The coffee, for whatever reason, is incredible. I don’t know if it was that I put in just the right amount of coffee grounds (I never measure, I dump-and-eyeball it). I don’t know if it was the combination of a slightly chilled face, a well-behaved (*cough*) dog that pretty much comes along when I call, and a favorite ceramic cup next to a fresh pot. It very well could be the lift that brings it to my nose right before it comes to my lips. That smell of dark roast and a taste that is the polar opposite of institutional weak with a stainless-steel pot bouquet…
Who knows what it was, but the first sip is heaven. Real me and inner-being were one-hundred percent together. There was an Inception moment of realization of the entire my-world situation, and it made me think:
What’s up with teaching?
There is an additional heaviness to the endeavor to educate.
The combination of a Trump presidency and a pandemic has made teaching feel heavy. Heavy as in a weightiness to what it does, could and should mean to educate. We are at a crucial moment, and for those who survive the rising waters on higher ground or grow gills, and somehow end up reading this:
Teaching should not continue to mean ticking off boxes and analyzing progress towards serving an unacceptable status quo. That status quo is why our struggles increase while being ordered to throw ourselves into the most of it by those who struggle least but enjoy the most.
In service to “the economy” instead of mankind and creation, it seems.
Education should be preparation to engage reality, not surrender to it or an illusion of “liberty and justice for all” that uses patriotism and religion as sword and shield to slice up and beat down the truth.
And yet here we are.
Around the nation, COVID is coming back. It is closing schools, sending college kids home, and threatening to overwhelm hospitals and medical services. This is not the way it should feel to teach, but if it feels this way to a teacher, how does it feel for students? To parents?

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