It’s the twilight of Christmas break, the first one in my career that I didn’t limp into. A lot has changed this year. I have changed a lot this year.
I’m hesitant to read back on any of the older entries here. I remember when I had Live Journals in high school. When I became disgusted with my former self, I would start a new account. I did this a couple of times before I abandoned them altogether(1). So I have hesitation because the person I am now is not so arsed with being a TFA hater these days, though all my reservations remain. I think I’ve said everything I could possibly say about the matter in this blog and I ran out of gas. I put the exhaust into a book chapter that should be published this year. I’ll tell y’all about it sometime.
But about that change. I’ve been radicalizing in some ways. I’m preoccupied with social justice issues. I’m co-sponsoring an LGBTPQ group at school. I’m showing my debate students James Baldwin debating William F. Buckley. We’re talking about Ferguson and Eric Garner and police brutality and white supremacy and patriarchy and intersectionality. Newspaper staff writers are writing columns in English and Spanish on health care discrimination against uninsured immigrants. I’m still teaching math, but in-between STAAR remediation, I’m experimenting with project-based learning in my junior class.
I guess my big pedagogical shift is how much I value the moral dimension of this work, understanding my students as fully human and meeting their needs as human beings first. A lot of the time that need is content, but sometimes that need is empathy or validation or an adult who will treat them fairly.
My classes are far from perfect. When I’ve spent a lot of energy by the afternoon, I’m definitely missing an extra gear to make those last two math classes of the day the most they can be. I’m still relying too much on my relationship-building to get through lessons and neglecting making lessons more interesting. I make excuses for myself all the time. I’m still allergic to data past cursory glances(2). I still haven’t figured out the perfect cell phone policy(3).
But I have a much surer sense of what needs to be accomplished when I’m teaching, and it’s not so different to what needs to be accomplished when I’m not teaching. I need to treat people with dignity. I need to be of service to my community. I need to help hold others in my position accountable for the same. I need for every child I teach to know how important they are, how deserving of love and kindness they are, how capable of goodness and greatness they are. It has to be more than grades and diplomas and content objectives. I don’t think I recognized this as much until this year.
In debate, we have resolutions to affirm or negate. In the new year, we have the same. This year, I affirm the resolution that teachers (i.e. me) have the moral responsibility to contribute to the liberation of each student in their care.
P.S. – It’s really hard to do that when you only teach for two years. This has been another friendly reminder that two years ain’t jack, Jack.
(1) All three of my remaining readers should be reading this and saying, “Ah ha! It is happening again!”
(2) “But Didymath, you’re a math teacher,” you say. Didymath ruffles a tuft of hair. “You see, what had happened was…”
(3) To be glib, this year I’m trying shame over confiscation. It’s…it needs work. But I’m having real conversations about the role of smartphones in our lives.