This might seem gratuitous. Jeff, Christian, and Chris have been fretting over my work habits and, because they’re smart guys, odds are good some of my new- and preservice teacher readership shares their misunderstanding of exactly what I’m endorsing here.
From Christian (fourth comment down):
Dan, ALL of us as young teachers (passionately attacking the opportunities with fever) proved that we could spend as many hours outside of the classroom (as inside it) prepping and constructing lessons that demonstrated OUR ‘gift of teaching’. Fear and excitement does that to a guy. So does ego. Just like a young varsity coach still believes she/he has to be able to one-up every one of his/her players to prove they ’still got game’, whereas experienced coaches aren’t breaking a sweat or worried about their 4/40 split on the sidelines.
The kids get it – you know more than they do.
The kids get it – you love the subject more than they do.
The kids get it – you are able to research and plan and all the rest harder than they can.
The kids get it – you’re the teacher.
Imagine back to a recent post-about-a-lesson of yours, for instance, if you had asked the kids to make their own graphing relationship movies (et al) first…maybe you’d do it alongside them…and then watched to see what happened as you ‘both’ learned from the other side along the way. Your expertise/instinct would have been ahead of them, to be sure, but the ‘process’ would have been centered on learning, not on the teacher’s performance or presentation.
If you’ve been reading this blog the same way Christian has, you see my lesson-planning efforts as:
- a response to fear
- an outcome of excitement
- a result of insecurity
- sharply focused but pointed in the wrong direction
Two right, anyway.
“Fear” is right on but doesn’t go far enough. I’m terrified of becoming one of the teachers my students vilify, the ones who have only one disciplinary mode, the ones who disrespect their students’ time, who insult their ignorance, who are unclear and uninteresting. I’m terrified of mediocrity even, of settling somewhere above their worst teachers but nowhere near anywhere that matters. So I overwork.
“Excitement” is also an understatement. From my second post evahr: “If the day had 28 hours, I’d spend the bonus four planning lessons.” Teaching is both my hobby and vocation and fear only propels me so far before the very real appeal of the thing takes over.
For Jeff’s concerns, I could pull out some clarifying posts. However, for Christian’s left-field speculation that I’m in this to prove something to my students, to outdo them with my intelligence, preparation, enthusiasm, or prowess, I’ve got nothing but empty hands and upturned eyebrows. I can’t imagine which post or set of posts gave Christian the impression that I’m putting in any of this time for self-serving motives.
To etch it in digital stone, then: the hours I invest planning lessons and honing my presentation style is all to render that presentation, planning, and style completely invisible. There is Understanding at one end of a tunnel and a Student at the other. I scaffold seriously and focus intently on the symbiosis of design and learning to keep that tunnel straight and unobstructed.
Finally, he questions whether or not I could be investing these hours towards greater goals and I can only shrug and say I ask myself that same question every day, every lesson I plan. (There’s this post.) I’ve worked too hard this year to have any ego still invested in the process. If I ever determined somewhere down the line that I wasted so many hours this year on lame instruction and self-serving practice, it’d kill me. Ego fell out of the equation somewhere after the second 60-hour week.
I like his idea of taking my Graphing Stories video project to my kids and setting them loose on their own videos, but if I’m not yet leaping at any other School 2.0 initiatives it’s because I sincerely, and without any ego involved, don’t believe it’s the best way to teach my kids.