I have not posted much this year because I am busy with two new classes and a senior seminar. But this week, I am getting close to the zone finally, and had a chance to reflect, albeit for about 10 minutes, on what I have been doing in my stream-of-consciousness teaching this fall.
All my students have been doing DELIBERATE PRACTICE this week. My honors juniors practiced interactive note taking, my AP juniors worked on sonnet annotations from three different poets, and my AP Lit class addressed reader response in their practice essays. To be honest, I think this perfect storm of parallel lessons happened because I have been embroiled in deliberate practice as a learner myself: I am teaching Macbeth, King Lear and Hamlet simultaneously in all of my classes. It may never happen this way again, but it has been a wonder-full month of thoughtful rereading, focused research and reflection on the essentials for me. I believe that my first year of AP Lit is reminding me what it means to be a good teacher this year: I must also keep that learner cap firmly on my head.
I had been ready, I thought, to teach AP Lit for a couple of years. It would be easy to teach students with a love of reading, good study skills and commitment to school. And it is. But the best part of this has been the ability to let my mind race ahead, to respond to their ideas as they happen, to consider every day if Shakespeare really is as relevant as I always say that he is. In other words, I am returning to my student days just as I am approaching teaching with new focus and delight. I must be a better learner in all my classes if I am to meet my own expectations as a teacher.
And I am also feel vindicated as a teacher in this first year in AP. Three years ago, when I started a Masters in Secondary Teaching to complement my MA in English Lit, I realized that I was not perhaps going to enjoy this second degree as much as the first. My prof announced the first night that he hated high school teachers because all they cared about was content! And here I was thinking the stories I loved were what inspired me to start my (third) career as a teacher. Now I stand in the center of a room with young people-my seniors, and all my juniors too-who are as genuine in their experience of reading as I still am. I am practicing my reading and my writing every single day. Healigan the teacher is loving being Healigan the learner as well. Well, done, my young friends. Once again I am in your debt.