25 November 2012

Teaching is art, learning is personal

One week is not enough for me to absorb everything that I heard and learned at NCTE. But I have not been able to forget the inspiration I felt listening to Sir Ken Robinson validate me, an English teacher from Delaware whom he had never met, in Friday morning's keynote. I have always known that teaching is a vocation, not a job. But I had not met too many other people who verbalized this, or even felt it. Teaching is the ultimate geek life, in my experience, and I was lucky enough (?) to have been a geek longer than the word has been in use. Finally, the payoff comes from a grandfatherly British "creativity expert" who put words to the hopes and dreams I lay out in front of my classes every day: that our shared imagination is the key to the future, that what we know and feel for each other is what will drive the inevitable growth of our culture, and that school must be a personal journey for every single one of the young faces I look forward to seeing each morning. That I, their teacher, can mold this personal journey, because I practice my art with them every day. It is not mechanical, it is organic: We are farmers, not engineers. Bravo and thank you, Sir Ken.
   So what am I to do with all this respect and validation? Well, I will trust my instincts with more confidence than I have allowed myself before. Seniors who choose World Literature with me are taking a step to understanding themselves as citizens of an 80 billion strong community, and that can only be a good thing. So beware my commitment to forging a path to that self-awareness in my kids. I will continue to model  reading  as yoga for our hearts and spirits. And the choice I provide--in reading, writing, performing--is what makes it unique to each of them, so that they know to demand a personal journey to self in college. 
   And I will celebrate the flow of each day, give up worrying if I am an A or a B teacher, just as I want my young friends to sense the rockstar quality of being a learner, a student of the world, not just an A student or a B student. Can't wait to see them all tomorrow.
**For more NCTE12 goodness, check out Franki Sibberson's NCTE blog roundup at http://readingyear.blogspot.com/2012/11/ncte12-roundup.html

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