Thursday, April 30, 2009

The Ghost of Teaching Past

I went to a conference today to earn continuing education credits. I need to get six credits in the next year or so to keep my teaching certificate current. I've been told again and again that letting my certification lapse would be The Biggest Mistake of My Life.

Since I have no idea what the future will bring, I agree that it would be stupid to lose my teaching license due to sloth and avoidance. So, I'm re-entering the world of education, already feeling like Rip Van Winkle. I've only been "out" three years, and by "out," I mean I've been teaching at the community college level for most of that time.

Nevertheless, technology has apparently exploded in my absence. There are things called "clickers" and "Smart Boards," that are used with regularity. Do people use overhead projectors anymore? Or have they gone the way of reel-to-reel filmstrips and flannelboards?

I. Don't. Know.

It's an uncomfortable feeling, because I am never as comfortable with myself and my talents than when I am in front of my own class of middle schoolers, teaching writing. Everybody has their niche, and that happens to be mine. But now, having been away from my comfort zone, I'm not sure that it will remain comfortable.

It's like the old, green flannel shirt that I wore every weekend in college. It felt like a second skin. I found it buried in a duffel bag recently, when I was clearing out some old clothes. I tried it on, and found the sleeves to be a bit too short, the collar a little scratchy. How did that happen?

I wonder if my teaching shirt will still fit.

At the conference, the subject was disruptive students. It was very affirming, because so much of the advice made sense to me, and validated the things that I already do. Educational gimmicks come and go, but the bottom line has always been the same: if you show the students that you care, they will generally go along for the ride, even if they hate your content.

I know that the technological jargon and other trends will be quickly learned, if and when I return to the classroom. So much of education is "what is old is new again."

Yet, being a non-practicing teacher, surrounded by working professionals, felt odd. I felt like Scrooge, looking at my past, watching the younger me argue passionately about books and learning and children. The younger me cared so much about being a teacher and being a professional. It nearly did me in.

Presently, I still think I could be a good teacher. But I don't know if that passionate twenty-something who dreamed of changing lives is still there.

I want to make a difference for Owen and Joel more than I want to make a difference for other people's children.

And so, I wonder: should I even bother returning to teaching? The answer is: I don't know--yet.

I guess all I can do for the moment is continue to earn my credits, learn what I can, and decide, by how the spirit(s) move me.

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