Busy weeks have lots of advantages. I like being busy, moving from one task to the next, being able to chart out my progress. Internal checks being rung off, a sense of order and purpose: I derive tremendous satisfaction from these things.
Each day during the school week is structured and ordered. There is a pacing that keeps you hopping, moving, jazzing if it’s going well. The days hum, thrum, vibrate with energy.
Some days are extremely busy and very long. Others punctuate the business with larger blocks of time that aren’t so energy intensive; they are times that are still busy, but the tasks are very different.
The demands of teaching are a combination of intricate dance work, a mix of time spent performing, entertaining, imparting information with a time of quiet business, the orderliness of grading papers, sorting paperwork, creating multimedia presentations and lecture notes. An up time followed by a down time, a weaving of complexity that continues to charm me and entertain me. Hah, you might even say, it completes me, is so perfectly me that while I’ve often imagined other careers, other jobs, I’ve never contemplated not also being this.
Teaching demands metacognition and theory of mind, balancing and juggling, and connecting with students in a way that is both supportive and demanding. Teaching requires a thick skin and a willingness to push the envelope, make students sit up and take notice, think and learn to demand more not only of themselves, but of others in their lives, especially their teachers.
Teaching makes demands on both students and the teacher. It makes demands on our time, time we all have ways we’d rather spend. One of the hardest things to convey to students is that education, learning, involves an investment of time.
It’s not a lesson I manage to teach every student. Sometimes what I help students learn is that they are not willing to make that investment. I have to believe that when that is the lesson learned, that it was a valuable lesson for the student.
Others I reach with the lesson that anything worth doing is worth doing well, completely and totally. That may not be many, certainly it is a minority, but they learn it well and excel, and I know that they leave the class with knowledge that will stick.
Most, though, learn the lesson that there’s a certain amount of work, of heavy lifting, that they have to do, but that if they play at it a bit, they can figure out the minimum amount of work they must do, the minimum investment of time they must make in order to get by. I have to believe that this, too, is an important lesson.
Sometimes the most important lessons we teach our students are not the ones on our objectives list.