Five days last week, I had the distinct pleasure of conducting phone interviews for Teach for America. What a thrill! Having left the classroom in June to pursue some joint Sean-and-Nicole’s dreams, (while Sean really got into teaching, was thriving in Newark, it was after all MY commitment. He just ended up there because, well, Nicole was there!), I have often been asked if I miss teaching. Any my heart aches with every beat as I consider that question.
The question of “Do you miss teaching?” might as well be asking me, “Do you like breathing?” or “Do you miss the sun?” on a rainy day. Of course I do. I loved it while I was doing it, even in the messy days.
In these stiller moments of my life, I’ve plenty of time to think, remember. And after almost every interview last week, the applicants wanted to know a bit about my experience. What was challenging? How was your experience? What do corp members, like you, do after your two years of teaching? Would you do it again?
Throughout each of those conversations, my mind’s eye brought images of ole 202. First, I felt the sensation. The RUSH of busy times. Preparing my questions before students walked in. Clicking through the powerpoint one more time to make sure I’ve scaffolded my questions right, adjusting a desk to get the rows back on their mark, remembering to breathe, breathing, ah! Matthew’s paper, and quickly grabbing a student’s note I need to pass on from the office, just as the bells riiiiiiiings. Throwing open the door, after checking for not-so-innocent bystanders, I kick the doorstop underneath, and stand at the ready. Lights dimmed, Warm-up projected, hand extended for a shake. And in file my students. . . and it doesn’t stop for 80 minutes the constantly being two steps ahead, engaging 18-25 minds, keeping mine sane, and constantly pushing the level of learning. It does not stop. And my heart rate is up. My bones jitter like I’ve had two strong cups of Joe. My feet constantly move. Moving. Moving. My eyes scanning, checking. My fingers silently correcting behavior, waving a visitor in. Waving. Waving. Sometimes my arms are waving. On autopilot. Yet I’ve had no coffee. I’m running on the adrenaline of life. Of learning. Of teaching. I’m in task mode and my limbs and mind are whirring with thoughts and words and actions. And it never stops.
Until lunchtime. Many a day, I walked that last, lingering student out of the classroom, closed the door, and felt the silence. Ahhhh! A moment. A quiet moment to finish the grading, check on emails, create next week’s worksheets, and gobble some lunch. ahhhh the silent moments. Even in the silent, my brain still manages to hum. The echo of many loud, active moments from the morning. The brain has a few moments of stirring, and of humming. And slowly begins to still. I’m really enjoying this stilling of my humming, whirring body.
And someone knocks on the door. Clearly grinning, unexpected, unannounced student stands at the door and knocks. Asking permission to be let in. Seeing my stillness, my quiet mind munching salad and working at my computer. Seeing my stillness a student wonders if he should disturb. But also wants admittance. And for a moment, just one quick moment, I consider. . .Should I?… And my arms is waving, waving. Come inside. before my mind can even think of anything less. “Of course, come in. To what do I owe this honor?” I jokingly banter. It is lunchtime after all, no need to be as assertive.
And the humming starts slowly, the whirring begins again. But slower this time. Quieter. More focused. I am more focused. And I am now the Learner. What do you have to teach me today? What, Teenager, can I learn about life by looking through your eyes? What, Student, can I do to bring Light and Love into your life?
And as we talk. I silent, humming, whirring phrase hums and clicks and kicks its way to my surface.
T H A N K Y O U.
For some reason, when I think of my classroom, I often think of this image. Lunchtime. When I could be most productive. When I’m not responsible for students. When my brain wants to whir and my hands want to accomplish tasks. Instead, I remember having to physically slow myself. Stop myself. Put the red pen down and just listen. Just be with them. And listen to them. And talk and laugh and ask questions.
Oh yah, those are the good times.
T H A N K Y O U.
Yup. I miss those teenagers. I miss those moments. And I’m so ready to cherish some more.
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Thank you, future Teachers of America for bringing some spark back. I couldn’t forget those kiddos if I tried, but your passion, exuberance, perseverance, and awareness of the academic achievement gap lift my heart just ever so much higher. And even though my hands wave and my mind whirs, there is a stillness when I recall lunchtime.