Wednesday, July 14, 2010

It Takes Time...Part II

I often tell people being a teacher is my calling.  From my first days in kindergarten with Mrs. Love, deep in my five-year-old heart, I knew I was home.

Luckily, my school days were blessed with wonderful teachers, some of whom I remember with more clarity than others, but all of whom shaped me into the person and teacher I am today.  From Mrs. McEnerney-Ogle in 3rd and 4th grade, who talked to me in an adult voice and made me feel smart; to Mr. Fried, who I think I may have been smarter than, but who still wowed me when he taught me karate and revealed he had once been Olivia Newton-John's bodyguard; to Senora Rodriguez who told us hilarious stories of her hijinx in Cuba and made Spanish not so scary -- my education was filled with teachers I learned from, leaned on and loved.

Even so, becoming the teacher I wanted to be did not happen as soon as I walked into a classroom. Even now as I begin thinking about the upcoming school year, I struggle with what image of myself I want to project and how I can teach the students in a way that makes a positive impact.

Over the last few months, I have been fiddling quite a bit with this blog and mostly that fiddling has been concerned with how the blog looks.  I have tried template after template, background after background.  From polka dots to dandelions, modern lines to shabby chic, I made my eyes ache from the hours of trying on hundreds of looks.  I wanted something that was "my style."  The problem is, I'm not sure if I have a style.

When I was a freshman in high school, I decided to run for student government.  I had not made cheerleading for the third year in a row and finally figured out that cheerleading was not my destiny.  Sometimes, I am a slow learner.  So, I thought maybe student government was a place for me. The student government advisor was a pixie of a woman.  She was tiny, but commanded the respect of this energetic group.  And she was a woman with style.  When she was my English teacher the next year, I remember sitting in the front row and marveling at how her tights, heels, skirt and scarf were each a different shade of olive, yet because of their textures and designs, they came together beautifully.  At the time, I was lucky if I left the house looking more like a teenage girl than a circus performer. Mrs. Palicki had style; I was a mess.  Maybe a mess with potential, but still a mess.

There are still days when I feel that way, when I feel like my life is a haphazardly tossed together ensemble that reveals how not together I am.  Sometimes I even feel that way in the classroom.  Is the lesson prepared enough?  Have I explained the objective clearly? Does anyone in the classroom actually see the purpose of what we're doing? And then I think back to those teachers who impacted me.  I didn't learn from Mrs. Palicki because her outfit was so pulled together or because her lessons were meticulously prepared; I learned from her because she gave me new eyes through which to view the world.

Seth Godin recently published a post about two kinds of schooling. He explains, " Type 1. You can take a class where you learn technique, facts and procedures. Type 2. You can take a class where you learn to see, learn to lead and learn to solve interesting problems." Type 2 is where I want to be --as a teacher and in my own life -- and it doesn't take coordinated shoes and accessories to get me there.  Sometimes that kind of teaching is messy, but it is also spontaneous, inspiring and eternal.

It is okay with me if my classroom does not always run with the efficiency and organization of a machine, and it is okay with me if I have to change around my blog background and header to appease my ever-changing vision of myself and my writing.  And it is even okay if my wardrobe is more likely to be featured on What Not to Wear than InStyle.  To be willing to lead, willing to try to solve problems, willing to see in ways I haven't before -- that is to be brave.  And as Thackeray argued, "Bravery never goes out of fashion. "


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