I will admit this is only my third year at teaching in the k12 system and in a high school environment. So by comparison my word may have a little less meaning. But I can tell you this, my school is doing amazing and innovative things. I have the distinct pleasure of working in a department with forward thinkers who not only understand their content at the top of their game, but who push themselves above and beyond and rarely accept just average classroom techniques. What we are doing is hard to place words too. But what we are doing is supporting, teaching and driving a concept in education that I don’t believe many can compare to.
I do work for a magnet school. I also work for an early college. And I can tell you that you will hear about the things we are doing. You won’t just hear about them, you know that they are making major impacts on our community, in our students and in our own lives. And no I would not dare put down my counterparts in traditional high schools or early colleges. That is not what I mean at all because truthfully I have no background knowledge of other schools. Every single teacher usually has some sort of impact be it good or bad. But what we have is lightening in a bottle and every year we pray and hope it stays. And every year it just gets more and more strong. Sometimes the intensity of such a thing is overwhelming, but then I tend to be an intense person.
I am two weeks into our new school year and two weeks into my dual credit course. I am beyond pleased with the strides we have already made. My juniors have done exactly what I expected from them and above and beyond. I also have had the distinct pleasure of working with these students as freshman and some as sophomores. But to watch their minds grow and change over the last two going on three years has given me more fulfillment than anything other than my own family’s strides and successes.
I have created a college environment in my classroom where the student not only thinks for themselves, but they are expected to think with reason. This has and will be their hardest maneuver yet as students. I have offered a very gray version of an English class. They have had me for the black and white version of an English classroom, so they are adjusting their sails. Or adjusting to me moving their cheese (we read “Who Moved My Cheese?” as freshman together) and trying to figure out what it means to be in a college English classroom.
I am trying to teach them Education has power and that they need to learn to harness it. I truly believe they will; and as they sail off I will be so proud to have been a small little sliver of them grabbing hold of their lives and directing it. I am teaching American Literature this year in my dual credit course with Freshman Composition. And I realized that it is not without thought that 11th graders are being taught to read and write and figure out who they are. All of the literature and writing we are doing is about finding identity, cultural belonging and finding the words to articulate it. It is an existential crisis in the making and is that not what teenagers 16-18 are going through?
They are figuring out colleges, taking tests that tell them whom and what they can be. They are being smacked with the realities of working, realities of people in their way saying you can’t or can, the reality of overcoming their childhoods and truly thinking about what life could be like out there with out the safety nets provided by their parents, guardians, schools, churches and friends. They are being told to find their voice, their own way and do this before you are 18. It is a lot.
I get to help them articulate those voices and put them on paper. It is not just an honor, but a privilege and no matter what my paycheck says every two weeks it has absolutely no comparison to the magic I get to see as they find themselves, their voices and their lives.