Any genuine teaching will result, if successful, in someone’s knowing how to bring about a better condition of things than existed earlier.
– John Dewey
Have you ever seen a teacher being born?
I got to today.
With little pomp and even less circumstance, I observed as the pre-service teacher who’s been largely observing my classes for the last few weeks taught his full lesson.
Sure, he’ll be thrown into the thick of it next year when he starts his full student teaching. Today, though, he stood in a classroom of high school students and led a lesson on mood, theme and genre.
What’s more, he taught a morning class of seniors the Monday after spring break.
Daniel had more working in his favor when he stepped into the lion’s den.
The thought’s been following me around all day.
I was there when someone taught his first first full lesson. What’s more, I served as a mentor in the event.
Though he’ll be responsible for finding his own voice as a teacher, my part is to help clear as much of a path as early as possible to ensure the best possible education for the students who will be in his charge throughout his career.
As one of my own mentors, Dr. Justice, once explained, I am now the grandteacher of classes of the future.
I took mad notes during the lesson. The positives and negatives were scribbled furiously. The lesson exceeded expectations. He conducted himself with a teacherly presence that calmed the classroom, came from a place of confidence and showed authority without being authoritarian.
It was a clear win.
Why take such copious notes? Why not offer a pat on the back and a congenial “good job”? Because the job is more important than that.
I’ve been entrusted with mentoring a new teacher. Think of the possible echoes in history.
Though I consider my eight years in the classroom paltry when compared with some of the veterans I’ve had the privilege of teaching and learning with, it turns out I’ve learned a few things along the way.
I watched today’s lesson trying to think of all the things I wish someone had told me when I stood in front of my first set of students at University High School in Normal, Illinois and fumbled through a lesson on Shakespeare’s King Lear.
Apropos of nothing, this new teacher has been entrusted to my care.
While the national dialogue around education has many of our brightest minds feeling as though they’re shouting at the wind, this guy has decided he wants to enter the fray and serve students and the country in the most democratic of ways.
He wants to teach.
Anyone who makes that decision, no matter the path, deserves as much support as we can muster because teaching is a long, taxing job. Those short on A Game need not apply.
If you can hack it, though. If you can push through the frustration brought on by apathy, bureaucracy and budget cuts; it will pay you back each day with the chance to make a difference that lasts.
I watched a teacher being born today.