Passion

End of the first week of school. Tired. Feel sore on my feet. Just want to sit. Close the eyes. Rest. It’s not a bad tired, but the kind that comes after a long hike, a good workout, the all-day reading session of a fantastic novel.

There’s something spinning in my mind, a thread of something tangled that I can’t seem to let go of and that I need to set down, and like that knotty ball of twine, unwind.

These first few things are seemingly momentary and fragmented.

I came back to school this year feeling so refreshed, charged and ready to come at my classes with fire. Dedicated to really pushing kids into something new and different in their worlds. I did this despite working in a school district in chaos.

What are you passionate about? This is the first thing that I ask my students. I want to know who they are, what drives them, who they are inside and beyond the shells they throw up to protect themselves at school.

From other rooms: reading rules to students, course expectations, giving assessments to see what skills students possess.

Our interim superintendent and interim principal (at different times) tapping into new school energy from their teachers.

I don’t know what to make of it.

Now flash forward. A month into the school year. What’s the talk? Student learning objectives. Percentages of improvement to make the ranking of an effective teacher. If and when we should standardize the day we should deliver our pre-assessments so that we might get to administer our required fire drills in a more timely fashion.

What I’ve noticed is the desperate, and often contradictory happening in our teaching discourse and our educational practice. We talk passion and fire and change, but we do things to our students that have little to do with the human relationships we should be seeking to build in our first days: We give them test after test, we hand them rules that come out of other students’s behaviors, we allow drills and false evaluation systems to be replacements for community.

When we start with a speech about our rules, we tell our students not simply that rules and order are important but also, and to everyones detriment that we are commanders, my rules, not ours. We don’t teach rules, we prescribe them. By starting with rules and assessments, we turn kids into numbers to be measure, and actually, we turn teachers into the same thing.

Our first days should be about finding our kids passions, sharing our own. Learning who they are. Sharing what learning and topics and ideas we’re going to explore. Clearly, we can’t avoid the new mandates in student performance or in teacher evaluation systems. However, at the same time, teachers we can do a better job at pushing back at the devices in place to regiment us.

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