Thursday, March 06, 2008

what I miss

Most of you already know that I used to be a teacher at an alternative elementary school, before it closed at the end of September and we became a homeschooling family. That info used to be over there in the sidebar, right under my photo, but both photo and description have disappeared since Joe accepted my invitation to post under his own pseudonym. I can't seem to get Blogger to let me display that profile info again, so I'll just tell you again, right here. I taught a multi-age class of early elementary students. I usually had a small class, and I got to know the students really well. I would often have a particular child in my room for two or three years. We created the curricula as we went along. The children got to make lots of meaningful choices about what they wanted to study and how they wanted to present what they'd learned.

This blog was created to be a place for Joe and me to record our progress on various projects, mostly having to do with minor renovations--touch-ups, really--on our old house. We never really found the time to do either the work or the blogging about it when we were both working. It has become a place where I work out some of what's happening in my head as I adjust to a life in which my work is at home. I've used a lot of time and space figuring out how to make a reasonable dinner on time, how to keep the house tidy without driving myself and my kids insane, and some time figuring out what kind of homeschoolers we are.

I've spent very little time reflecting on what I've lost. I really loved my job. And while I love our lives these days, and I would choose it any day of the week, there are just a few things I miss about my previous life.

I'm going with the list format again, just because it's fun. This, my friends, is what I miss:

1. Playing recorder with a bunch of very young beginners. It never got boring, and they never sounded bad to me. Even when we were playing the very simplest of tunes, I enjoyed it. I also liked showing off for them by playing a complex tune, showing them what they'd be able to do with practice.

2. Sitting on the floor, putting together fabulous patterns with pattern blocks. Or doing the daily tangram puzzle. I loved this hands-on geometry, and loved sharing it with the kids. I can do this with my kids now, but there is a depth and a richness that is missing. A bunch of different kids all working on related projects, bouncing ideas off each other, figuring things out... that was really, really fun.

3. Working things out in the classroom, Alfie Kohn style. These were some of the most amazing experiences I had as a teacher, and Alfie Kohn is definitely worth an entire blog post at some point. Turning important decisions about the running of the classroom over the the kids turned out to be some of the best work I ever did. If you don't know about Alfie Kohn, look him up.

4. Being trusted and loved by a bunch of kids. The year I was out on maternity leave with Little One, I visited school several times a week, and the kids made me feel like a celebrity. They would literally scream with delight as I approached the school yard, and then compete with each other for hugs. The kids who moved on from my classroom still knew me and trusted me, and by the time the school closed, almost every kid in the school had been through my classroom. I really, really miss this. The kids in the homeschool groups don't know me, so they don't have any reason to trust or even like me.

5. Being trusted and consulted by parents. It was a good feeling to know that the parents trusted my insights about their kids, and really wanted to know what I thought about their learning. I had started to feel like I actually knew what I was talking about.

And that seems like enough. Have I conveyed that this work was immeasurably gratifying? It was. Lest you think it was always amazing, however, may I reassure you that there are many aspects of teaching that I don't miss. It was hard work, it was often thankless, and in many ways I'm not sorry it's over. But I would never have walked away from it, ever, and I know it was an experience that will shape our lives for years to come.


Ipo said...

there is a lot to be said for "living" with a bunch of kids over a period of time - watching them grow and develop is amazing. i always enjoyed that when i volunteered at my brothers school. hopefully you will get some of that through your friends relationships... some of our dd's best buddies are our adult friends and there is real value in that.

Sandy said...

Any work that you do well and are appreciated for is good for the ego. Homeschooling is hard hard work, but you're usually the only one recognizing your talents.