I was in Palu, Sulawesi, Indonesia, for the last two and a half days. I was looking at opportunities for service for my 10th grade students. I got to visit two schools, an orphanage, a couple of churches, and a nursing academy. The photo above was taken at one of the schools.
Yes, that is chicken wire acting as a window. Yes, that is a corrugated steel roof. Yes, those slats letting in daylight are the wall of the Kelas Satu (1st grade) classroom. Yes, students come here daily from 7:00 am to 1:00 pm, and they’re grateful and enthusiastic for the education they get.
If you work in a place like I work (a highrise-housed, private, international school), or where I worked in Canada, or where friends of mine work in America, let me assure you…it is as bad as you can imagine to be a student in a rural school in Indonesia. It is like this all over South Asia, Asia, the Middle East, most places. Not every school is like this, but there are schools like this everywhere. The problem isn’t reading Three Cups of Tea and donating to your local educational charity. It also does not require all of you reading this to drop whatever job you have and come roaring over to Indonesia intent on saving the day.
The problem is that there is no one solution. No single fix-it approach. These students need teachers. The schools need financial help. The people need to believe that education is important. The world needs to wake up and start investing in the things that matter, the future of their children, not what fills their gas tanks or funds wars or…
Happy Monday, everyone.
Today is my first day back to work after Spring Break. In conjunction with the first day back, I’m also on my first day back after having had a student teacher for six weeks. I’m feeling really rusty, and hoping for the best. Please send your hopes and encouragement my way today, and I’ll hope that I make it through.
…when we get to it.
I feel as though most of my conversations in my profession end with that phrase. We so love our contingency plans. We love them so much that we sometimes forget that the worst case scenario rarely occurs. In fact, because of our increasingly litigious world, we’ve become insanely insular in the name of safety and insurance.
Maybe we should just cross those bridges when we get to them, rather than constantly planning for worst-case bridges.
I went back to work, officially, today. I’ve been in the school (I’m a teacher, btw) a few times already this year, for a 9th grade orientation that I run and to put some things together for the year, but today was the first day that all the students were in the school and classes kicked into gear.
So…I’m thinking of the beach. And how much I wish I was there.
It’s not that I don’t love my job. I do. I feel that teaching is my calling – it chose me as much as I chose it. It is an incredible profession and most days I can’t believe that I get paid to have this much fun. I do, however, wish that I was still on holidays, lazily enjoying the ocean breeze, desperately avoiding real life.
To that end, I present to you…driftwood. A friendly reminder that only seven hours away from work is a beach. A happy place, as it were.
Those of you who’ve read this blog before might have caught on to the fact that I’m a teacher, an educator. I’ve never really spelled out, I don’t think, what it is that I teach. I teach Student Leadership and English. In the area of Student Leadership part, I am a teacher of 55 dedicated students who meet at 7:00 in the morning twice a week to plan events for the other thousand students in my school. They plan dances, assemblies, pep rallies and lunchtime events like the human curling and crazy obstacle courses.
The other part of my job is spent teaching students to think critically, read critically, present knowledgeably, and write eloquently. This is not teaching students to read, but to read better. Not to write, but to write better. I am qualified to teach this subject because I have an English Major in my B.A. degree. All of that studying of literature when I was university has amounted to quite a nice little library of books in my classroom, all of which I have read.
I cannot say that I loved every one of these books – in fact, I kind of loathe a few of them. I have quite fond memories of most of them. Are there any in this photo that you liked? Or hated?
Al Gore, during his We Day speech, told the 18000 students in attendance that they are not “our future”; rather, they are our present. He exhorted them to think of themselves as the people who would solve the world’s problems and to start now. He then made an analogy that I’d never known. When the Apollo program put a Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on the moon in 1969, the average age of the people in NASA’s mission control was 26. This means that when JFK made the speech in 1961 that the USA would put a man on the moon within the decade, the average age of those same mission controllers was 18. They heard the challenge in 1961 and eight years later they provided the response. We have to stop thinking of our students as the future and start thinking of them as our present. Thanks, Al Gore, for putting things in perspective.
Tomorrow is the third full day of teaching for me in the 2010-11 school year. It is the beginning of my 11th year in Abbotsford, BC. It is an exciting year, as the student leadership program that I started at my school has really taken off and the next three weeks will test how well I’ve done my job as a student leadership teacher and I’m so proud of what my students are doing. But…
My head is on the Oregon Coast. Nehalem Bay State Park, to be precise, as in the photo above. I had such an amazing time with my wife and children on the Oregon Coast this summer that I find my head, my brain, drifting off during downtime in class to the beach, the dunes, the camping. I’m not sure how much longer this brain-drift will happen, but I’m having a great deal of difficulty staying on task. Any advice?
Trust the Greeks (ancient ones, that is) to come up with brilliant and beautiful metaphors. As I think about going back to school in a week and a half, I am reminding myself that I am “planting trees” through my students. That I will not sit in the “shade” of those trees has never bothered me. When I started teaching I was told by many older, more experienced teachers that teaching was rewarding, but that information was always offered with a sort of wry look and a verbal irony that belied the cynicism that takes many teachers who’ve lost their passion.
Along the way I’ve met a great number of other teachers, not all of them teaching in a school, who’ve reminded me why I went into teaching in the first place. I teach because I love teaching, but more than that, I enjoy watching other people learn. I like that moment when I can practically see the neurons firing, the synapses connecting for that brief second when learning happens. The “ah-ha!” moment.
I teach students, not a subject. And I’ve got a job to do.