Thoughts, links & ideas from the 2008 National Teacher of the Year

Each time I've taken off in a plane since May (which is a lot), I've been writing in my journal, then adding these journal entries on this blog.

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(Note: the blue posted dates are actually the dates I wrote the journal entries, not when I posted them online.)

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Mi Primera Fajita

Atlanta, GA


I just paid $7 for a tortilla filled with lettuce.  To the chef’s credit, my last three bites did contain some sort of chicken product.  It can be downright criminal what they allow in airports these days.


I’m heading to North Carolina to speak to college seniors about their first year of teaching.  My first year of teaching was an incredibly tough year.  I had the legendary class of miscreants that educators had been talking about since they were all in 1st grade together, we had a 2-year-old at home, Jen was pregnant, and a new home without a yard (we put that in during all our spare time that fall.)


The guidance I received on my curriculum basically consisted of five thin science books (“these are the 7th grade topics”) which I quickly shelved.  I had a hodgepodge of old chairs (still do, actually) and the student desks were just folding tables (two of which would regularly collapse, sending binders, papers and projects to the floor with a dramatic crash.)  Students encompassed an incredibly wide range of abilities (both social and academic), and I didn’t feel prepared to fully meet the needs of the range of humanity that I was charged to teach.  (I still don’t, actually.)


But I had a great principal (he was new, too,) a team of three other passionate teachers to meet with every day, and the freedom to do what we needed to do.  Oh, and a tireless work ethic, paired with a patient and supportive wife who truly believed in the transformative power of teaching.  That helped, too.


And I made it.  And the students made it.  Well, most of them.  Some moved, a few were moved (like the little guy who would scream at people and throw chairs.)  But I survived, and I grew, and it made me a better teacher, and a better human being.


Looking back, I just hope that I offered those students a little more than a tortilla filled with lettuce.  That I at least threw in a little bit of chicken, or some spicy sauce.  While I now offer my students a bit more of a menu of meal choices (or on my better days, help them prepare their own), that first year was a thrilling, scary, raw experience that I won’t soon forget.


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