Dan Meyer, visual math teacher extraordinaire who writes the best blog that you aren’t reading right now, has a great pair of posts on his blog here and follow-up here about breaking down the barrier between teaching and supposed self-gratification of after-school time. He writes: “These are differences in personality and lifestyle and it took me three years to start to move away from such a compartmentalized view of work and play.” Dan notes (and his follow-up helps in this greatly):
“The question I suppose I’d put to my younger, narrower self is: how much personal time would you give up every day if it meant that your students would be, on average, excited to come to your class?”
Its a great question, and I asked him (1st comment on the 1st post) how he came to this state:
But to understand you further, as the teacher me in 2009 is nothing like the part-time teacher/intern me in 2004, what are the aspects of your personality that you felt changed that got you out of this compartmentalization? – Me, 1st comment
His answer is simple:
In seven words: “blogging and probably using a digital projector.”
The digital projector opened up my classroom and practice to visuals, which was a profound, if rocky and still ongoing transition.
It’s not an answer that surprises me; Dan’s blog is one of the major forces that opened me up to taking more time into making more effective visuals for English instruction. My PowerPoints are made with more care; I have begun experimenting with video, and I now use art as a visual to inspire creativity in writing (though I also owe Todd a lot of props for that).
But this is InnerEd, so what inner education can I add to this? There is a pattern here, and it is fundamental to what I believe separates the sucessful teachers from the dropout or burnout teachers: the ethic that you create the environment for joy in your job. not that your job has to make you happy. I’ve seen a dozen teachers leave my current school in my one year in Nashville. Why? They’re unhappy, of course. And we have plenty of reasons to be unhappy: the violence, the disrespect from students, the disrespect from administators, the absence of parents, the changing directives, and the heartless machine in which we are but rotating gears.
This reveals a fundamental lesson to me: The successful teacher is the one who finds a way to make herself/himself a situation where educational happiness can be achieved despite the all-abundant negatviity that plagues this profession. My school is failing, it was failing before I got there, and I know the ax that sits over our heads, but yet, when I open the new novel I ordered for my juniors this year that I think gives them the chance to actually enjoy reading, I feel a little giddy.
It is the error of the young teacher who expects to be fufilled by the students or by the job; I now believe that it is the successful veteran who instead creates the classroom scenario in which they can be satisfied and in such a way fulfill themselves.
Dan asks, “How do I expedite this process?” I think Dan helped expedite it in me by showing me how much fun he often has teaching Algebra. ALGEBRA!!! He entices me to speculate “will the ball hit the can,” me, a teacher who likes his work in paragraph form and has always seen math as “certainly necessary but certainly boring.” Even better, he shows the process of how his work leads to his fun. He modeled making teaching effective and fun (too many teachers make a stab at that and miss both; in my school’s culture “fun” sadly means movie day).
So, we now come to my next question to build on Dan’s , “How Do We Expand On This?”