Saturday, October 27, 2012

The Best Policy

Exhibit A 

Student fails to submit essay by deadline. When corrected essays are returned, student says, "I didn't get mine back." Teacher replies, "That's because I never received it."
Student: "But I sent it to your email." 
Teacher: "Perhaps you misspelled the address. What's the earliest time at which you can forward me your original email with the attachment?" 
Student: "2:30."
Teacher: "I will give you until 3:00. But remember, in order to receive credit, you must forward me your original email with timestamp." 
Two days pass. Student sends email with essay attached. It's not a forward. Student expects credit (and must assume teacher is a moron).

Exhibit B 

Student meets with teachers and parent after school to discuss academic difficulties. As the team is determining if student struggles with organization and time management, teacher asks student, "Do you use your planner?" 
Student: "Well, I use it one or two days a week for one or two assignments."
Teacher: "So as you were telling us this, what were you thinking about?"
(Teachers and parent expect answer something like "That I need to use my planner all the time.")
Student: "That I wasn't telling the truth."
Group stifles a collective laugh. Student removes glasses and wipes eyes. Teacher thanks student for having integrity. 

While we'd all probably prefer to work with students like the latter, more of them fit the description of the former. But both provide us with moments to teach and to learn. Both offer lessons in veracity and in caring. And we gotta love 'em both. 

Sunday, October 7, 2012

An Open Letter to Bobby McFerrin

Dear Mr. McFerrin -

I know that you do not like to be measured by your 1988 hit "Don't Worry, Be Happy." I know you are so much more than that song; in fact, I have some of your ingenious and Grammy-winning work on my iPod. You are creative, and crafty, and fascinating as all get-out. So I must apologize, then, for bringing it up.

But truly, as trite and over-simplistic as it sounds, as overdone as it was (is?), the sentiment in that song wraps up exactly how I'm feeling so far this school year. Somehow, this is a new approach for me. I've always striven to keep perspective, of course, but now I am just letting things be. This is not to say that I am allowing things to happen to me. I am still making things happen. But I am seeing everything - the five goals, especially - as all they are: things. Things that will get done. Things that will happen. Things that matter, yes, okay, but that matter not so much as to worry about them. I'd much rather "worry" about old friends and colleagues battling much bigger things. I'd much rather "worry" about women's rights, and the environment, and the economy. And I'm not sure that "worry" is even the right word, after all.

Here's the question I've been asking myself lately: "What will I think of this worrisome thing in five hours? Five months? Five years?" At the end of that longitudinal Worry Scale, only loved ones and future generations and the Earth make it to five years and beyond. Not my goals for 2012-13. Not my upcoming observations and evaluations. These things are important, certainly. Maybe even really important, as they will inform my work this year and next. I want to be a better teacher and I want my students to do well - that's a given, right? I'm not sure how worrying fits into that plan. Doing does. Accepting does. Trying does. Learning does. Growing does.

Bobby, I'm taking your rhyme-y words to heart these days: "In every life we have some trouble. When you worry, you make it double." Or quintuple. So I'm putting a smile on my face, as you suggested. I won't be bringing anybody down anytime soon.

Thanks for the reminder, sir.