Saturday, June 22, 2013

On the Hunt

I haven't been writing as much this summer because I'm on the hunt for a new/second job.  I'm hoping for a full-time job working with freshman at the University of Nebraska where I currently teach, but as long as I still get to teach, I'll be happy.  This decision has been brought about by my son's desire for pilot lessons, a need to reduce debt, and the possibility of sending said son to the local Jesuit high school for about $9,000 a year.

This has been an interesting learning experience for all of us.  First, it is reminder that all actions have consequences for our son.  He and I have loved home school, and that may need to end.  Second, I have discovered that in the digital age, applying for positions is more time consuming, not less, because everyone has a lengthy application that is designed to avoid spammers with resumes.  Third, I'm once again thinking about why I teach.

I teach because I love ideas.  I enjoy watching the wheels turn behind a student's eyes as he struggles to express a thought.  I'm older now, and  have learned some patience with waiting for the thought to form.  I also have learned not to take it personally when the thought doesn't form.    Teaching is like setting out a banquet; offer the best dishes you can muster and  hope that the students will eat.  Sometimes they don't.

I've learned that tests are not a chance for me to punish low achievers.  This may seem like a no-brainer to those who have never been teachers, but too many teachers take an adversarial position around midterms and finals.  The questions get obscure, the answers uncertain, and the trust between students and teachers disappears in favor of imposing a bell-curve.

Trust is the basis of all true education.  Can you trust the teacher to give you the best possible opportunities to learn?  Can you trust the student to be honest and industrious in completing her work?  Agenda driven education, far too common at the university level, is dishonest because it is not open to ideas, but rather prescribes ideas and demands compliance.  Without trust between teacher and student, learning is a furtive, sickly business, more like a prison term than a gateway to life.

Trust, and it's twin sister, respect, are earned.  They don't mature well  in dark, closed off spaces.  When they are allowed to mature, deep learning takes place.  Without them, what is learned in a semester can probably be written on an index card.  There will be no memories of the class that are brought on by later experiences, unless you get pulled over by a cranky traffic cop.

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