Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Personal and public domains

I'm sitting in the library alone - it's after school and there is no one about. Mind you it's actually only 3.54pm. I came in here to just test some projection equipment and the old lappy - a presentation on blogging tomorrow morning. The library is supposed to be open till 4pm and the computer guys are here a little longer than that - only like I said there is no one here.

Despute this dodgy situation, I've been heatened by an couple of things in the last few days ...

First, the fantastic kids (seniors - Year 12) who have their final English Exam of their high school careers on Friday morning 9am - 12.15pm - yeah, that's quite a long one (Final exam? well for most anyway - some may be back next year!) Formal classes finished a week ago today, so since then I'VE had the opportunity to sit one-on-one with some great minds. Those who are really committed and who want to do well and who are wlling to put in some mammoth efforts - warms the heart it does. I'm sure the others want to do well - but other things seem to get in the way. I can sooo relate to that.

The other heartening things is kind of brought about by the Y12s finishing up. I now have more time and thought space for my cute and mostly fun year 7 and 8s. They of course would 'spew' if I said this in front of them, but I actually really like spending time with them - mostly. So I have written a comparative film unit (Mulan-Spirited Away) and I'm enjoying it as much as I hope they are.

There are some grumbles too.

Part has to do with my Y8s - who are constantly telling me 'You give us too much work' - of course, this is a typical refrain and I actually get some sadistic pleasure in hearing this from them. Today they also asked if this film unit (above) was Y8 standard (Yes I understand that Mulan might be a tad 'young', but that is not what they meant). The feeling was that I was expecting to much from them - a work standard and work ethic that was too high. Of course, we then discussed the value of the 'learning' work that we are 'engaged' in and how this class is preparing them to be whatever they want to be in the future and all that jazz.

I had to tell them that I don't appologise for the work we do, or the level of committment or thinking that I require of them (don't get me wrong here - I believe that they are all great kids and that they can do this stuff no problem). I guess it's interesting that they develop their own sense of what level Y8 'work' means (they talk to friends in other classes etc.) I think it's great that they also feel they can challenge my assumptions too. Generally, the kids here are happy, friendly and fun, but they can be very lazy - some don't see the point of trying hard and putting in the effort. Of course, this is tough when you have some brilliant kids but they can't be bothered.

I remember my good friend Ilana Snyder once said (and I'm paraphrasing) that when teachers loose their drive, impulse and passion to push kids to their intellectual and motivational limits (whatever these may be for each student) then the teacher needs to reasses why they're teaching. That has always stayed with me.

Anyway, I guess that is not much of a gripe. But it does get KB and I thinking about some of our colleagues and how to fire them up about this fantastic job of ours. For me that is one of the tensions and conumdrums that I live with - understanding how the personal domain of teaching is mediated in large ways by the public domain. That a jaded teacher is not just a jaded teacher - as if we all work in a vacuum and make decisions independent of the myriad other factors that constrain and influence our work, decisions, beliefs, policys, emotions, histories, politics, economics, timetables, whatever.

Yeah, personal and public.

Walking the tightrope.


At 1:46 am, Blogger phd me said...

I like your sentence (okay, fragment) toward the end: "understanding how the personal domain of teaching is mediated in large ways by the public domain." Very true, that. On bad days, when you're already questioning your teaching (not to mention your sanity), it's easy to suck in those negatively influential factors and accept them as true.

I wonder if other professions have that same intrusion. Do lawyers ever question their efforts because of all the jokes? Do doctors ever wonder about their influence because of bad health care? Maybe. I agree, though, that teachers work within a world of constraints and ignoring them is becoming harder and harder.

But isn't it nice when you actually enjoy spending time with your students? Congrats on your fun Y7s and Y8s. I had a class of pre-service teachers this summer that was just fantastic. Looking forward to seeing them every day actually got me out of bed in the morning with a smile - and that's rare. I love to run into them in the hallways, hear about their observations in the local high schools, listen to their thoughts on what's wrong with the university classes they're taking.

Anyone who says teaching isn't about relationships is dead wrong.


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