The Author

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I am a high school English teacher, and mother of two charming little ones of my own. I teach in a high poverty urban charter school, while I live in a typical American suburb that has frequently been rated one of the safest cities in the country. It is a paradox I struggle with constantly, but it is my life.

Friday, November 18, 2011

The solidarity of teaching...

I am not a very good friend. I recognize this. I do not like this. I wish I could change this. But it is so hard...

Would you believe that teaching is a really lonely profession? I have been more and more reminded of this lately. It sounds strange, since I am surrounded by people all day long, but it gets very lonely. So much of what I do is by myself, and it consumes all of my time and energy. I sit up here on my couch until the wee hours writing lesson plans and exams and what not, and it is by myself, after the family has gone to bed. I feel like I am always racing with the clock, the calendar, etc., and there is never enough time in the day, week, or month.

Working in my classroom with my students is my passion, and there are such great moments. Today, something so beautiful happened. Today, I refused to answer any questions or assist with discussion, but merely guided students through a reading analysis chart (which they had prior practice using)... and an amazing phenomenon, which I almost did not think possible, occurred. At the beginning of class, I asked them to journal their responses to two Blake poems they read for hw. The majority of them said something along the lines of "It is about child labor, and it is sad, but other than that, I don't get it." But by the end of class, they were explaining the poem to each other, summarizing the story and asking good questions. One student asked, "Why are all the poems about God?" Another student answered, "Because they [the people in England in the 1800s] were mostly Christians." Then another girl said, "But I wondered that, so I just looked it up, and it said that William Blake only went to church like three times in his whole life." Another student answered, "Well, maybe THIS [pointing to the poems] is why he only went to church three times. How could he believe in a God that would let this happen to innocent kids?"   Wow... I thought. Wow...

This may not seem like such an amazing conversation to you, but what I see from this, is that my students learned how to learn this week. They learned how to get through a difficult text, and not only comprehend, but actually analyze, using their heads, each other, and their resources (including their cell phones, which many of them used to Google words or phrases while they read... I love teaching in this day and age). Ah... I live for these moments. 

Meanwhile, I live in relative solidarity. I have my English department friends. We plan together as much as we physically can, but there is so much to do that there is so rarely time to just shoot the breeze. I spent a good 10-15 minutes just chatting about life stuff with friends at work today and it felt SO good. My job is so stressful that it feels like every conversation is about something that needs to be done, and so little life discussion happens. This can make for a very lonely life.

I try really hard to have and sustain friendships, but when I have so little time to put into my friendships, it is hard to build and maintain the close friendships like they do. Don't get me wrong... I am grateful for the friends I have and happy for all of them. And I blame no one but myself. 

I just wish teaching allowed me more time for deeper relationships with my friends. Teaching can be very satisfying... but sometimes I think doing it well makes me very lonely. 

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