Year Four

Post date: Aug 25, 2017 8:08:33 PM

We've been back at school here at Del Lago Academy for a little more than a week, so I figured it would be time to reflect on my summer and shape-up to my fourth full year of teaching.

My son continues to grow, more so in mind than body these days. Every day brings with it a new word or sound, and unfortunately, more determination to do everything his way. We were brave enough to travel a great number of places this summer: Washington, D.C., Tokyo, and Honolulu. My wife and I are beginning to realize that despite our insatiable need to see and learn about everything, it might not be wise to do so at the expense of our son's and our own comfort. Junior was a trooper, make no mistake, but the travel did not come without it's hardships. You really don't realize how much of the world isn't baby-proofed until you are fully out of your element.

Thankfully, we had the support of many family and friends along the way, but we were more than ready to get back into the school routine a few short weeks ago.

This year brings a feeling I have not had to face in a couple years: the anxiousness of meeting a large number of new people. My last two senior classes were composed of scholars that had been enrolled in my sophomore classes, so it was fun to rekindle our relationships and build off of them to further enhance their learning experiences.

With a new batch of kiddos in and out of my room every day, I have plenty of wonderings. Will I be able to academically reach them in the same way I was able to reach my former seniors? Will they find my teaching pedagogy helpful and worthwhile? And finally, as cliché as it may seem, will they like me?

The answer to that last question may so far lack a firm decision, as a couple of days have already been spent taking diagnostic tests – a hard sell, especially for seniors who may already be contracting varying degrees of senioritis. But I find myself gravitating towards one aspect of relationships in the classroom as I begin to learn more about these young adults: trust.

For educators, trust can mean many things. Do your scholars trust you to deliver content in a way that is both effective and meaningful? Do your scholars trust you with sensitive information? Do your scholars trust you are acting in their best interests? Trust, of course, works the other way as well. Do I trust my scholars to do their best work at all times? Do I trust scholars will respect one another and follow established behavioral expectations? Do I trust they will be open and honest about their feelings in class?

I like what Edutopia contributor Ben Johnson says about trust: "A teacher has to take a chance on students and trust them enough to be independent learners." This all involves building the learning experiences around the unique needs of all learners. This leads us, as all contemporary education discussion has done, to differentiation. While I don't think I am quite at the mastery level of differentiation just yet, I can feel myself getting closer.

At the beginning of this year, I began with very surface-level introductions, asking to learn more about the kinds of social activities each of my scholars has an inclination towards – from favorite song to hobbies and more. I begin conversing with each scholar to try and establish a relationship. Just today, I asked one of my scholars – who I learned is originally from Sweden – about his home country and shared about my experiences visiting Stockholm. It was a wonderful conversation, and who's to say what kind of impact those 2-3 minutes made, but it's my hope that I can use that information in a future government competency. (The challenges Sweden is facing with Syrian refugees immediately comes to mind.)

So as I press forward in this new year, greeted by new faces every morning and afternoon, I find myself falling back on trust in helping me better understand, and feel more comfortable, about the next wave of seniors to grace this campus.