It's been about eight years since I retired from full-time teaching. Eight years since I ruminated about a lesson, made some notes on a little background research just in case a question comes up, and eight years since I realized that, yes, a typo can get through a spell check easily. So, when I went into a high school sophomore English class--actually three of them-- to model some lessons for a first year teacher I'm currently mentoring, had a few concerns.
I was making jokes about my "teaching chops," or whether I still had "it." But what I was really wondering was what will these students be like. They are, on the surface, very different from the student population I worked with for so many years. Thee is a lot of water, and many more bridges between Sandy, Oregon and El Cerrito, California.
I labored for three decades in the East Bay; sandwiched between Oakland and Richmond, Ca. 10 minutes from Berkeley, 20 from San Francisco, and definitely an urban environment. Sandy, Or is a small community at the foot of Mt. Hood about 30 miles form Portland, and 30 miles from Timberline Lodge.
Not surprisingly, many of the kids were remarkably the same. They wear lots of dark blue and black. They have pants closer to the ground than their waist. They carry all manner of electronic devices and have an inordinate amount of drama in their lives.
But in the last decade they have changed a bit. many seem tethered to their devices no matter what the rules and regulations say. Some appear to have shorter attention spans. There are many, however, that are all too familiar. You know who...the nerds, the hyperactive, the angry and the special needs kids. There are drama cliques, and athletes. There are quiet, thoughtful types and the totally verbal who do no written work.
I had a great time. I resurrected a couple of writing lessons on voice and point of view I think my mentee can definitely add to her repertoire. In helping them find their writing voices, I found my teacher voice , once again. A friend of min, also a retired teacher, says it's like riding a bicycle, you never really forget. A conditioned response, I guess. That certainly was my experience.
Of all the things I got from teaching these classes over a two day period, the one that resonates the most is being able to identify with the teachers I now mentor. It's one thing to stand or sit back and observe and then pontificate, It's quite another to get up there and make yourself vulnerable all over again. The conversation that will follow will be as rich as the experience.