Today I met with a young teacher who will be teaching 8th grade for the first time this fall. She had worked at my school some years ago as a 6th grade teacher, but moved east and has been a full time mom for the last few years. She was in town visiting with her mother and wanted to talk about 8th graders and who they were and what they were about. She was a bit nervous and wary but excited about this new opportunity.
Our conversation was very different than I thought it would be. Instead of talking about lesson plans and projects, we discussed how to claim and embrace one’s persona as a teacher, to be totally honest and openly name issues and challenges (both ours and our students’), to have some framework for how all the pieces of the curriculum tie together (and use that to give meaning to the trajectory of the year), to vest the students with more control over what happens in the classroom and the quality of their learning, and how not to be afraid of “train wrecks” because “train wrecks” are sometimes the best things that can happen in a classroom (if the teacher allows these experiences to teach).
This was a conversation I haven’t had in a long time, even with my own colleagues, and one I will definitely revisit as I plunge into the year ahead.