Saturday, October 12, 2013

Miles away from the classroom

Don’t play what’s there,
play what’s not there.   

- Miles Davis

I'm a deep kind of tired today, unusual for October, but haven't had a whole lot of Octobers in my mid-fifties. The wispy edge of a tenacious nor'easter keeps spitting some of the bay at us, so we keep planning walks as the sun peeks through, then retreat as another band of rain comes in sideways.

I'm spending too much time playing the game, trying to satisfy the requirements of an epiphenomenal universe of SGOs, CCRALs, NJCCCSs, and RSTs. I do these things in the classroom, as does any decent teacher (and most us are decent), but it is simply impossible to choreograph moment by moment, day by day, the dance of ideas that plays between all of those learning in a functioning class.

I remember playing a pick-up hockey game years ago on Duck Pond, behind my junior high school back when ponds froze enough to play on. We were mostly kids in our teens, but a few adults joined us, including the father of a friend, a man who once played semi-pro hockey in Canada.

I was pretty good with the stick, but not so much with the skating, and Mr. Rand made a beautiful pass to a spot I should have been. I was trying to figure out what he was planning to do, and missed a lovely chance at a breakaway.

When he glared at me, I started saying "I thought that..." and he barked back words through his toothless grin words I still hear decades later:

Do not think, it's hockey, just play.

I am not arguing that we pursue our craft mindlessly, nor do I believe that teaching is natural--we all must practice, we all must discern, we all must work hard to make our classrooms become the beautiful symphonies of ideas interspersed with unexpected improvisations and, well, bursts of noise.

I can teach a child to mimic Miles Davis' tone, but never quite get it, and I can push a child to mechanically recreate small bits of his improvisations, enough to know who she's imitating, but that's not very useful in the long run. That child will never be Miles Davis, and neither will I--and it wouldn't matter anyway, because Davis never played anything the same way twice.
Even if I could faithfully script my classes, each one would be different. It's not the delivery of content that makes a teacher--it's the dance of ideas, the interplay of minds, the opening of worlds we cannot possibly anticipate because every child carries her own version of the universe into our classrooms.
In a couple of days I will be asked to write a script to satisfy the whims of a few powerful men who think they can play like Miles.
It may be time to break up the band....

I'm no Miles Davis.....


Sue VanHattum said...

I hope you find a way to slip through the ugliness. Your students are lucky to have you.

Cristina Milos said...

Beautiful. As always.

doyle said...

Dear Sue,

I'm very close to just doing what I do as well as I can, then letting the chips fall as they may. I am (literally) spending an extra 5-10 hours a week trying to meet requirements that did not exist when I started, on top of the 60-70+ hours a week I gladly spend on teaching because it's my life.

The extra hours of nonsense are cutting into my life. Something is going to give.

Dear Cristina,

Thanks--I write for a very small audience. Your words matter.

Unknown said...

we are all feeling that way...too much taking us away from creating and cultivating the ideas and environment

Unknown said...

We drove two and a half hours to go spend another three hours picking apples and finding the perfect pumpkins. I felt alive out there. I felt connected to my family and to the land and to everything that matters.

It was Fall Break and we took our kids out of school for the experience. I'm not sure what they missed while they were picking out pumpkins. I'm not sure what they miss when they're at school.

The whole thing is confusing. And that's where I am right now. Confused.

I want my students to understand what matters, but I know they can't understand it without experiencing it.

Anonymous said...

I be jumping though hoops too. Jargon, crap, crap on top of crap...yeah, that's where we are.

I fight the fight on my own in my classroom. My students seem to be mostly receptive. That's good.

Will I eventually cave and give it all up...absolutely. I am 63 and teaching is my second career so, yeah. Will somebody be there to carry on for me? Yes, I truly think so.

Our job is so important that others realize this and will take up our mission. All we can do is be resolute, explain everything to our students and hope for the best.

doyle said...

Dear pshircliff,

If we all do, then we should be avle to stop the nonsense. One of my dreams is to see teachers take their profession seriously enough to make that happen.

Dear John,

I'm not as confused as I used to be--some of what we do in school is contrary to the best interests of children, the tax payers, and teachers. Yet we do it anyway.

But you know this already....

Dear cope,

Amen, amen, and amen. =)

Pratik Chavan said...

Yeah true every child carries a different world and every teacher works hard to give their best to the class.

I would like you suggest a tool "Raptivity" which has interesting games and learning too.

For more details you can check the link below.

Thanks for the post