Ordinary Time – August/September
Stuffed animals and little sisters are amazing students when you are six years old and completely engaged in an imaginary world where the laundry room becomes a class room and a portable chalkboard, magnetic letters, and waxy crayons serve as the tools of your trade. “Playing school” with my sisters during untethered summer afternoons of our childhood probably set the stage for the career I hadn’t even dreamed about at the time.
I think of those carefree days each year when the school cycle begins. Brimming with ideas germinated from the seeds of summer professional development and the freedom of hours simply to plan, it is exciting to welcome the faculty back as they decorate their rooms, discuss various teaching strategies, and share ideas on how to fully motivate and welcome their students.
But just like the precocious sister who decided she would rather go outside and enjoy the grassy playground of our backyard instead of doing endless addition problems, the reality of teaching imminently reminds us that playing school is very different than actually working at school! Expectations outlined in course syllabi quickly evolve into everyday routines to include bell work, note-taking, collaboration, role-playing, quadratic equations, chemical reactions, and Beowulf. For teachers, inspiration turns into papers to grade, lessons to plan (don’t forget all those Differentiated Instruction strategies we were all so excited to implement!), and lunchtime supervision.
Whether students and their teachers look at it as work or as play, school certainly does demand bountiful energy!
10,000 Steps – All in a Day’s Work
Before I try to impress you with my desire for physical fitness, let me honestly tell you that I was one of those students who pretty much got straight A’s in my academic subjects, but would often earn a C in physical education. I could not climb a rope to save my life, and the President’s Physical Fitness Test requirements to do chin-ups always reduced me to tears!
However, I have grown to appreciate (if not enjoy) exercise, and for a while became a bit of a geek when it came to tracking my progress. I even joined in the craze of counting my steps over the period of a day. That being said, I thought it would be interesting to see how many steps I took on one particular day in the early part of the school year. After all, our campus offers five wings of classrooms, a lush grassy courtyard, expansive outlying fields, and a few sets of staircases. Imagine my self-proclaimed pat on the back when on the second day of school, I logged 11,163 steps – and that was just back and forth between the administration building and classrooms. To be fair, we had just implemented our 1:1 iPad program and I kept getting SOS calls for assistance with passwords and Wi-Fi. In between, my curiosity about the deployment kept me popping in and out of classes to make sure all was going as planned. Subconsciously, however, I wonder if on that particular day my underlying non-altruistic goal was to rack up as many steps as possible. All in all, I was pretty impressed and later granted myself the gift of a great excuse to NOT to go to the gym.
Since then, I honestly have lost my step counter (and the interest to count them)! So much for my elaborate explanation to simply say that I can’t stand always being in my office; it is much more exciting to roam the campus.
Recently, I had the privilege of walking into several interesting scenarios. For example, as I ventured toward Wing 5, I heard what sounded like a live auction. Turns out, it was a live auction! The Economics teacher had given his senior students a stash of bills (Monopoly money) and they were bidding for prime seats in the classroom. Not that any of the seats are that bad, but the bartering was especially heated for the two special posts on the library’s couch.
Speaking of authentic lessons, later that same week, I ran into a group of freshmen winding their way among the trees, breezeways, and sprinklers. Each was holding a baggie filled with either peanuts or grapes or nothing at all. “We are hunters and gatherers,” they responded to my quizzical look.
“I am going to eat, but the others are going to be hungry,” said one student as she showed off her stash of grapes. (I made a mental note to suggest that the theology teachers write up a lesson plan on the Works of Mercy to address that issue of feeding the hungry!)
I also stopped by the theater where our fine arts teacher led his Music Theory class. It was fascinating to watch the students at the white board noting and denoting musical scores. It was even more interesting to see them working on piano keyboards via their iPads.
If the rest of the school year promised the energy of the first weeks, I knew we could anticipate a “high impact” subsequent 10 months. There are always thousands and thousands of steps to go!