Friday, November 17, 2017

What I Learned in Jury Duty

I had jury duty this week and was out all day Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and most of Thursday (we were dismissed on Thursday at lunch and I came RIGHT back to school).

Jury duty was...well, jury duty. Not much to say there.

For me, the bigger implication of jury duty was having a chance to reflect on where teaching falls in my life. Especially in October and November, it is easy for me to feel DEVOLSON burnout. I get caught up in the transactional component of teaching high school math--tests, struggling students, submitting progress grades, staff meetings, meeting about staff meetings, etc.

But stepping away for a few days helped me realize that while the transactional nature of my role as teacher sometimes feels the most urgent, it is not the most important part of my role. The relationships I build with students are the most important part of my job. And those relationships are what get me up every morning--even in the cold, dark months of October and November (confession: I live in California, so it's not really that cold).

While on jury duty, I would come to school at 6am, get everything ready for the substitute that day, then head to the court by 9am. In essence, I was only doing on the transactional part of my job: making copies, making answer keys, answering emails, grading work from the day before. And it felt soulless.

But this also helped me realized that the magic of teaching is in the relationships. The reason I get up in the morning, and the reason I can trod through all the urgent transactions that make up teaching, is because the important relationships that are at the heart of teaching are what satisfy me.

When I grade student work or answer an email from a student, I often only get a sense of what isn't going right. And I need to do that--it is part of my job. But when I work with a student in my class and see them attempt a problem, struggle, talk to a peer, try a different approach, and then make progress towards a solution, I have the honor of being part of that student's learning process. I have the honor of witnessing them grow intellectually and emotionally and in the process I build a relationship with that student. And that is what's important; that is why I teach.

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