Friday, February 4, 2011

Conflicted

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"Today was the pinnacle of my professional satisfaction," Curtis proclaimed to me upon returning home Wednesday, after I'd spent a day slogging through frustration. I'd already spent several minutes ranting about my research paper woes, in response to his innocent, loaded question, "So, how was your day?"

I laughed.

I suppose it's good that my day of semi-crippling lows in the classroom was countered by the perfection he found in his own. We are ever amazed by the similarities in our professions. I try to lead students through activities to teach them important skills. He tries to lead patients through procedures and habits that will save or improve their health. Unfortunately, both of us find our audience uninterested or reluctant to hear what we have to say--let alone act on it.

Today was far from the pinnacle of my professional satisfaction, but it was an improvement. The reluctance of yesterday's students to format bibliographies and create interesting introductions and conclusions was met with focus in today's students. They were quiet. They were making progress. They were asking questions.

So what changed? Well, there was a band field trip that took out a third of my class, leaving me with a quaint collection of twenty students in my morning class. It's amazing how much more manageable twenty students feels when you perpetually are overloaded with thirty...or more. The funny part about this was that Curtis had identified numbers as the number one reason his day on Wednesday had been so satisfying: a lone three patients were in his care. This is a far cry from the typical ten, or the dreaded twenty, and allowed him to invest generous amounts of time to planning and executing care.

Given this revelation, how do I feel about the announcement from the local school board that in response to the budget crisis, middle school sports will be saved while my classroom will be stuffed a bit more full? The answer: rather conflicted. I love sports, both participating in them as a student and an adult and connecting through my students through coaching them. Unfortunately, when I'm faced with the reality of choosing an increasing class size in order to keep that activity, I question the depth of its merit.

What good is an after school connection if I can hardly keep up with each of my students as it is? And yet, perhaps that's why we need to save those extra curricular activities now more than ever. If I can hardly connect with them now, what will happen if that after school connection is eliminated?

It's finally the weekend, and while I left my grading at school, the questions of student learning lingers in my mind as I put away groceries, as I go out for an evening ski, as I make social plans. Will they finish their work? Will their parents ask them about it? What will they have in their hands on Monday?

I don't know. And while I've told Curtis too many times to count that my job (and his) would be infinitely easier if I didn't care, I do.

I care a lot.

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