Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Hunting for Predictability

My mother raised me with a love for fresh air: outside, inside, everywhere. It didn’t matter where we lived or what the temperature was, the windows would be open often, satisfying her need for “new air”, her need to dispel a stuffiness that often only she could sense.

Today when I got home from school I was cold. The condo, which has held a comfortable temperature for the past few months without the aid of our heater, is starting to dip into uncomfortable ranges. The weather is starting to change, reflected in the leaves as much as the thermometer. And even as I crave the elusive clear, sunny day, the chill that comes with the absence of clouds is unmistakable. Soon the snow will arrive, first in a thin blanket and then in rich layers that settle onto roads and forest paths groomed for skiing, plowed for driving, and protecting the foliage until it appears again next year.

The school year is now in full swing, the honeymoon phase over, the true colors beginning to shine. As I become more comfortable and familiar with my students and classes, they become more honest as well—sometimes with frank or awkward conversations, sometimes with disrespectful or inappropriate comments. Every year that I teach I realize that every group of students is unique. Some forget pencils but always remember their homework. Some never read instructions but are honest in every discussion. Some follow directions perfectly but have trouble thinking outside the box.

This year is barely in swing, but I’m already beginning to sense the strengths and weaknesses of my classes. One class might appear to understand everything—until I examine their work more closely. Another class may ask endless questions but show their depth of thought in surprising ways.

The first few weeks feel a bit like a scavenger hunt, looking for clues about how the instruction is going to play out, trying to get a feel for the year. The reality is that there is little that can be predicted in a school year, just like I cannot predict the first snow. It will come, and winter will last several months and then the snow will melt. The trees will bloom, the weather will warm and in nine months I will say goodbye to a class that I finally know well, to trade them in for another classroom of strangers.

Eventually I will strike a balance as I get to know the intricacies of my classes, and once I hit the rhythm of the year I may get lost in the lull of routine. Until then I continue with my hunt for clues, knowing that this year’s students—just like every year before—are one of a kind.

1 comment:

  1. I've still got my window open.

    I may be wearing sweats and be huddled under my sheets, but...

    I've still got my window open.