A Letter to My New (School) Year
It's 4:17 AM on the first day of the new year. I did not party, I packed my boxes to be loaded in my uHaul in the morning and read "A Mighty Long Way" ... Finally finished it a few hours ago. Finished packing right before midnight. This is the first year I didn't go to church for New Year's Eve, though I stopped considering myself a Christian almost two years ago, I still attended church as a formality. Not this year. Instead, from 11:56PM to 12:06PM I meditated. I brought in my year in deep contemplation, a silent stillness of infinite gratitude for all I achieved in 2016.
I have been having the strangest of dreams lately, a result of suppressed anxiety around moving back to Baltimore, I assume. One of them is that I will not be able to handle my new set of students. I can't imagine not having control of my classes but these dreams are showing me what it feels like to lack the ability to lead an engaging learning environment. SCARY.
I've read through the entire module and know what I am doing for the first few lesson plans in the first unit that I am teaching. It's a topic that is aligned with my current interest in education but it's nuanced with rigor. I know the work is going to take a bit of differentiating. The children are expected to read at least one chapter a night, depending on us getting through each lesson, each day. This book is not an exciting read at all. It's one that put me to sleep several times. Are they actually going to read each chapter? What are their reading habits? What are their limits? I have plenty of ways to track independent reading but I want to know them as readers, and know that they know themselves as readers, before I start assigning heavy content to them.
I also know I have a student whose father told a former student that I only teach Black history because that is all I know. I do not want to be accused of only teaching this topic because it's all I know. Before I get into the module, I want the parents to receive the letter that has been attached to this unit of study. I want that parent, in particular, to know that I was asked to teach this module.
There are so many controversial topics that I will have to facilitate opportunities for self-reflection around: the use of the n-word, who is to blame for the decline of an intrinsic motivation to learn among students in urban areas (parents, teachers, media???), why do schools in urban areas such as Baltimore and Harlem still appear to be segregated and on what levels is this segregation most prevalent....? These are my guiding questions but I want my students to ask their own questions as well. But are they "woke"? How much background knowledge do they have? Can I just jump right in? How conscious are they?
This is where my mind is a 4:34 on New Year's Eve. Though I am excited, I am nervous. I want to use this week or at least my first two days with my new students to learn about who they are as young people.
I know everything will work out, I'm just having new school year jitters. Two months off can't change the fact that teaching is my calling, I just need to get in there and "lead with love".