What’s that? In the distance? Limping towards me? A lump of decaying flesh? An angry Covid enzyme? No. I’m afraid it’s worse than that. It’s the 2021-2022 school year.
The season is upon us, friends. The leaves begin to wilt. A sharp bite is in the air. More gray in the beard. Young love turns to autumn regret. Talk about poetic. Summer turns to Fall.
I have no idea what to expect out of the coming semester. It’s impossible to predict what our friend the angry Covid enzyme will do next. Or our other friend violent political polarization. Or our other friend the wildfires raging across the globe. Gray skies. Swing low, sweet 2021. Swing low, indeed.
I’m joking. Things aren’t that bad. And even if they are, there’s still good work to do. For me, teaching is good work. And I enjoy it. I’m looking forward to being back in a classroom. Getting back to it. In person, nonetheless. Masked. Wrapped in plexiglass. Maybe in a Hazmat suit?
And my boys will be going back to school. Solomon starts 2nd grade. Samson will be in 1st. Two young scholars. They’ll actually have something to do now. Not that screaming isn’t doing something. But they’ll be doing it out of earshot.
Glory, glory hallelujah.
I think this is year number 18 in education.
That’s a long time to be slugging it out in a classroom. And by slugging it out, I don’t mean slugging it out. I’m a peacemaker through and through, baby. I don’t care about content objectives as much as I do about cultivating the unity of a group. The collective energies that can emerge from a group of people working together. That’s what I’m after. I’ve come to think the unity of a group is the only thing that leads to real transformation for people. Real teaching and learning. Real change. It’s real work to foster such vitality. It’ll turn your hair gray. Real gray. Leave you withered. Like summer love turned to autumn regret. But your soul will grow. And that seems like it matters to me.
I’ve been trying to figure out how to pacify groups for 18 years. In all sorts of context. Different high schools. Universities. Black box theaters. I’ve even spent my fair share of time in elementary schools. Crossed paths with so many people. Young and old. Kind and mean. Violent and peaceful. But more violent than not violent.
People are real pieces of work. How noble in reason. How infinite in faculty. The paragon of animals and all that. But, as Hamlet also reminds us, people can be real jerks too. Power hungry monsters thirsty to impose their will on others. The work of teaching, it seems to me, is unlocking our infinite faculty to be good to each other. Good to the world around us. Good despite the situations we find ourselves in. Such work is about redirecting the desire to destroy or impose our will at the expense of others. Sharing power. Participating in a collective group. Being changed by that participation. This is some of what I’m after when I teach, regardless of the context. Or the content. English or drama or literacy education or improv or the 3rd grade. Give me people sharing energy and building something together. Give me people overcoming their desire to destroy each other. Good stuff comes from that more often than not.
But what do I know? I’ve only been at this for 18 years.
So here comes another school year. The fall of 2021. I’m ready, I guess. To keep trying to get better at what I’ve been trying to get better at for the better part of my life. Cultivating the unity of a group so that we might build something together and, in so building, change and be changed by each other. That’s transformation, baby. That’s teaching and learning.
But I won’t deny that I could use a little more rest. Some more time to recharge. Do you ever really recharge after 40? With two young children running about the house? I’ll keep you posted, friend.
But for now, I brace for that figure limping towards me. Moaning my name. Pointing to an alarm clock. Telling me to get ready for another school year.