Sunday, July 29, 2012

Coming Down From the Mountain

Ok, ok...will you people stop nagging me?  ;)

I was super eager to blog about #TMC12 when we were heading home.  But within days, everyone started posting and their blogs said all of the things that I would've wanted to say. 

The experience itself was absolutely everything everyone has said it was.  It was surreal.  And without a doubt one of the greatest experiences of my life.  And certainly one of the most productive professional development experiences of my career.  I am putting together a presentation for my colleagues of all of the great ideas that were shared.  I may post it here eventually, but I believe most of it has been archived already.

What my mind has been playing with since returning is how to stoke the fires of the passion that were ignited during those days of collegial bonding.  It reminded me a bit of church camp days as a teenager.  When we would all get all excited over a shared religious experience and then come back to day to day life and try to live out what we felt there. 

I returned home to two days with my department where we were wading through the new curriculum that our state has developed for implementing CCSS.  It was a big dose of reality and the way in which our ideals and visions for teaching must somehow be fit within the bureacratic constraints that exist in our profession.  There is testing and mandates and school practices and the politics of it all.  The paperwork.  The administrative expectations.  All of which can sometimes be overwhelming to balance when your mind wants so much to focus on pedagogy and lesson ideas and...gasp...the students.

#TMC12 was a high.  I was surrounded by people who are as in love with teaching as I am.  It doesn't get any better than that.  I can relate to what Sean said:  "I've never been more excited to teach in my life."  The ideas and excitement flowed freely.  Keeping that enthusiasm in the midst of the valleys is a much greater challenge. 

My favorite parts of the school year are always the first few weeks and the last.  The first few because they are so full of optimism and excitement.  The last few because I start already brainstorming how I will do things better next year...ways that I will improve.  It's exciting.  It's progress.  It's the part of teaching that I love the most.

As a collaborative teacher, this becomes a much greater challenge for me.  I spend a year working with a teacher or a few...begin to make progress together as a team with idea sharing and lesson development.  The end of the year comes and we start brainstorming, "How can we improve on this for next year?"  And then when the next year approaches, I find that I am working with someone completely different.  Someone with a different philosophy of teaching from mine.  Someone with whom I can not just pick up and build and grow forward.  I am back to square one.  And all of the excitement about new ideas and methods of teaching becomes slightly irrelevant.  Saved into my mental files for another year.  And that saddens me greatly. 

So...I've come down from the mountain.  I don't want to lose the enthusiasm and the passion.  I have to find ways to shift that energy in a different way.  I begin to think about the individual students and making connections...what I can do this year rather than what I can't.  But the lessons...the teaching...the ideas...they are still there...burning within me.  And I kinda have to trust everyone else to carry that torch forward for a little while.