I saw tired frames sagging against desks this week, and when I asked, “Long day?” I heard a collective sigh. This is our first full week, which is worth noting because our schedule is so often amended to accommodate a variety of essential and not-so-essential events: state achievement tests, ACTs, late starts for teacher collaboration, open house, pep assemblies, college night, teacher institutes, final exams. I’ll let you decide which are valuable and which leave teachers scratching their heads in bafflement. Hard to establish a pattern of alertness when the week is broken up, which is probably more often than not. Maybe I’ll keep track. Forget about extending the school year; just give us one uninterrupted week after another.
I drove home my first set of papers and never took them out of the car and drove them back to school and graded a few there and the rest at home on a second trip.
Most interesting part of the week was a discussion we had on goals (we were studying humanism in psychology). I asked students to write down where they saw themselves in 2020, nine years from now—and to be as realistic as possible. Then I had them repeat this exercise, but this time, they had to reach a bit. I said, What if you could put aside your fears, put aside what others thought about your goals, and focus on what you truly would like to do in nine years? After, I asked them for a show of hands if their answers to the two questions were different, and sure enough, most of their arms were raised. I didn’t follow this up with a lecture on why they should follow their dreams. Who am I to urge them to put aside their fears, which may prove useful to them? But the sometimes stark differences between the two answers was enlightening. Even if we follow the safer, more assured routes toward our futures, if we can at least be aware of the choices we leave behind, I think this can be instructional.
I was inspired by the high and noble aspirations of these kids, in both their realistic and dream futures. They want to be doctors and engineers and teachers, they want to serve others, to contribute. And these are their realistic futures! In their dreams, they will be Broadway singers and write books and travel overseas to supply medical attention to needy populations. Listening to them, I truly believe the future will be in good hands, and I regret that we haven’t left them a world in better shape. They’re not blind to this fact, and while they’re worried, they’re not cynical. One by one, we need to nurture that optimism at every opportunity.