As a classroom teacher, I was silent more often than I expected to be.
One day, I overheard a student exclaim, “Guys, I’ve done the math. Dropping out now gets me way more money than going to high school.” As I watched the others swarm around him eagerly, I wanted to stop everything and spend a couple hours explaining to them the real reasons for coming to school. I could not, however, because the bell had just rung, and my next class was already shuffling into the room and complaining about something else.
When middle school drama unfolded before me, I wanted to share with my students how to navigate insecurity and the need to be “cool.” I did, sometimes. I remember a long conversation with one student after she had a particularly bad day. But so many other times, no opportunity was afforded; passing periods are short, and the right words are sometimes hard to come by.
When a student told me that another teacher would not listen to him, I wanted to say that teachers should always listen to their students, but instead I simply listened to him in silence.
When I saw students struggling to keep up and doubting their worth as a result, I wanted to tell them that they are incredibly valuable and that school work does not reflect their worth. Perhaps I should have. Perhaps I was too frantically trying to survive the paper hurricane that my desk had become to see beyond making a lesson plan for tomorrow. Perhaps I was too anxious to stave off the forces of chaos during class to do anything other than address the student interrupting me for the tenth time.
When I saw students struggling with organization, I wanted first to show them that paper hurricane that was my desk and then I wanted to help them take small but sure steps toward order. There was no time for this, however.
When I saw students whose self-worth was wrapped up in their successes, I wanted to challenge them to take their eyes off themselves. Perhaps I was too afraid. Perhaps it was not my place as a teacher to say anything.
When I taught at a public school, I wanted to show students how the literature that we read taught us about our fallen nature and how God, through Christ, has redeemed us–but there are laws preventing such truth-speaking.
I may not have been able to say these things in the moment, but I have never stopped wanting to say them, and I have created this blog so that I can say them now. Thus, in many ways, this blog is not actually new, but has grown out of the combined observation and silence of my teaching years. During that time, I have learned much (though there is much I have yet to learn) and said little about what it means to be a student, what it means to teach, and what it means to be a human being engaged in the activity of education. To whatever extent I can speak truth about education, about the struggles and joys of being a student, about the struggles and joys of educating young people, I intend to do so here.
My aim is to write in such a way that inspires adults but also engages students. My first series, coming soon, is written as a set of eight letters to students and seeks to offer compelling reasons for going to school. I would be honored if you would join me as I seek truth and goodness in education.