A Blog for Teaching

I’ve never wanted a blog, but now, it seems, I have one.bitstrip

I imagine that many successful bloggers were blog readers, initially, and without knowing it, spent some timing honing their vision. I’ve spent the better part of 12 years teaching and successfully avoiding writing about it.

As a short-fiction writer, years ago, I used to read excellent short stories and I would ache – closing the book and sighing: they were so beautiful – I was hungry to be part of a genre that produced such beauty. I wrote about 10 decent short stories and then retired as a writer, or so it seemed. I was 29 and had no perspective.

And though now, I own and use at least 5 screens per day, I run a paperless class, and I can scour the internet for hours, looking for tools to make me a better teacher, I’ve never wanted to write a blog. I can’t twitter my way out of a paper bag. And most of my Facebook posts feature my cat, my girlfriend, or both. Sometimes, a picture of a shark – or rather, a picture of a picture of a shark.

But now I have a blog, and it’s not about cats or sharks or food, but it’s about teaching. That much I know. And while I don’t love blogging, per se, I love writing, and I definitely love teaching. A friend of mine, recently gave me the following compliment: “I’ve never met anyone as driven to perfect his craft as you are.”

There are a number of things I have felt driven to do in my life: in no particular order: learn to ask a girl on a date, learn to accept no, learn to accept yes, learn to be in relationship, learn tae kwon do, learn capoeiralearn to dress (like really dress), learn to salsa dance (a lot of learning, see?), visit India, visit Africa, learn Talmud, learn to wrap tefillin, learn to be in a grown-up relationship. I’ve been successful at most of these. 

Teaching is different, however, because if I, at any time, had lost my drive to do any of the above, I could have carried merrily (or depressedly) along – same old me, not doing karate, not going to classes, not salsa dancing, not traveling, wearing too much orange. I’d be me – just more boring, less-or-unfulfilled.

But I am actually a teacher. I can’t not be a teacher. When I was 15, I taught my next-door-neighbor guitar, and have been teaching non-stop. Both of my parents are teachers. My brother and my biggest heroes growing up were teachers. (Even Google seems unable to resurrect Mr. Franzen and Mr. Kellett, whom I will never forget). My friends are teachers and many of my teachers are my friends. And being a teacher for 12 years, without losing a drop of drive to be better, requires near-obsession. I cannot be an average teacher. I don’t want to be a good teacher or a great teacher. I want my students, in spring, to feel like they’ve been transformed – shot into space, in a capsule-full of fellow travelers. Returning older and wiser and maybe a bit obsessed, too. I want them to laugh daily, I want them so say, “whoa,” weekly, I want them to feel, at least once a month, the way I felt when, in my first year of studying Torah from Judy Klitnser, at Pardes in Jerusalem, I would think, “this is BIG. This is very BIG.” And to that, I want to add the eerie weirdness that happens when reasonably curious students and passionate teacher and deep text and maybe some pop culture, some technology, some nerdiness, some excellent music, some “question authority,” some, “be yourself,” and some, “I know you can say it better” all come together.

So, since I’m positively DRIVEN to teach, then, if this blog will help me in that process, I am driven to write it.

So that’s who I am: who are you?

You might be a teacher. Humanities, probably. Art – litterature – reading – writing. Maybe Jewish Education, though I’m an equal opportunity teaching-maniac.

You are somewhere north of neutral on the “obsessed with teaching” scale, but I don’t expect you to be an “I’ve been playing with classdojo.com for five hours to see what it will do for me” type of person.

You are open to using computers. You might find the idea of technology in the classroom an exciting one.

Like me, you have tried a million things and threw most of them away.

Like me, you really like young people, although you might also wish they came with “mute” and “freeze” buttons.

Like me, you had a special teacher or two or a dozen who made you who you are.

And like me, you’re willing to spend time looking for answers which might only be “good enough for now.”

In return for you visiting this blog, I will share with you some of the tools I have amassed, the systems I have created, the goals I have set. I believe they can bring you to a better place in your teaching.

Maybe together, we can make our classrooms and schools and communities into the most interesting, intelligent, and relevant places on earth.

So, now, I have this blog. Let’s see what it can do…

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