Bucks County Herald

Camille Granito Mancuso: Chatterbox

Learning about teaching

It seems the harder we try to avoid our current condition, the fewer things we find to bring light to our day.

Gloom and doom, however, no matter how afflicted with them we may be, must occasionally take a back seat to the joyful wonders that do still surround us. After all, those are the things we are fighting for, and most of America’s people are fighting, not for the things that marches make news about, but every day, for the little things that also make a difference.

I was accidentally reminded of that by a young cousin of mine who teaches school every day and has for over two decades, which is funny because she looks more like one of the kids than the teacher. Anyway, in addition to teaching her regular eighth-grade English classes, she’s now teaching a class in creative writing. On a personal level, she also is writing her first novel, keeps up with writing a blog, and can sing up a storm, but it’s the blog and her most recent post, about teaching, that has led me here.

Firstly, I must share that I freak a little, late summer, every year, because it just seems that the kids go back to school so early. It seems earlier and earlier in some places; my nephews started school before Labor Day this year. Sure, around the country, for agricultural and weather-related reasons, children have different months off, different vacation time, and special breaks. Still, I don’t remember kids returning to elementary school before Labor Day … like, ever. Of course, my memory isn’t what it never was, and that’s a very important point to make. At any rate, I paled watching August whiz by while people were buying notebooks and pencils.

As careers go, personally, I wanted nothing in life, my whole life, but to become a teacher. My life took a different turn and that was probably a very good thing. I always say that instead of traumatizing thousands, I only traumatized my own four kids. Still, I retain great respect and a very soft spot for educators. The recent read of my cousin’s blog reminded me just how deeply they ponder the challenges they face every day. Each year, their work – as well as technology’s impact upon it – changes those challenges and creates new ones.

Teachers must change their approach to them, refresh personal inspiration and renew their approach to inspire students.

Chatterbox, Oct. 30, 2003, discussed high school and where kids from 15 to 18 years of age should be instead.

Their age and brain development just doesn’t jive with high school as it exists having resulted from mere inertia and the extrapolation upon a basic elementary school as it existed 100 years ago. Still, ever fighting teenage physiology and the status quo, educators work to make it work, and that is their dedication to the skill of, and passion for, education.

To hear my cousin tell it (and most likely tens of thousands of other educators with whom I simply didn’t connect), it’s all part of the job. She discussed her new class and what approaches worked and didn’t work.

She talked about how identifying what inspired her helped her to inspire her students so they could find what inspired them. She looked inward to better reach out to her students, helping their own inspiration to materialize.

Right now, in this country, we are all threatened by the expansion of the privatization of education. A capitalistic, double-edged sword, meant to pick a public entity’s pockets, privatization isn’t about quality of education or making better education more available; it’s about rerouting wealth, and we must make no mistake about that. So, now we will, for a while, be engaged in this tug of war, but educators must work in this atmosphere of difficulty and within the resulting framework.

How do they do it? With creativity and heart; it’s a calling, not a job. Educators focus on their students’ needs, strive to complete their curriculum, teach many personalities individually, and we know they also have to work with parents too, all while inspiring young minds and fostering creative thinking.

Enlightened by a family blogger’s innocent and accidentally insightful description of an educator’s dedicated heart … typical of so many, I’ve been reminded that “everyday lives” make big differences that last, and that nothing substitutes for a great teacher … well, except a great substitute teacher.

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