Thursday, June 18, 2009

Another School Year

I'm a lucky man who gets to teach, who gets to learn, who gets to love his job, who gets to feel thankful.

So, thanks, students. Thanks to the class of 2009. Thanks to those first freshmen I taught when I started here at Lake Braddock and to those students in between as they moved through English 9, or Creative Writing, or English 11, or Honors English, or AP Language and Composition, or AP Literature and Composition, or Film Study. And thanks to those in the Hayfield ISP during my first year in Virginia. Thanks to all you Outward Bound students who spent time in the Beartooth Mountains with me. Thanks to all those kids who spent a week at Storer Camp.

Thanks for being students, for being learners, for being, so many of you, fully present and alive on so many of our days together. For taking risks. For thinking. For taking your education, your lives, in your hands and for claiming that education as your own. And thanks for being teachers, as well, and for never failing to teach me.


Written said...

I feel that is it impossible to put so much of yourself, both intentionally and without realizing it into your teaching, your general classroom demeanor, and into your open interactions with students about non-class interests/issues and NOT feel so rewarded by the reactions to it.

As a student, it is equally easy to be open, engaged, and alive with a teacher who feels like a fellow human, as it is to be distant and uninterested with one of the too-common cardboard cutout instructors.

(I guess the point is, thank you.)

I find that people will continue to talk about those instructors that acted so humanly for years and years afterward because in this age of SOLs and too-large classes, we are so accustomed to the burnt-out, that a person-teacher leaves a very long and far-reaching impression.

Honkymagic said...

Well, see, where you say that it's easy to be open, engaged and alive, that's where I disagree. I think that's an incredible challenge. (I would, however, agree entirely that it's easy to be distant and uninterested). I've been in front of enough distant, uninterested classes (as far as I could tell) to believe that what makes the difference, the absolute critical difference, both for the class and for the individual student, is one student's willingness to engage, and another student's willingness to engage, and another student's willingness to engage, and so on.

Give yourself a ton -- a TON -- of credit when you choose (choose!) to engage with a class, when you choose to learn, when you choose to take risks and be a human being. In a classroom or anywhere else.

(When you choose to be your own human being. When you choose to believe that learning (in the sense that learning matters) cannot be measured by Scantron forms. When you choose to write what you think instead of what you suspect the teacher wants to hear. When you choose to work because you value the work and not because you value the grade. When you choose.)

I think it gets easier to choose to be open, engaged, and alive (in all aspects of life) as you do it more, but that it's never easy.

And I know that you weren't really claiming that it is easy to be so, to do so, but rather thatn it is "equally easy" (that is, it's as easy for the student as for the teacher), but I'm not sure that I agree with that, either.

Written said...

Perhaps my viewpoint comes a bit naturally skewed, as I have always been (and continue to be) aloof how those around me treat certain situations.

For me, entering a classroom means quite naturally entering into a personal (and often loud, unabashed) dialogue with the teacher and the students, hold the same value-- vessels, people, others who have read the same literature, or analyzed the same painting, seen the same film as I have and with whom it is only appropriate to have a discussion. Anything else doesn't make sense.

And that viewpoint has gotten me into trouble. Or at least into uncomfortable situations, where I am engaged, however the instructor is not. This happened at VCU art school. There are professors, students who will not invest the energy to push boundaries in analysis, who will only move away from themselves to look at the very superficial aspects of something that is so, so much deeper, because delving deeper means perhaps having to hold one's breath, perhaps having to swim.

It feels the same as getting into trouble for sitting on top of a desk in high school instead of in it. Or being forced to take the SOLs to prove that I am capable (that is NOT what they prove). So yes, I categorize being alive, interacting, and learning as easy, maybe just as easy as allowing oneself to be disengaged and wallow in disinterest, but now I don't agree with that either. I have found the latter to be much, much more difficult.

But, then again, my viewpoint is skewed and I am discussing personal preferences, life-views/practices and not the greater social pattern.

Perhaps it is just as easy for a group of learners, or supposed learners to remain disengaged as it is for a teacher (or supposed) to attempt to engage them.

Honkymagic said...

I'm absolutely with you when you say, "Anything else doesn't make sense." Absolutely. Just like it doesn't make sense to live an entirely complacent, shallow, non-thinking, non-questioning, non-changing life. Like you're saying: why would you not engage yourself with your own education, with your own life, with your own self?

But it took me a while to figure out that that came from within and not from without. I spent a lot of middle school and high school only working when I felt motivated by the teacher, and, even then, only working up to what I imagined were the teacher's expectations. It took me until college to commit to learning, to commit to digging into material, to commit to answers AND questions, regardless of who the professor was like or what the instruction was like. I didn't manage it, necessarily, in every class or with every assignment, but the majority of the time, I did. And it was certainly easier when I felt "inspired" by the teacher (and even then it was usually more that I wanted to see what he/she saw, or know what he/she knew), but still entirely doable even in a class with, say, Cowboy Hat Lady.

I don't know. I'm kind of talking in circles here.

I think what it comes down to is that our secondary (and, increasingly, our primary and collegiate) educational system (and our culture at large) is geared toward disengagement, toward passivity, toward easy acceptance. Hence Scantron forms. Hence fast food. Hence the grade being the only thing that matters. Hence prefabricated lessonplans that every teacher should follow in every class. Hence true/false quizzes on books in place of engagement with the material itself. Hence multiple choice history tests instead of engagement with the broader questions of history. Etc. And, in the face of that, insisting on your own engagement, or insisting on sitting on your desk, or insisting on control of your own life, takes guts. And strength.

FreeYourMind said...

Hi, Mr. Schulze.

This is Johnny from Class of '09. It's hard for me to make any kind of thorough expression of my feelings for your class at this hour, but since you wrote in my yearbook I have been wanting a chance to return the gratitude for what you brought to the class. I don't think it is an exaggeration at all to say how much it has impacted my life and how I view the world.

Thank you for believing in us enough to get us to where we all individually ended up. I really appreciate the high standards that you held us to that enabled us to grow as writers and thinkers. I'm really glad that I stumbled upon your blog to be able to share that.

Johnny Hanley

P.S. I notice that this blog has died out since July or August. What would be your advice to yourself? I imagine that self-expression is something that is very important to you. It's something that you certainly taught me about myself. Make time if it means something to you. Don't let things get in the way.

Honkymagic said...

Point taken, Johnny. Thanks. I'll get back on this -- not for the sake of posting, but for the sake of writing, for the sake of figuring out what I'm thinking and then remembering what I'm thinking.