Friday, June 17, 2011

June 17

At last summer has arrived. I'll blog every day. I promise.

Many weeks ago a friend sent me a link to an essay by John Volkmer in The Chronicle of Higher Education. In it, Volkmer mused on teachers' perennial struggle dealing with students who are, in his words, "full of it." This essay resonated with me more than most pieces on our profession.

Ironically, the design of this profession has teachers aging but the age of our students remains static. As a result we wonder "Am I getting old?" (or the converse, "My, they're getting younger?") while we face behaviors that seem increasingly juvenile. As the world changes, our students adopt and adapt to fashions increasingly foreign to those we knew from our youth.

Volkmer's piece reminds us that youth remains youthful. That the behaviors our predecessors struggled with are, at the core, little different from what we confront. Children often have to challenge. Children often have to try out "adult" ways of solving problems, and the results are often messy. Children often have to resist, for we are working with human beings who are breaking away from bonds with parents and friends that have lasted their entire lives.

To what extent Volkmer's piece demands that we hold the line on courteous, civil, and modest conduct is a subject for another post. But wherever one feels on how stingy or permissive we need to defend boundaries of behavior, the job we have working with youth who are "full of it" is a grueling one. It means as teachers we have to withstand a lot of barbs while remaining objective. It's our job to help them grow despite behaviors that can repel, and that will wear on you.

The grueling nature of this job necessitates the summer break that, for me, is starting today. We need to be fresh for the campaign we must wage with (but not against) our new students.

One other nature of my job which is grueling needs to go on vacation for a week . . . I'll save that for the next post.

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