It is currently Wednesday night after the back to school
staff BBQ hosted by the Foothill Technology High School Parent Faculty
Just sitting here reading my incoming
some I know who the authors are, but mostly they are just names to me
for the present - but I read the words and the ideas and emotions and
I file them away until next Monday when I can put a face to the name. "Becka
R." "Carina A." "Sid C." "Jeff
S." I could not pick any of them out of a police lineup, and
yet by next June and after nine months of some 8 hours a week together
and scores of essays about a variety of topics I will most surely know
them well. Each is a fully developed young adult, the product of many,
many teachers and parents and sixteen years of life. It comes across
when they write to me "what I believe."
The pulse of the beating life of the human heart in these essays always
intimidating me a bit... the responsibility of being in charge of a significant
part of their education for the next year - the weight, the honor of the
trust, the desire not to fail or disappoint. The fear upon meeting new
students where there is not yet a rapport... the searching for common ground.
My wife has had frightening dreams almost every night this week about
her new 4th grade class, as she is only in her 4th year of teaching and
is sensitive by nature. It is like the dreams students have of arriving
at school naked and having everyone stare at you, except worse - there
are many students but only one teacher in a classroom. The spotlight is
on you, regardless. I have no bad dreams and am relaxed (and even expectant!)
for next Monday and the new school year, but there are still the vestiges
of nervousness and unease.
This set of "I Believe" essays are powerful and impressive,
as they always are. They each bear the stamp of a unique individual, the
style of their character as distinctive as their dress or taste in music,
friend, food, art, or politics. "I believe..." High school students
waxing eloquent on dancing like fools with their friends - or "alone,
when nobody is watching." Believing in love and life and family and
dreams. Nascent political beliefs and the power of music. The idea that
true love exists and is waiting there somewhere in the future - "True
Love, not phony, reluctant hand holding love / True Love, the kind that
makes your stomach churn, make you crazy, passionate love / kissing the
rain." There is the raw power of life, the fully 3 dimensional complex
creatures that will be my students; the incredibly complex and volatile
mix which is the 17-year old - the confused man-child which is a teenager,
born into the adult work naked and standing unsurely like a fawn on wobbly
legs. The fear. The idealism. The desire. The dreams. The emotion. The
"I believe in crying when I am stressed, sad, or angry / But I believe
in holding in my tears for as long as so I can feel strong." What
strange and lovely creatures we human beings are!
How blessed to be a teacher of writing to whom others will give a glimpse
of the beating, raw heart of humanity. How frightening to be entrusted
with their education, how arrogant the thought one would have anything
to teach them!
How human is the activity of teaching, as ancient as humanity itself -
the novice reaches out to the elder, the elder reaches back. The novice
will soon be the master - five years is nothing, ten years is nothing,
twenty years is nothing. My own high school junior year in 1984 is twenty-one
years distant, and it seems like yesterday.
"I believe that first loves never die
And should never be forgotten...
I believe that although love hurts, it shouldn't...
That listening to the heartbeat of the person you love
I read these essays but can only read a few at one sitting. The reading
of the words takes little time, the digesting of the ideas and emotions
takes much. I sit there with the essay in hand thinking over the character
of this person that will enter my class next week. I read the essay and
then sit there looking out into the distance, thinking and reflecting.
Through the words a human being begins to form, the shape of a soul becomes
attached to a name -
"Daniel T." "Tristan D." "Catherine
After some time, I look down again and move to the next essay. I aim to
read the entire stack of essays throughly two times by the end of the weekend.
That should give me time necessary to process these essays as they should
It all starts next Monday morning.