I guess the bane of retirement would be the constant reminiscing–you know, always bringing up stories about your former life as a steelworker, mechanic, teacher, coach, doctor, etc. And I suppose I should clarify. The bane is not for the storyteller but for the person trapped by him or her!
I have come to the realization that I have fallen into that “geezer” trap myself! It always starts with the words “When I first started teaching. . .” Or maybe, “when I was teaching. . .” I found myself telling this story last time. . .
Last year I had a group of seniors in an Environmental Science class, which was an alternative to Chemistry or Physics. Every student in high school is required to take four years of science so many of the seniors opted for either Environmental or Aquatic Science, which was supposed to be easier. The kids tended to treat my class as if it was a “blow off” class. But with my background in alternative education, these students tended to be my favorites, plus I have always enjoyed the older students.
One morning the group was especially lively and kept interrupting my attempts to teach something serious such as the nitrogen cycle, which, by the way, they learned in fourth grade or fifth, but I digress.
Exasperated, I finally stopped talking and just looked at them. They fell silent. “Look, guys,” I said, “I really have to make sure you learn this.”
On cue, one of the young men in the back piped up, “We can’t learn this stuff, Miss. You gotta understand. We’re stupid!”
There was that classic moment, the one they call perfect timing in comedy, and then the whole class burst into laughter. I couldn’t stop my own smile. Of course, they weren’t stupid. They were brilliant. It was just where they chose to channel their smarts. They knew it, and I knew it.
That day I learned more than they did. I learned that having a relationship with your students and knowing where they are coming from is worth a whole lot more than knowing the phases of the nitrogen cycle. Too bad they don’t test those things on the SAT. . .
By the way, that young man has the social skills to make it big in business someday. I hope so, anyway. He already has a daughter looking up to him.