Friday, July 17, 2009

Twenty-Five years later...

In August I’ll begin my twenty-fifth year of teaching. Yipes! That was a quick quarter of a century. Sure, life is different today: less hair, more experience, a beautiful family and some great memories. Life is also similar: I still love teaching.

Twenty five reasons I still love teaching:

1. They may not tight-roll their pants any more. Thankfully they quit wearing neon colors and hairstyles that look like a frazzled fountain spilling out the side of their head, but students still want to learn, appreciate challenges and they still make me laugh.
2. Watching students use a notebook to cover their face when they are trying to talk to somebody. This is the most unnatural pose I’ve ever seen. Nothing says, “Hey, teacher, I’m not listening to you right now because I want to know if Johnny likes me or really, really likes me” like the old face-to-the-folder trick.
3. Hearing that former students are graduating from college, getting married and having children.
4. Buying school clothes at the end of each summer.
5. The prep/lunch hour combination. Enjoying nearly sixty-seven minutes of uninterrupted time.
6. Homecoming. I’ve amassed plenty of years and enjoy seeing student faces return with their families. Although the graduation years are a bit fuzzy, I still remember most of the names.
7. Great friendships I’ve developed with colleagues over the years.
8. Watching former students become colleagues. Who would have guessed that Pastor Ball, a hoopster on my first basketball team at Lutheran North, would become a colleague and trusted friend? Who would have thought that Ryan Wesley, another hoopster on one of my basketball teams, would be living on my block in The Clem and occasionally cart my carcass to school?
9. Watching former students become my boss. Who knew that Kevin Murawski, the lanky hoopster from Armada, would become the varsity girls’ basketball coach and I would be a freshman coach in his program?
10. Othello: It’s my favorite Shakespeare play of all time. Nothing beats when I dressed as Othello and was the class’ guest speaker for the day.
11. Vacations. Because of its frenetic pace, the time spent away from school is so enjoyable. I love what I do and what I do helps me love vacations even more.
12. Being blessed with the opportunity to teach my own children. They claim I’m not funny. I might even believe them if they didn’t work so hard at not smiling during class. “Methinks the lady doth protest too much.” – Gertrude in Willy Shak’s, Hamlet.
13. Making high school students laugh while learning. Learning can be/must be challenging, applicable, arduous and enjoyable.
14. “Let’s play, let’s pretend you do know.”
15. Learning of a snow day the night before school. I sleep so much better.
16. My nervous anxiety on the first day of every year. I’m still nervous on day one. I’d have it no other way.
17. Watching students get out of the car on day one. They act like they’re too cool and don’t need to kiss mom goodbye, but inside they know caring parents provide stability and security. We know it too and that’s why we’re there to pick them up and drop them off the next day. Drop off. Pick up. Repeat.
18. A Separate Peace. It’s my favorite novel to teach. I love the adolescent fear of the future juxtaposed with the loss of the past. John Knowles’ use of description, foreshadowing and characterization are enjoyable to read each year and exciting to introduce to a fresh flock of faces.
19. Tim Hardy’s chapels. I don’t know how he does it but Tim finds the perfect blend of Law and Gospel while preaching Christ crucified in an engaging, powerful manner. Tim’s messages are relevant because the enduring forgiveness, hope and eternal life we have in Christ, is the foundation and forefront of every one of his chapels. I wish more speakers would use his template.
20. Getting students to analyze, think, deduce and synthesize on their own. Watching students learn they have the ability to think critically about literature and life. Too often, student thought has been silenced through drill and kill exercises in futility, factual recall, word searches and mindless assignments. Guiding students to think takes work but when students realize they possess critical thinking skills, confidence blooms.
21. Discovering a new book to teach: Their Eyes Were Watching God, Amusing Ourselves to Death, The Book Thief.
22. Fall. The air is crisp and my sweater vests are finally in season.
23. Friday night football and basketball. During North’s old Wrigley-field like era, I used to love watching football on Saturday afternoons. I was skeptical of the light poles and their electrically charged Illumination. Soon, however, the excitement of a chilly Friday night was more appealing than road kill on a Texas highway. Being in a gym watching hoops on a Friday night is relaxing and a cheap date.
24. Reading a new book that discusses new methods of teaching. I would never go to a doctor who quit learning. I don’t need Dr. Learn-no-More to throw leaches on my knee because it hurts. Teaching is no different. We never stop learning and as teachers we can’t afford to stop reading about different strategies.

25. The blessed responsibility and privilege of daily sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ to young men and women. Students have so many questions about gerunds, gravitational forces, algebraic formulas, shading techniques, and debit columns. They have just as many questions about their faith and their Savior. The Lord has blessed me with a vocation that allows me to remind students that because of Christ’s redeeming sacrifice on the cross our sins are cleansed and salvation is ours.


Dave Klonke said...

Congratulations! 25 years, wow. I'm not supposed to roll my pants that way anymore? You learn so much on the internets!

Timothy Finkelstein said...

Well said.

I'm honored I had the privilege to be part of those 25 years.

Thanks for being an inspiration to me.

Tim Finkel

RobinK said...

Does this mean I have to do this on MY blog? And do I have to include my years teaching computers to grown ups? And when is this due?


Julianne said...

This was awesome to read, Mr. Brandt! Congratulations and thanks for being an inspiring teacher.

Sarah said...

“Let’s play, let’s pretend you do know.”

I'm looking forward to college, but I suppose that's one saying I'll miss hearing on a daily basis. You should also know that thanks to AP Language & AP Lit, my copy of The Soloist (MSU freshman required reading) is filled with sticky notes and character connections. Thank you for everything and congratulations!

Sarah Sheff

Andrea Vaccari said...

Congratulations Mr. Brandt! 25 years and counting! Thanks for teaching me in just one semester what 10 years of English teachers never accomplished.

B. Brodowsky said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
B. Brodowsky said...

Honestly this comment has two purposes. The first is to commemorate the excellent thought you put into this blog. I could tell that you did not make up one of those reasons just to get to number twenty-five. The last was predictable, but that is because you have always represented that reason in your teachings.

The second reason i am commenting is to notify you that i have a new blog address. I know i have already claimed residency in blog nation but lets pretend that home was for... taxation purposes. 
So bring over the chicken casserole and leave your new neighbor a comment!

P.S. I deleted the first because of embarrassing typos.

Rachel said...

I didn't read any mention of former TA's being a significant source of motivation for you. Hmmm...this is interesting.