Today, I got to do something I’ve always wanted to do. I read Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” instead of the Scripture reading, in chapel. That was the lesson, the sermon, the prayer, the blessing. King was all we had today — his words, alternately lashing out at complacency and despondency and militarism, and conciliatory and with an eye on the higher purposes of God and man.
OK. I’m a white guy. Maybe I shouldn’t be the one responsible for reading it. But it’s an American sutra, and it should be heard a lot more often than the “I have a dream” speech. The “Letter” is much more visceral. And I read it with a lot of dynamics and intensity and pauses… kids were sitting up, listening, taking notice. No one said a word. Cool day.
, I put together a CD of songs for you that meet your “hymnal requirement” during a lull in the day while my students were taking a test. I’ll drop it off for you on my way to fencing; look for it in your mailbox tonight. I think it’ll be good. There aren’t any work-songs, but it’ll be a good start, anyway. U2, Indigo Girls, Big Country, Sweet Honey in the Rock, other stuff. You’ll like it.
, I’ve also got a CD for you, the one you wanted me to make for you. So you can get that on Saturday.Speaking of which, we’re going to the movie Saturday night. I drew movie duty again so I can go see Grandma on Saturday morning. There’s always trade-offs. I’m also on duty all day Sunday, which kinda sucks, but is also unavoidable. There will be breaks, but not long ones. Alas. did I mention that I love you? I love you.
My supervisor, my department chair, took me aside today to ask me what I thought of a colleague’s quiz — which he gave me. I try to think good things about my colleagues, for the most part, but it was really awkward to have to talk about a fellow teacher and critique his style without him being there, to his supervisor. On the other hand, the quiz — and the lead-up worksheets to it — were absolutely terrible. My supervisor was upset and frustrated and laughing all at the same time. “No wonder these kids are climbing the walls.”
In eight years of teaching, the most important thing I’ve learned is that you have to have a plan, a story in mind, day to day about what the kids are doing, and what they’re supposed to be learning. If you don’t have a story to tell, a way to grab their attention, the day is ruined. Sometimes you can lose a week that way. It took me a long time to realize that there isn’t time to tell it all; that’s what textbooks are for. But 15 minutes in a half-hour class needs to be enough for you to tell the story of the day, and to ask the kids questions and check their homework, and get their homework down on paper for the following day. All that isn’t easy, but lacking a story makes it a lot, lot harder.