I’m up at five. Every day. Including weekends.
This is a choice. I could sleep ‘til six and still get to school on time, but lying in bed fretting about my day is way less productive than getting up and gettin’ at ‘er. Fretting is the school teacher’s resting state.
School has been in for a month now, and I know their names, and I’m starting to know who’s dating who, and who’s breaking up with who, who has a selfie addiction (not kidding, its real!) and who should never be given a hot glue gun ever again. I know who I can tease, and who I can’t. Who might need a pat on the shoulder and who needs a kick in the ass. But I don’t really know them yet, the eighty students who slouch or skip or saunter through my door every day. They surprise me every day. They make me laugh every day, and sometimes they make me cry.
They call me Miss Lib. LBro. Bitch.
I have a lovely International student who calls me Miss Brubub, or Brobrub, or Brububub.
Teens are complex creatures. Ask any parent if they’ve figured out their own teenager yet and then multiply that mystification by eighty. Throw in a bevy of cell phones and mental health concerns and identity crises and learning challenges and anxiety issues and you have a normal, busy, somewhat-functional-on-a-good-day high school classroom. And they change every day. Like hyper-active chameleons. And I love them, in the weird love-hate relationship that defines so much in high school. In an effort to teach all of these wee creatures, we’re being encouraged to embrace a “new” imperative called, impressively, Universal Design for Learning.
Utterly Divine Lessons.
How pompous it sounds. As if we, as educators, can wave our magic pedagogical wands and through some phenomenal spell-casting weave instruction that embraces every single kid with every single learning style and every single strength into one dynamic lesson for all… every day… for twenty-five kids at a time… and still have enough mental energy left over to figure out the new rules for our Communal Learning Time and how to migrate our email to gnspes and how to upload files to showbie and match the outcomes to our intentions to their proficiencies to our growth plan to our acid reflux medication…
I think it used to be called Assessment for Learning. Before that it was maybe Multiple Intelligences, before that: How to Use your Slate. Educators have been steadily working toward the magic bean ever since the first caveman taught his kid how to light a fire. UDL isn’t new. It’s just a reminder that we haven’t quite made it yet. That’s what makes it hard on the pedagogical soul… this constant reminder that no matter how hard we work, how many hours and initiatives we swallow, no matter how much we love our kids, no matter how many times we ask “are we there yet?” the answer always seems to be…
I guess that’s the difference between being a teacher and being a parent. I’m a parent. Times four. That’s a whole lot of Parent, if To Parent can be a verb. I didn’t always get it right with my kids… I let them down, I failed, I missed important moments of parenting, but they are all lovely, successful, wildly inappropriate young adults now who, miraculously, love me. But they’ve grown up and moved on. My parenting time is different now. I don’t get to go back and do it over, do it better. With teaching, it’s never over. Year after year, sixteen year old after sixteen year old, we are given the chance to do it again, try to get it right, fix what didn’t work the year before, strive for the Universal Design that will meet their needs.
Are we there yet?
Education is changing. New homework policies, new codes of conduct, new expectations in and out of the classroom… OK. I can dig it. I’m up at 5. I gots time fer dis.
“Miss Lib, I think I got hot glue on my face. It really hurts.”
“You, young man, will never use a hot glue gun in class ever again.”
The magic of UDL at work.