Everyday, when I get home from student teaching, I silently bring in my bag to the house. Without saying a word, I put on a hat and head back outside for a walk.
I watch the bus pull up across the road, students hopping out and into the arms of their family members. I walk briskly along the crumbling and cracked pavement. Up and down hills, past broken lobster boats and trailers. Until I’m out walking by the waters edge. The setting sun fractured by leafless trees, reflecting off the river.
The routine of the daily walk helps me process my progress as a student teacher.
To be honest, I left the classroom on Friday before vacation feeling deflated and truly questioning if I could function in a public school.
Or is this just me dealing with my own insecurities about my ability to be a good teacher? I know that to teach is a political act, but this felt like an institutionalized blockade. It certainly shines a light on the expectations I have for education.
History informs us that if anyone is to make a difference or at the very least challenge the status quo that it will always be met with incredible opposition. I certainly anticipate resistance in how I would aim to teach the less canonized issues of the American story such as crony capitalism, corporatocracy, racism, sexism, etc… That this direct affront to the norm would create some controversy.
But a controversy about how long the Earth has been in existence? Really?
This is going to be a long walk.
I could scrutinize my every move to no end. I should stop being so hard on myself. Maybe stop focusing on pleasing everyone involved and just focus on learning. Knowing that I am new at this and getting better at teaching is a process that I assume will never end. So why is it that I want this so badly?
It is forcing me to get at the heart of why I want to teach.
My anxiety and stress is not a result of not being qualified, intelligent, or good enough. It’s because it matters to me a lot. That’s why I’m so nervous now. It means so much, that no matter how hard it is, it’s worth fighting for.
I want to be a great teacher someday. I want our classroom to be student-centered and politically engaged. If this creates a problem, then so be it. But to remove myself before trying for fear of losing, makes one thing certain – no one wins.
I suppose teaching isn’t about schools, just as learning isn’t about schools. It’s a lifelong process. I’m relearning that everyday on my walk.
If for some reason down the line I notice that I have become a teacher that follows “the textbook” and plays it safe, I’ll just have to give it up and quit. If that is the teacher that I become, then what would be the point? Someone else could certainly fill that role.
I was drawn to teaching because I believe in the power of people to come together and to fight against the injustices of the world. For people to see beyond their own lived existence and ask questions of those in power. For young people to be catalysts of change. For the pursuit of an America and a world that has yet to be realized. I want to teach because I want to live my life in such a way that I may work towards leaving it a little better when I’m gone. I want to be a teacher, because I care about people. I want to be a teacher because it’s personal, genuine, meaningful, caring, coalition building.
And, it’s unequivocally political.
By the time I’ve made it home, there’s a certain weightlessness in my step. For in a week or so, I’ll be back at school. A new day of learning. A new day of trials and tribulations. A new day to be any sort of day that I strive for it to be. Education is a journey of a lifetime – full of ups and downs – a journey made up of many many walks.
Nathaniel Munro is a student at Goddard College, where he is a candidate for a Bachelors of Arts in Education and licensure in Secondary Social Studies. Previously, he graduated from Southern Maine Community College and has attended progressive, democratically run schools since he was five. He is “an aspiring teacher, storyteller, builder, farmer, bodhran player, and traveler – a lover of life, politics and a strong cuppa tea.”
Goddard College’s undergraduate and graduate programs invite students to reflect on their learning process, as they produce work. Advisors guide the practice and frequent check-ins allow for students to work at their own pace, from their own place. To find out more, talk to an admissions councilor.