So after nearly 40 years I have returned to instructing an English class. During my hiatus I have been running a business and, more recently, teaching technology. Education has been evolving during those 40 years in some amazing ways but I have viewed English as not having changed much. Nationally we struggle to transform students into a socialized, skilled, technology aware work force without spending much resource. We are doing this by identifying core skills and compressing the first 14 years of schooling into 12 years. It is a chore and we all struggle to find the true backbone of this evolving curriculum. Sometimes I joke that we have all these old guys and gals trying to prepare kids for a world that will be vastly changed from what we see today.
Today, our textbook is on line. The students are able to read and respond and I can look at their individual digital workbooks and make comments or assess. These students all maintain their own websites which I can access off my smartphone or computer 24/7. They write a weekly blog which is a window into their unique worlds and fresh perspective. They can write, import pictures, insert web links and publish their journals to the world of digital format. I, in turn, can link them to on line resources and open a world that in prior times was restricted access.
What I have primarily noticed is a change in my attitude toward English. Where I used to get bogged down with the correcting, I look forward to reading their blogs and grading their assessments. Each entry is akin to discovering a special stone or shell on the beach. They shine in unique ways and reflect amazing insight. Some sparkle, then dull as they dry. Others reveal many facets of complex perception. Ninth grade is a wonderful time of brain growth and developing thought patterns. It has also become a time for me to reflect and feel good about the future of these kids.
We don't choose the circumstances in which we find ourselves, but we so control our response. We can selectively choose to see the upside or we can choose negativity. Choosing to go positive has countless benefits that accrue automatically: better health, a positive day, improved relationships.
On Veteran's Day I took my younger brother to the eye specialist. He has been battling glaucoma and eye infections for several years. A year ago he had a cornea replaced. In August he had his weak eye removed due to losing the lens to repeated infection. Vision in that eye had degenerated to almost nil. Today he had scar tissue removed from his remaining good eye during an emergency procedure to reduce the pressure to a third of what it was just last week.
He constantly badgers the people who try to help him, complains about how long things take, rarely, if ever, says "thank you". I try to get him to a more positive place. He was almost there on Veteran's day when he was totally helpless. But today, even though he still can't see he was mostly rage and complaint. Facing the possibility of a darkening future can't be anything but terrifying...but it seems equally terrifying to see what little help anger brings.
Hopefully tomorrow will bring some light.
John Alfred Riebli