Goals! Goals? What should be the goals of a teacher?
I thought surely one would be: impart useful information about the English language; how to read, write and understand it.
I thought another would be: teach citizenship; what it means to live in a land of privilege and hypocrisy, freedom and prejudice.
Certainly this should be one: to provide a safe place of learning and exploration – of our lives and ourselves.
Who would argue that we should also: model decency and self-worth, self-esteem and self-respect.
If no one will step up to argue this point, and lets assume you all are a relatively indicating sample of our population, why then should these goals have an opponent, why should a teachers strength be drained by unreasonable and disrespectful “feedback” and demands of… a principal? Should our obstacles not lie in the backgrounds of our kids, their parents, media, peer influence…? Should they not lie mostly outside of the sacred grounds for learning and passage into full protected and glorious citizenship? Certainly they should not be caused by the one body in the school who is wholly responsible for the achievement of all those contained within their walls.
Tales from the front? The front has but one juggernaut against whom the majority of the battles are waged.
If you are a general and one of your captains has a particularly difficult mission, and he has only recently earned his rank and command, and after every scrimmage he comes back with more men lost, injured or killed, do you try and teach him better tactics? I hope so! Do you try to show him how to better read a map? Absolutely! Do you instruct him on how to better train his men? Indeed you do! Do you also acknowledge his successes, his strengths and all that he has achieved and is striving to achieve? I think so, and perhaps you do as well, but it seems there are generals who would argue with you. There are generals who will issue commands or relay feedback and turn and walk away as you are trying to ask for clarification or ask an unrelated but equally important question. Apparently there are generals who believe that all feedback should be delivered in a nasty, degrading and insulting tone, along with appropriately degrading commentary to boot. They think this is the proper way to run a battalion. They think this is the sure way of motivating their captains to go into battle again and again, outnumbered, outgunned, injured and hungry – and they expect these captains to give 110% percent, to follow orders blindly and to have the burning desire to bring honor to their general, battalion and country!
These generals are sadly and horribly mistaken! What’s worse is at the end of the day their poor decisions can at most get a captain demoted or discharged, but an enlisted man under the captains command? His fate is more grim than a loss of bars. For him limbs, quality of life, and life itself are at stake and are certain to fall victim, not to the bullets of the enemy but, to the guile and decrepitation of his own general.
On a brighter note from my soldiers:
My day does not always contain many rays of light and hope, but on days when we write, read and publish my students poetry – I feel bathed in the glorious, regenerating and satiating sun! When they understand what it means to create an image in a line, to portray a lifetime, a moment, an emotion, a thought, a desire, a dream, a picture in a single written line – so then does clarity revisit and remind me of the amount of potential with which I am working.
Next time I will be sure to include more stories from the blacktop, for now an image from the Pacific coast around Monterey: A lonely cypress and traveler