Friday, June 19, 2009

The Cycle of ... Circles

The Roman philosopher Seneca said, "Every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end." This concept has been on my mind often today as my seventh year of teaching came to a close.

I am finally old enough, I think, to do some serious reflecting. I'm kind of ashamed to say it, but the idea of reflection is fairly new to me. The main reason for this is that I rarely get a chance to just stop and take a deep breath, but I still feel kind of schmaltzy saying, "It never really occurred to me before the last few months to take a long, close look at myself and try to learn and grow from the things that have happened to me."

This is the first year that I've felt truly pleased with the experience my students had in my class. Although as usual I can think of a hundred things I could have done differently, I am nevertheless confident that my kiddos learned a great deal about reading, writing, and respect from me. It's not like I think that the students forced to deal with me in the six years before this got nothing out of my class, but I always felt like there were major gaps, that I hadn't reached enough of them, that their growth and opportunities had been somehow adversely impacted because of my limitations (organization, for example).

This year, I just feel proud. That's not to say that I won't change things up when I start over with a fresh batch of ninth graders in the fall ... it would be short-sighted and frankly arrogant to say, "I'll just do what I did this year. Good enough." I have always had glowing observation write-ups and such, so maybe I'm just way harder on myself than other people are, I don't know.

I used to just trudge through days just to get to the next one. I didn't take the time to look back on what I did on a given day (or a given week) and how much I could learn from just thinking about all angles of what transpired. I've gotten to be very zen, for lack of a better way of putting it. Everything is connected, and the lessons you learn in your career or through your friends or from your marriage or whatever are almost always applicable in other parts of your life if you're willing to open your mind, pay attention, and think.

I've learned that the idea of cycles, of circles has definite legitimacy. Whether we're talking about the so-called circle of life or the water cycle, everything matters. Everything has its place. Everything plays a role.

Now why did it take me thirty-two years to figure this out?