Wednesday, December 9, 2009

A perfect way not to spend a day

There are two things I simply cannot do. I cannot sit standing, and I cannot stand sitting.

Although they are both physically impossible (send photo evidence to the contrary and I reciprocate by showing you evidence of division by zero), the latter is something I also cannot tolerate, and booooy did I get to practice my patience today.

As a self-diagnosed adult with ADD (among other ailments), my mind tends to wander without much effort. Although this can be a source of constant creativity and insomnia, there are other side-effects, namely my inability to sit still for extended periods of time as well as my lack of interest in people who ramble, babble, talk incessantly, go on and on, are redundantly repetitive, . . . Being the adult and professional that I am, there are times where I can focus my attention with the skill of a veteran Yogi and feign enough interest so that it appears to those around me that I DON'T have ADD, but perhaps only suffer from a pinched nerve in my coccyx and neck. Today was one of those days.

Attending the second of three installments of forced professional development by my school district, I missed an entire day of instruction to attend a seminar on how to be a better teacher. Much to my dismay, the first rule of the day was NOT "Be in the classroom with your students." Rather, the seminar focused on how we math teachers who teach at levels below calculus can implement calculus-type problems in levels all the way down to algebra I. Luckily for me, my training and experience have afforded me the opportunity to teach at all levels, so many of the ideas at the session were ideas, lessons, and strategies I already know and use. But I'm not above thinking I don't have anything to learn, I try my best to be attentive and to contribute to the conversation so that it's not a waste of time. This becomes increasingly difficult as we work through problem after problem after problem, hour after hour after hour, problems that I easily could have written.

It's days like today that I empathize with my own students and how THEY must feel sitting in my class each day, but then again, it only makes me realize more that if I'm the one in front running the show, I'd better make it entertaining if not interesting or I'll lose my audience. Unfortunately, not all presenters realize or are capable of this. Nothing against this presenter, per se, she was very knowledgeable and capable, but she WAS teaching down the middle to the crowd, and I've never fit in well with crowds. I know that if I cannot first capture my audience's attention, I'll never capture their imagination. Additionally, I must sustain their interest to keep them captive, all while keeping them moving in a direction that I want them to go in.

There were many times today that I felt that all I could do to endure the day was to jump up in front and start leading the seminar myself (this was AFTER I drank down my fair share of "complementary" coffee from the employee lounge.) It got to the point that I took long bathroom breaks even when I didn't have to go to the bathroom. Believe it or not, as many times that I got up to stretch my legs, I never missed a beat when I returned to my seat. It was like watching one episode of a soap opera every two weeks--you still pick up on the plot (even though the infants are now teenagers.)

Luckily, I did get to excuse myself a bit early because of a subsequent engagement--the Math Club Christmas party back at the high school (I hope they're not still waiting for me to come out of the bathroom). I felt so liberated as I walked out the double doors, with Nietzsche's quote resonating in my head: "If it doesn't kill you, it makes you stronger." I felt like the Incredible Hulk.

Arriving back at school among all my students who were filled with yuletide, mathematical spirit, I felt once again back in my element. I don't know who was happier to see who. For motivated students who love to learn and for an enthusiastic educator who loves to teach, we all agreed that I should miss school a lot less often. After all, that's what good teachers do, even if they're "weaker" for it.

Perhaps for the final session, I'll pull one out of Tom Cruise's book. No . . . not jumping up and down on a couch, but rather THIS one . . .

Of COURSE I'm awake!


LC said...

I had a half-day inservice and I, too, left early with an excuse. I hate wasting time!!!!

bob s said...

Let me see, do I have in-service scheduled? Let me think, I remember something about that........Phew I just remembered that no I don't!!! Hey LC how are you doing, looking for a new school yet?? Kevin, didn't you lead that same instruction for us a few years ago?

kwkorpi said...

Yes I did, Bob. Now you're getting my point. I'm thinking of retiring too. Is there any shame in being a "kept man" who doesn't have to attend in-services?