Ten years ago I was at the beginning of the last semester I would teach face-to-face. Tom was diagnosed two years earlier with ALS. The lifespan from diagnosis is considered to be two to five years. Time was clicking. We needed to make decisions for what the rest of that time looked like for him, for us, and for me after.
Our house was beautiful, big, too much for someone with ALS, and certainly too much for me on my own. We needed to make big shifts, so we did. The market was a seller’s nightmare. We got out by the skin of our teeth. Off to Wilmington, we went to a smaller house, by the beach which reminded us so much of home (Long Island), and a job for me teaching virtually…way before it became education’s global, temporary, answer to a pandemic.
The best thing about teaching virtually was my colleagues. I adored them. Teaching virtually was just okay.
I thought maybe one day I would go back to the classroom but I didn’t and I won’t for so many reasons.
The last semester I taught face-to-face was my favorite. It was my seventh year teaching. I was teaching AP Psychology for the first and last time. I loved it. I had 30 students. We were on a block schedule. I had them for 90 minutes, the last period of the day. Some of them were smarter than me. If they knew that they were generous and kind and never let on.
Biology is a huge part of any psych course these days. As a social studies teacher, I struggled with the content. It wasn’t my thing. One of my teaching friends, Jill, shared a lesson plan style with me, Jigsaw. You put the students into small groups and assign them a specific piece of content to learn for the purpose of teaching it to the other groups. I put them in 10 groups with 3 members each. Each week the groups were assigned chapters. I often learned as much as them.
Over a week they became mini subject matter experts on their topics. On Friday’s the fun would begin. I was the timer. They were the teachers and learners. They had to include lessons for various learning types. They were so fun to watch. Most of them scored 4’s or 5’s on the AP exam.
I didn’t love them anymore or less than my other students. I had students from all kinds of home situations and learning abilities. They each brought something different to my life. I hope I did the same for them. I have to say I did have the most fun with these AP kids. They were hilarious and motivated beyond anything I had ever seen. They seemed to love this style of teaching. They literally made me look so much better than I really was for them.
I was so lucky to have had the opportunity to teach for the time I did. It made me a better human.