Today we welcome the first installment of regular blogs from Del Hansen, who describes himself as “Ex officio reader and visitation team member for Golden Apple.” Â Del teaches in Las Cruces Public Schools and is a past recipient of the New Mexico Teacher of the Year. Â He has been a frequent volunteer on the committee that selects recipients of the Golden Apple Award for Excellence in Teaching.
I taught and administered high school for about thirty-two years, plenty enough time to be able to say that â€œI have seen it all.â€Â Au contraire.Â A few years ago, I retired from the classroom and happily worked as a volunteer with the wonderful Golden Apple Foundation, helping to select New Mexicoâ€™s top teachers.Â This year, quite out of the blue, I was asked to teach geometry to a class of eighth graders at Camino Real Middle School in Las Cruces.Â Having been a teacher of high school aged young adults for years, I figured dealing with younger kids would be a piece of cake.Â As the school year opened and I found myself immersed in middle school, my eyes opened wide like a five-year-old walking alone through the darkened venomous snake exhibit at the zoo.Â There they were so darn many twelve-year-olds in the hall, all in constant motion and in so many sizes.Â They careened off each other like bumper cars at the carnival.Â And worst of all, they didnâ€™t quite get my repertoire of jokes that worked perfectly well with seniors.Â A nagging and lingering question danced like an apparition before my eyes:Â after being out of the loop for seven years, could I be a successful math teacher again?
I can hardly count the number of times I have begun the school year standing in front of a group of kids, their faces intent and excited, but all the time sizing you up.Â This time was more like the first time I opened a school year some thirty-nine years ago.Â Though I outwardly brimmed with confidence, there was a singular question floating around the back of my mind, now a few neurons lighter than when I was twenty-three.Â I kept having flashbacks to the 1978 film â€œPiranha,â€ halfway expecting them to swarm toward me and consume my flesh as I yell helplessly for security.Â But they didnâ€™t.
Like riding the proverbial bicycle, I remembered how to make a seating chart, hand out books, discuss the classroom rules, and go over the escape route for a fire drill.Â It was new; it was fresh; it was something different.Â Though I was to teach only this one class, the principal was generous enough to assign me a classroom all to myself.Â I would begin the task of customizing it to reflect my personality.Â And with a little bit of luck and whole lot of work, I would be ready to â€œHansenizeâ€ the kids and teach the heck out of geometry to eighth graders.Â The battle was joined.
Next installment:Â It is an Olympic year.