Wonderful summer programs have been underway, so our website has gone begging for attention. We’re happy to be back by bringing you another installment of Del Hansen’s funny – but very real – thoughts on being a teacher.
by Del Hansen, NM Teacher of the Year and Golden Apple Volunteer
When teachers feel exhausted at the end of the school year, it is for a reason–they have just run a marathon. As we learned before, education is, indeed, a marathon. However, as one plods, scurries, and jogs along the path of the school year, there are coping mechanisms and best practices which make the journey more enjoyable for both teacher and student alike, and all the while help one present the subject matter in a way that sticks to the kid’s mind like Velcro. One way for that to happen is to vary classroom activities.
I have always marveled at the way elementary teachers can juggle a dozen topics and subjects all the while being mauled by a swarm of touchy-feely second graders. After spending a year with my middle school brethren, I feel they also deserve great credit for their ability to manage multiple activities simultaneously and still maintain relative sanity.
This brings me to the topic of “The Plate Man of Argentina,” with the “g” pronounced as an “h.” I can fondly remember sitting in the living room with my family watching the Ed Sullivan Show on Sunday night at six pm. (Yes, this was many years ago, even before the parents of the children whom I taught were born—sigh). We watched Senor Wences, Mary Martin flying around as Peter Pan, and Topo Gigio, who I didn’t even like, but watched just to hear Sullivan pronounce his name. Then, with the band playing “Ritual Fire Dance” by Manuel De Falla, this little man from Argentina came out and proceeded to twirl fine china platters on skinny wooden dowels, managing to keep seven of them going as he dashed to and fro. I was mesmerized and halfway wanted one of the plates to crash. They never did. I grinned as wide as a tickled Cheshire cat when he was done.
Good teachers are like the Plate Man. With effortless precision, they manage a class of thirty squirrely students with ability levels running the gamut from genius to otherwise. Investigations, practice, group activity, and seat work flow seamlessly like warm “buttah” on a hotcake, and kids learn despite being flakey, young, and having the attention span of a gnat. Toscanini, the great conductor, had nothing on these virtuosos of classroom planning. I marvel at them and try to emulate them as well as I can. They are amazing. I have broken my share of china plates this year, but I am getting better keeping them spinning. I just hope another gap-toothed, tow-headed boy is not rooting for any more of mine to crash! I guess it would be poetic justice if they did.
Next blog: Being like a music teacher