A couple of weeks ago, I thought holy shit, summer vacation is almost over and I haven’t met up with my friend and fellow not-retired math teacher for a coffee! So I texted her and we arranged what turned out to be a nice long visit in a park on a sunny, 98˚ day. We got caught up with each other’s lives and laughed ourselves silly. There was just one conversation in particular I want to share.
Last year, a different friend (who is also a math teacher) very graciously and generously let me volunteer in her classroom once a week. I’m not sure how helpful/useful I was, but it was tons of fun for me. It really helped me stay connected to teaching and learning and kids and school, helped me feel useful in a teachery sort of way. I am so grateful. (She, too, is now retired. In case you were wondering, I did manage to have coffee with her this summer as well.)
So I mentioned to my not-retired friend (let’s call her Jackie) that I was not sure what volunteering would look like for me this coming year, since my other option retired. This was basically what happened next:
Jackie: You could come into my class.
Me: Really? Really?
Jackie: Well, of course.
Me: REALLY? I thought….for some reason my impressions was…I didn’t realize….um..
Jackie: What? That I wouldn’t want you there? Pfffft. You could even teach, if you want.
Me: (Silent for a moment.) OK, this is… I mean…What if….I’ve got this idea….
Jackie (waits for me to pull myself together)
Me: OK, volunteering. Definitely. Yes! Thank you. Here’s what else: I’ve spent the last year reading all kinds of blogs online, I’ve taken this course, done a lot of thinking, got a billion things I want to try out but can’t. Would you be interested in doing some collaborating? Some planning together? Some unofficial co-teaching?
Jackie: Yes, I would.
We tossed the idea around a bit more, thought maybe we should run our idea past admin. Decided we were getting too hot and sticky, splashed our feet in the public kiddie pool for a bit before parting ways. Me, excited and strangely nervous.
I spent some time that evening thinking about what our roles should be in our collaboration. I ended up sending her an email that included this:
I think this adventure should be all about you, your needs, your goals, your learning,
and those of your students. I’m the resource there to support you, to empower you,
help you determine your goals, to give you feedback, ideas, etc. I obviously will have
my own goals, but not my own agenda. Whatever we end up doing, it should push us both just a little outside our comfort zone, have value, and a positive impact on class culture and student learning. We should give ourselves permission to fumble around
a bit and make mistakes and also allow ourselves the time we need to improve
and figure things out. IMO, that’s what learning is.
She quickly shot back that she finds those exact things IMPERATIVE. Good, we’re on the same page.
It goes without saying, but I’m saying it anyways: I’m pretty excited!