For this school year, my plan was to play my B Game, not my A Game. Top teacher performance, with all the rest of what's going on in my life, really stressed me out. It affected my health; right now, more than is usual, I need to conserve my energy so I don't return home, spent at the end of the day.
Within this confession, first, I believe God gave me this permission. We spent some quiet times together last summer as I was preparing to return to school.
Also, not to boast, as a veteran teacher who still has her wits, my B Game is a good one. I can follow the curriculum and lead my students through the material, even at half mast. Some of the stress producing, A Game Activities include chasing and catching cheaters....something that I believe ultimately helps my students; volunteering for extra curriculars; involving myself with various hallway dramas; entertaining opinions about education issues outside my immediate assignment; and field trips.
For the last 20 years -- I had lost track but several former students reminded me -- I have organized field trips for my juniors. My favorite trip for them is to go down to Indianapolis, to the Indiana Repertory Theater so that they can experience live, professional theater. When that doesn't work, my alternative trip is to Conner Prairie Farm in Fishers. There, you can step back into Indiana's past -- 1720, 1834, 1880 -- where characters play real citizens, living out their lives. Many of my students took the trip there when they were in 4th grade (studying Indiana history) so their first response is to think this is a joke. However, once they get there and watch the blacksmith, the potter, the women scrubbing dishes with corn cobs, they see with new eyes.
Field trips take students away from the classroom. My trips are timed that the kids miss all day but get back by the end of classes. We include a lunch stop. Field trips are a blast and they are the stuff of school memories. You can't measure such enrichment but I have to believe in it.
However, field trips are a lot of work -- planning, organizing, collecting the money, obtaining chaperones --- plus there's that always, back-of-the-mind worry that something will go wrong. Some student might...well...the list is long.
I had given myself permission to skip the field trips this year.
THEN, I got the mailer from IRT: They were producing William Gibson's very American play, The Miracle Worker, the story of Helen Keller and her teacher, Anne Sullivan.
I looked out at my students. Just as in other years, I'm spending my days with great kids, mostly 17-year-olds. Some will go to college. Many will not spend the money and time to experience live theater unless someone tempts them.
That somebody is me. They guilted me into it. The A Game teacher whispered in my ear, "You've got to take them."
So tomorrow, at 8 AM, 60 high schoolers and 4 chaperones will climb on the bright yellow buses and head to Indianapolis. The plan runs from 10 to about 12:30. Except for intermission, my students cannot (and will not) have their phones out so they'll have to curb their obsessive texting. It will be tough. In preparation, we reviewed the deaf alphabet. Spelling is ok.
Also in preparation, we watched the very fine film starring Anne Bancroft and Patty Duke. Even though it's in black and white, a great film is a great film. The kiddies were spell bound. I know that this trip will be a great experience for them.
And for their teacher.