Two days ago, I met this year's students for the first time.
Thinking through their names this morning and the little bits I'm starting to know about them, I feel a fondness forming. Each one of these young people has:
- Their own smile.
- Their own quirks.
- Their own hopes and dreams, spoken and unspoken.
- Their own constellations of stories, beliefs, experiences, and motivations in school.
The context of our relationships this year is my role as their ninth grade world history teacher. Because it is to be a year of heavy writing for me, I'll teach only two groups of them — sixty-seven students total. I am grateful for this work and always will be. It is a miraculous thing to be paid to pour in to the lives of young people.
My class exists, like yours, so that it might promote the long-term flourishing of these young people, specifically by guiding them toward mastery of a discipline. In my class, I promote long-term flourishing via the discipline of world history. In yours, you promote the long-term flourishing of young people by guiding students toward mastery of mathematics or business accounting or biology or essay writing or strength and fitness. Perhaps you're helping them gain knowledge and ability in the study of music or art or theatre or personal finance.
Whatever your discipline is this year, colleague, may you teach students toward its mastery with all of your heart and will and mind and strength.
- For the perfectionists amongst us, keep in mind that word toward — it's about movement more than measurement.
- For those prone to complacency, keep in view the heights of mastery, reminding yourself that even Nobel prizewinners go back to work upon returning home from Sweden.
And for all of us, let's remember one very stubborn truth: we cannot make our students grow. There's not a single inch we can acquire for them. No — our students must do work if they are to grow, and they must do that work with care.
And so we arrive at our beautiful question: How do we help our students to want to do the good, hard work of learning?
This is one of the most delightful and powerful and joy-ridden and difficult questions that a teacher can ask.
This year, let's inquire toward it together as we do our work.
Teaching right beside you,