When did you feel most at home this year: in your life, in your career, in your skin? What factors make that situation feel like home? Is there an activity in which you excel that makes you feel like you're doing what you were meant to do?
I love being surrounded by friends and family. I would love to call a place home that was big enough to entertain all those closest to me. There's not even a dining room/kitchen table in the apartment. It sucks. The apartment feels more like a cave most days. I sit on the couch, I sit on the chair in front of my computer, I lay on the bed. We've had a couple people over at a time, but I want to have a big get-together. I want the place to be full of great smelling food, laughter and lots of people! I am comfortable at home, but I think I'm too comfortable. So comfortable that I'm afraid one day the place will go up in smoke and I won't notice or care because I'll be sitting so nice and contented in my chair.
And I will die there all alone.
Another place I feel comfortable is in my classroom. I am at complete ease in front of a class full of students. At the beginning of 2011 I got a new job teaching for one of the local community colleges. Getting hired made me so happy for a few different reasons: I was making money again. I had something to do every day. I was doing something I loved again. I was petrified that I was going to resort to working at a factory or back in retail again. I was petrified that I was going to have to do something I didn't want to do just to pay my bills. I was petrified that my first teaching job was the only teaching gig I would ever have. Now I am back to teaching people who need a teacher. It feels good to be needed. (If only these students knew how much I needed them as much as they need me!)
I love getting up in front of the class and seeing what we will stumble upon. In the Constructivist model, it is more about student-centered learning, and that is what I try to stick to. It doesn't always work out, but I think my students get more out of the content if they are learning from each other. I try to be less of a teacher and more of a facilitator. No one wants some guy standing up at the front of the class telling them what is important. No one wants some guy standing at the front of the class lecturing them. And no one wants some guy at the front of the room telling them what's right and what's wrong.
I usually bring up a topic or something I read in the paper or heard on the radio and I try to aim it toward what we were doing in class yesterday. I let them tell the class what they think about it and how it connects to our class, our current unit, or life in general. If there isn't a connection to what goes on inside of class with what is going on in each of their lives, then my students won't care about it. And if my students don't care about it, they won't learn it. And if they don't learn anything, then what's the point, really?
This is my wheelhouse. This is where I feel comfortable. This is where I feel at home away from home. I don't assess what my students have learned by giving them some kind of standardized test. I know what they've learned by what they talk about in class. Most of the time they don't even realize they're learning. I give them a wrap-up assignment that uses their talents or best skills. If they're good at drawing instead of writing, then they'll do that. If they would rather write an essay, that's fine.
It's super rewarding seeing how much my students have grown over the span of a course. This is why I teach. I never got into teaching because of the summer breaks. I never got into teaching because I thought I was going to become rich. I never got into teaching because I heard it was fun. Every teaching job I've had has gone all year round. I have never had summers off. And I think that's the best way to teach and the best way to learn. Summer vacations cause students to unlearn what they were taught. Most teachers spend the first month back from summer vacation reteaching last year's content. Education is the silver bullet. It's what changes everything before it and everything after it. Until the education system changes, everything is going to get held back. Everything is going to be broken. Everything is--
Here I go off on a tangent. At some point in the last paragraph or so I got up on my soap-box and strayed away from what my original point was.
I feel at home in my classroom. I love teaching and I love learning from my students. I feel comfortable at work. I'm happy at work. Even in the midst of passive-aggressive disputes between coworkers, even when there's very little money for supplies, even when I have to deal with driving for over forty minutes in the snow, I still love it here.