Something that always comes up when making small talk, or meeting new people, is where each person works. “What do you do?” or “Where do you work?” has never been a question I enjoy asking or answering, no matter my job, and I don’t think I’ll ever feel totally comfortable with it. I’m guilty of asking the question, and I do really enjoy the follow up to it when talking with other people about their school or career or whatever. What I try to do, though, is take the conversation in a different route, avoiding obvious follow up questions and trying instead to ask about something other than the routine small-talk job questions. I try to do this because for the past five years my end of this question about where I work has been, to be honest, tedious and predictable.
“Where do you work?” I’m a teacher, and I can answer the inevitable follow up questions too. I teach high school, English classes, and I’m mostly taught 10th and 12th grade. Next fall will be my fifth year as a teacher, all at the same school, and yes summer breaks are great. I have taught summer school before, and honestly I enjoyed it, but having time to decompress and read and study is absolutely necessary for teachers.
I hope I haven’t overstated the awkward nature of this particular branch of small talk, and talking about teaching really it doesn’t bother me too much. This is evident if I meet another teacher, or someone who is in the process of going into teaching. I think most non-teachers know that once two teachers meet, any discussion of teaching (shop talk) can easily fill the space of hours, and often I have to stop conversations about teaching with some effort of will, for the sake of the non-teachers around me. Maybe I feel a little uncomfortable, then, when people ask what I do for a living, because I know I’m about to bring teaching and school into the conversation. Teaching touches everyones life, and everyone therefore has a lot to say about it – about their schools, their teachers, their kids, education in politics, unions, teachers’ pay, bad teachers, great teachers, and so on, you get the idea. Its obviously something I feel strongly about, and something that most people have strong feelings about, and so I have this moment of hesitation when I’m meeting someone for the first time and they ask me, “so, what do you do?”
In this blog, I’m going to be making an attempt to actually answer that question. My goal is to use posts to reflect on what exactly I’m trying out in my classes, and consider ways in which to improve my practice. I want to use the blog to review educational texts, and sift through my notes in search of practical applications for whatever I’m considering and working on. And I want to hold space for some posts where I can get into shop talk, where I can take an issue of the day and explore where my particular positions on it might be.
As a teacher, I’m kind of a public figure. Not in a major way at all, but I will be paying close attention to the things I write, and they will be in the context of my self as a teacher, instead of as a private individual. I won’t have my name or talk much about my personal life on here, but this is the internet, and it won’t be too hard to put two and two together. My students are very good at this, and there is a reasonable chance that students or former students will find this blog. I actually hesitated for a long time before deciding to use the blog posts to write about teaching – something I did before even entering the teaching credential program was to scrub my online presence to a minimum. To be honest, I probably worried about it far too much, but taking down my old blog was still a good call. There was some really bad writing on there, and I was pretty dramatic with the song lyric titles for posts.
One thing that will definitely intersect with teaching posts is my book reviews. I think my book reviews will soon take a turn into YA or near-YA books, as I do like to have a sense of some YA titles for my classroom reading program, or SSR. I think my next teaching post will go over my present approach to sustained silent reading, how my program has evolved over the past few years, and further changes I’m considering for next year.