Hoping That Doing It Myself Isn’t DIM

I’ve already remarked that I have not had as much time or energy for writing as I would like. In part this is because my teaching assignment changed considerably this year. After teaching 9th graders world history for my first five years as a high school teacher, I have been teaching 12th graders civics and economics, including one section of AP US Government. I also introduced a new elective class in American Studies that I originally hoped to combine recent American history with a study of current American culture but has wound up leaning a lot more toward the former.

In some ways, this has been a very enjoyable challenge. It is absolutely the case that what I am teaching now lines up much more with my prior academic training and outside readings and interest. Teaching 12th graders, many of whom have questions about college and beyond, is an exciting opportunity. (I also like teaching 9th graders who are just getting introduced to high school; it’s interesting to see the start and the conclusion of many students’ high school journey.)

It has also been a great deal of work. I haven’t been satisfied that the textbooks we have on hand are a good fit for our students’ needs or timely enough to be relevant to today’s challenges. So I have spent a lot of time gathering and editing articles from the web or writing my own. I think this has been a worthwhile investment of my time. The danger is that I have replaced a hardcover collection of material my students find impenetrable and irrelevant with a daily anthology of readings with similar issues, but I trust my knowledge of our students enough that I believe I am a doing a better job for them than a textbook writer aiming for a more generic high school audience. If I teach the same classes to my students next year, I hope I will be able to refine and improve the materials over the summer and have more time and energy to focus on helping the students use the material as a springboard to their own inquiry.

To put these materials together I use a laptop that my school provides for me. It’s several years old at this point and it’s starting to show the strain of trying to keep up with the times. Loading web pages and editing Word documents takes a lot longer than it does on my desktop PC. I mutter in frustration at this sometimes, but I have to think about how lucky I am. Were I teaching back in the days when I was in high school, I would not have nearly as many resources open to me from almost any location with only a few minutes’ wait.

Doesn’t stop me from staring with envy at the new laptops when I walk into an Apple Store, but it does help give some perspective.