Saturday, February 13, 2010

Progress is a new horse.

I'm a teacher. Teachers are supposed to be change agents, that is, we try to get students to change. That's what education is: positive change, improvement. Call it, progress.

But most of us are what I call resistant learners, especially when it comes to trying new ways of doing things, new ways of learning, new processes for progress.

We may be dissatisfied with our rate of improvement, but we like our methods. Our old ways are comfortable, broken in, safe.

So a big part of my job is to entice students to try new ways of doing things: ways that work better than their old ways. It doesn't matter if we're talking about ways to read a book, do long division, or sit at a desk. There are better ways of doing things. Ways that lead to academic progress.

Slow and sure may win the race, but I often work with students who are behind and need to catch up. They need to accelerate their progress. They need help, and often want help. They just don't always want to change.

That's why they need a change agent: a catalyst for improvement.

Recently one of my daily reading groups read a poem by Emily Dickinson. Here it is:

Fame is a bee

Fame is a bee.
It has a song—
It has a sting—
Ah, too, it has a wing.

After several minutes of discussion, I was able to help my students reach personal epiphanies: this poem is not mainly about bees. What?!

They made connections: Britney Spears, for example. It was fun to watch.

Several days later I composed a poem in the general style of "Fame is a bee" that captures a lesson I've taught many times this year. My poem is called, "Progress is a new horse." The kids loved it. They applauded. Ah shucks. Here it is:

Progress is a new horse.

On the road of progress,
I find my old horse is dead.
It doesn’t carry me where I want to go.

But I love my old horse.
It’s the way I’ve always done things.
I hate to admit I’m riding a dead horse.

On the road to progress,
New horses are waiting to be ridden,
Horses recommended by previous owners.

Progress is a choice of horses.

* * * *

(Last weekend my wife and I took a weekend trip to a timeshare called San Clemente Inn. We drove down on a Friday and returned on a Monday. I took pictures.)