What do I hope for, really--I mean, as a teacher? Curiosity, above all, I suppose, and a good healthy dose of spontaneity. To me at least, in the classroom, excellence doesn't necessarily mean sky-high IQs. Give me a kid who wants to learn, who wants to discover, and I'll swap a six-pack of distinguished scholars. Show me a kid whose eyes shine, and in a heartbeat I'll give up a whole drawer full of perfectly structured, five-paragraph essays.
Give me some hunger, some good old American pull-yourself-up-from-your bootstraps, and I'll cash in a couple of valedictorians. Show me eyes that shine, and you don't even have to pay me to stand up there and direct traffic. (I won't be quoted on that one.)
You walk into a dream class prepared to lecture, but never even pull the notes from the bag because the hullabaloo gets you where where the class should go anyway, borne along on the riptide currents the students themselves generate. That's the dream.
All of that doesn't happen often, of course. Dreams wouldn't be dreams if they were every day reality. Sometimes, you got to pull teeth, turn somer-saults, do all the dang work yourself. Sometimes, it feels like no matter what you do, you lose. Sometimes you're the voice crying out in the wilderness.
When I was a high school teacher, I had a reoccurring nightmare of walking into class and not being seen. I'd try to get their attention, but to the kids in the chairs in front of me, I wasn't even there. I'd yell. No matter. Scream. Nothing. Then I'd wake up and thank my lucky stars.
We're just a couple of days into a new semester, my 39th, I think, and I'm optimistic. So far, so good. I've seen enough hunger to make me think this just might be a good year. That's wonderful because finally, Donald Rumsfeld wasn't all wrong--you go to war with the army you've got.
This morning I'm thankful for a what seems to be a pretty good-looking regiment of bright, curious eyes.