Each year about this time, I start wrapping up a unit on American Romanticism with my juniors. Each encounter reminds me of some helpful things about Romanticism for teaching, learning, and living well, but I also find important limitations in Romantic philosophies.
“John, I made it thirty years, and here’s how: I didn’t coach.” That was advice from Larry in my first or second year of teaching, but Larry did coach: He coached students in how to learn science as a discipline and teachers in how to live a balanced life. I was also mentored by some educators who did coach athletics. These educators went the distance for over three decades of teaching. Many of those teachers still worked as substitutes, coaches, and mentors well into their retirement years.
At 27 years of teaching high school, too many days feel like badly directed versions of Bill Murray’s Groundhog Day. Not too long ago, a good friend texted to ask how I’ve made it this long. I was tempted to answer that it was probably due to a head injury. Actually, a big part of making it this long has been with the support of such friends who love to learn and love to promote learning but struggle with our cultural and institutional settings that seem absurdly obstructive to learning.