One Wednesdays I drive to a friend’s house and teach a class for her daughter, a 13-year-old who is a homeschooler. We sit at the dining room table, she with her binder, folder, paper, and pen and me with my books, notebook, and pen. We usually spend about an hour and a half going through the lesson and chatting. I assign her homework at the end, which she emails to me by Monday night.
The content of our lessons is, strangely enough, exactly the same content I teach first year college students: essay writing. When I first read the curriculum, I couldn’t help but think, “This book/teacher teaches exactly the same way that I do.” This makes these weekly classes pretty easy for me, but, at the same time, it’s been a great refresher for my own teaching. It’s caused me to rethink some of the concepts I teach. While I don’t like everything about the curriculum – the order of the lessons seems odd to me and some of the content is a little weird (why would I ask a 13-year-old to write about socialism?) – I do enjoy the time I get to spend with this smart, funny, and interesting girl.
One of my favourite parts of our lesson is our first 5 minutes. Some years back when I taught a literature class at a high school, I started each class period with something I called, “The First 5 Minutes.” As soon as class started, I would read a poem aloud to the class and give them 5 minutes to respond in their notebooks. I loved choosing the poems and reading their responses. For this class, I’ve adopted the writing during the first 5 minutes, but instead of a poem I pose a question and we both spend 5 minutes writing: if you could have any superpower, what would it be? is technology good or bad and why? if you could give anything up for Lent, what would it be and why?
This Wednesday the question was, “What are you thankful for?”
She and I both opened our notebooks, I set my timer, and we began writing.
I truly have too much to be thankful for right now, but the one item that sprung to mind immediately was the lack of winter in my life. Summer at Christmas was strange, but posed so much less stress. Summer during January and February when I would have been waking up early to check my phone for texts from school notifying me of a late start or cancellation. Summer still when it’s spring break. Summer when my in-laws visit so that they can take full advantage of the beach and the sights. Summer so I can go with them to the local home and garden store and buy a mandarin orange tree and a hyacinth for the yard. Summer that will lead to autumn and to a winter with warm days and cool nights.
It’s easy to be thankful.