Biology Teacher

I had a wonderful dream last night. I thought that this is a great place to share it. If anything, it is a great place to remind myself.

I was a teacher. I was not sure what type of teach until the end of my dream and after thinking about it…I understand why. It was a sunny and warm day at a middle school near the beach. I have seen lots of middle schools living here in San Francisco, so I am sure I was thinking of one of them. I had a class of about 15 students. They each had their different characters. I had a few that were difficult and a few that were a dream to have in my class and made the balance both a challenge and worth coming to work each day. I came to class unsure what the lesson was going to be that day, unprepared was an understatement. It felt like it was my first middle school class ever and yet I knew all the students really well and they all trusted me for the most part. Since it was such a nice day, I told my class that we were going on a field trip. Ignore the fact that there were no permission slips and over protected parents. We all left the school and hoped on the first train that came by the school. As the train moved I thought, where should we go? I knew to get on the train to go, but I was not sure where the destination would be or where the train was taking us. I just knew the direction was more correct that the alternative, staying where I was or going in the opposite direction. I liked that the train gave me a 50/50 choice. We traveled on the train for several minutes until it stopped. I did not tell the train to stop, it just did. This was my destination and I had no alternatives now but to get off the train. The kids following me off the train and ask, now what? I looked up and could see the ocean just over the sand in the distance. I said to the students, “to the beach.” And with excitement most of the students started to run toward the beach. The few rebels I had did not show the same excitement and started to walk a few steps behind me in forced protest body expression.  I gathered the students on the beach and had a class lesson in mind at this point. I told the students that they needed to now put on their imagination hats and I instantly felt that I was the guy from Reading Rainbow and the song started in my head. I told the students that they were the first people on this beach in human history and there were important discoveries that we needed to document. I handed each student 3 sandwich bags and said, each of you needs to collect three samples for us to take bag to the lab. I need a sample of soil, sand or water. I need a sample of an organism living on land. I also need a living organism from the water. We then spend the next hour collecting samples. I looked back at the few kids that were not collecting samples and thought, “are they my problem.” I am a teacher, not a life coach. I want to teach the kids who want to learn. I don’t want to waste time on the kids who don’t want to be here. I was reminded of the frustrations I felt as a student when kids in my own classes from middle school to graduate school got more attention than I did and it was because they were the lazy ones and unmotivated ones. Why do teachers feel they need to save the bad ones. Can you imagine if we did that with other professions. If farmers spent time trying to bring back bad fruits. If all professions focused on the bad fruit more than the good, where would we be. I started to feel sick to my stomach. Why was I feeling this way. I was focused on the good, attentive, excited kids. I was happy to teach them. I was a teacher of science and trusted Darwin. This is how it is suppose to work out. The smart students thrive and become doctors and cure cancer. The non motivated ones become garbage men or work at fast food places. It is the just science. For a moment, my thinking felt justified. I thought, this is why I am  a middle school teacher instead of an astronaut. I was a B student and those that fly rocket ships into space for A+ students. They were the ones who collected 40 samples instead of 3. If I had one student who collected 40 samples, wouldn’t I be willing to stay late after school and support his or her mission to discover more. He could be that astronaut I wish I had become. It clicked. I was more than a teacher, I was part of these kids evolution. Yes, I could focus on the easy kids. I could focus on the more motivated. But, I also have an opportunity to help the other, less motivated kid to become something more. Maybe instead of a garbage person or a fast food burger maker, they could be…an architect. It is no astronaut, but it is more than what is in store for them now. That is why a teacher’s job is so important. It is why it’s the highest paid job is many other countries. What a job! I felt the warm sun on my face and heard the crashing of the waves and was restored to continue teaching. Both the good apples and the bad.

What does this dream mean?

Many aspects of my job today incorporate teaching. I teach software, process, and in many ways – I support thinking differently. I ask, can we do this differently almost everyday. In the architecture world we are trapped in many ways by the old way of doing things. The old way of working is our biggest weakness. If we could use quill pens and linen, we would. The experienced architects talk about those days like they are WWI vets. They are so proud of how hard it was and unproductive. I deal with good apples and bad apples all the time. I get frustrated when I can’t motivate someone to think differently. I want to just leave them behind and only teach those who are interested in what I have to say. I don’t want to spend all my time trying to convince someone that, “this way is better!” But, I have to. If I can just swing the pendulum a little more in the other direction. If I move them just a little bit in the innovative way of thinking and working, maybe something will click. I did not find this path, of teaching. It found me. I have been a teach of sorts almost my whole life. It is a calling. Maybe one day I will find myself teaching a biology class by the beach and will get to try my sample collection lesson. We are all participating in evolution every day. We have constant opportunities to influence those around us to be a little better, think a little different than they did the day before. We all know the good apples and bad apples in our lives. Maybe, one day – we will just see more good apples around us and we might truly evolves as people and leave a generation behind us that is better than our own. I know that I will try a little more today than I did yesterday.