Friday, February 2, 2001
Carlisle Comments An Adult 'Student'Speaks Out
Although new to the Concord-Carlisle area, I feel like I know more about the local public high school than most residents, even the parents. I am in the fortunate position to see first-hand how our school system works at the secondary education level.
I work two days a week at the Concord-Carlisle High School as a tutor in the special education department. My job requires me to attend my student's classesEnglish, social studies, and algebraand to work with his teachers to assure that he is integrated fully into the classroom. I must admit, I was a bit nervous when I accepted the position. Me, in high school again? Would I be accepted by "my" student, and by all the other students who have to accept this...this adult in their classroom? And what about the teacher? How would he or she feel about an adult sitting silently in the back of the class, taking notes, maybe observing teaching style and discipline procedures?
My anxieties were relieved on day one. The student I tutor shows only gratefulness that I am present to help, and we've had many hours of intense study together, tempered with giggles and even deep philosophical discussions on subjects like "moral politik" versus "real politik," and Hamlet's soliloquy on suicide. The rest of the students in the classroom have given me a tremendous complimentthey act as if I'm one of them! My student and I are part of small-group discussions within the classroom almost weekly, and our opinions are as valued as any other student's.
As far as the teacher viewing me suspiciously as I sit in the back of the classha! In most cases my student and I sit in the front of the classroom, where the teacher can easily see my student's hand rise in participation, and where the teacher can keep me fully informed of class assignments and projects. As a matter of fact, I wouldn't want to sit anywhere else, because besides having the pleasure of working with a special student, I get to learn about subjects that must have been taught to me when I was 15, but darned if I can remember them. I am immersed in the Great Depression, angered over the Spanish-American War, and engrossed with the facts about D-Day. I re-read Lord of the Flies, a novel I remember hating in high school, but now I get it, and mourn over its theme of man's basic inhumanity to man. I don't necessarily agree with it, but I understand it. My student and I work on a research project of his choicepolice dogsand we learn the power of the web for resources, a tool I never had 20 years ago (okay, almost 30).
Even algebra has its charm this time around, as I see the problems become puzzles to be solved, not problems to endure. I realize that the learning is so much fun because of the teaching. I am immensely impressed with the vitality, enthusiasm, and energy that the Concord-Carlisle teachers place in their jobs. Perhaps I watch with a sharper eye because my own daughter, a senior in college, is preparing to be a high school biology teacher. I've heard all the negatives about joining this professionthe majority financial as well as the lack of respect teachers may receive from their community. My daughter is ignoring the naysayers and looking forward to becoming a part of this profession. She sees it as a valuable and rewarding one, and as I watch the CCHS teachers reach out to their students above and beyond the call of duty, as I watch them interact with their students, push them, challenge them, praise them and above all, teach them, I say "hear, hear." And to the residents of Carlisle I admonish, "hear, hear." The students at CCHS are in a great place. Talk to their teachers some time, and say thank you.
© 2001 The Carlisle Mosquito