Not sure why, but if you forced me to pick a novel or a text or a piece of writing that had made the greatest impact upon me, it'd be Alice in Wonderland by leaps and bounds. Haven't begun to unpack the reasons why -- even after receiving an ancient hard-bound copy from a dear family member -- but I think it comes down to 2 variables:
- The 'follow the rabbit down the hole' discovery metaphor really seems to contain 'life' in all its shapes and sizes and flavors.
- When Alice eventually comes across the Chesire Cat, sitting on the tree limb, and asks for help in finding her way, it is his response that above all else places this piece of literature in the pantheon of 'must reads' (over and over again) for me: "If you don't know where you're headed, any path will get you there."
I bring this up because of the responses I've seen from my last post re: the 1st year teacher experience. I remember being at a Columbia University fellowship for young teachers a few years ago and wondering why little was published to truly help the 1st year teacher make sense of the powerfully painful, frightening, humbling, and heart-lifting experience of that initial undertaking. The 'sink or swim' mindset seemed to dominate even in gentle terms.
Today I was privileged to sit in a presentation - names and details later - that focused on how to return the focus of academic assessment from the student to the teacher, where the 'growth' or 'value-added' achievement of a student would be assessed from beginning to end, with the onus being placed on the teacher (as opposed to the end-of-the-year-only NCLB design we have currently). What was particularly powerful about this was not the increased attention of making teachers accountable for a student's academic achievement (shocking, but somehow schools escape what the rest of the world accepts as the cost-of-entry in their professions), but the equally impressive commitment to teacher development, cohort mentoring, and honest feedback to help a young teacher improve.
I wonder if all young teachers were given permission to a) "love their students" without apology (and stop letting their own egos get in the way -- am I good enough, etc, etc, etc,) and b) they actually took full responsibility for the growth curve of their students (and received appropriate and constant feedback/mentoring along the way), how the 1st year experience would be.
Conclusions are inconsequential tonight. Just a thought. Or question. Or challenge to us all.