Reflections of a First-Year Teacher
做一年老师的感想
    

    Toward the end of third period, the principal came to my room. "Read this to your class at the beginning of the fourth period," she said, handing me a short memo.

    I glanced over the first sentence: "Earlier this morning, one of our students, Trevor Grover (not his real name), died of an apparent suicide..." I looked up in alarm.

    "Please read it exactly as it is written," she continued in a slow, firm voice.

    "I will." We stared at each other for a few seconds. Then she was gone.

    It was May 24, the last full week of the semester, almost the end of my first year of teaching high school English at "Westy," as everyone called it. Westminster High School in the Denver metro area had been my first choice after graduating from Project Promise, a one-year teacher licensure program for mid-career professionals. I was attracted to Westy because of its diverse population (about one-third of the students are Hispanic and 10 percent are Asian), because education - not family resources - was going to determine whether or not most of the students "made it." And because I thought I could make a difference.

    As the fourth-period sophomores tumbled into the room, I pored over each of their faces. How familiar those faces were to me now, after a year studying language arts together, testing one another, and learning to trust one another with varying degrees of success. How much I had come to care for them as individuals. But did they know this, and did it matter? I must have seen Trevor go into the room opposite mine a hundred times to take his Future Studies (future studies!) class, but I had never noticed.

    Many Questions, But Few Answers.

    Could one teacher make a difference? That's a question I have been asking myself since I made the decision to switch careers at the age of 46. I stopped being a university professor, a scholar of Chinese poetry and textual criticism, and a teacher of comparative literature who read seven languages, and started being a K-12 teacher.

    Over the course of my first year I taught students with remarkably different abilities. In the same class, I had students who read at the fifth-grade level and students whose abilities were comparable to college students. I taught students who were eager to learn, students with a "who-cares" attitude, and students who were just plain angry about being in school. Some kids benefited from strong support systems. Others were struggling to function in unstable family situations. Students entered my classroom with different skills and different needs as human beings - and my days (and often my nights) were consumed with trying to help them.

    Teaching in a public high school is much more complex than those outside can imagine. Every day, you are running five different classes, designing and adapting learning activities that you hope will meet the needs of your students while simultaneously fulfilling departmental, building, district, and state standards. Most days, you work from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m., often with just a break for dinner. Despite diminishing sleep, you need to maintain an energy level that matches that of teenagers, while remembering to remain the adult in the classroom. And you must constantly remind yourself of the power you have to affect your kids, for better or worse. You can't afford to be careless, indifferent, hurtful, fake, or oblivious (as you might on an off day with adults) because kids never get over it.

    第三学期末,校长走进我的教室。“下学期一开始就把这个给全班学生读一下,”说完,她把那篇简短的备忘录交给了我。

    我大致看了第一句话:“今天早上,我们的一名学生,特雷弗•格罗弗(化名),被发现自杀死亡……”我惊慌地抬头看了看。

    “请照原文一字不落地读,”她声音缓慢而又坚定。

    “我会的。” 我们俩对视了几秒钟,然后她离开了。 

    五月二十四日,这学期的最后一个星期,我在Westy(大家都这么称这所学校)教高中英语的第一年即将结束。从一年的中途入职教师认证项目毕业后,位于丹佛大都市地区的威斯敏斯特高中就成为我的第一选择。我被Westy吸引住是因为这里的多样化人口(约有三分之一的学生来自西班牙,百分之十的学生来自亚洲),因为教育——而非家庭资源——能决定大部分学生成功与否,而且我认为我还能做些重要的事情。

    第四学期,当高二年级的学生匆忙跑进教室后,我凝视着每一张面孔。这些面孔对我来说是再熟悉不过了,一年以来,大家在一起学习语言艺术,互相测试对方,学会与不同成绩的同学互相信任。对他们每个人我给予了多少关爱啊!然而,他们知道这个吗?这个又重要吗?特雷弗就在我们对面的教室上《未来研究》课,我肯定见过他上百次了,却从来没有留意过。
疑问很多,但几乎得不到答案。

    难道一个老师就能起作用吗?从我46岁决定改变职业生涯起,我就一直在问自己这个问题。作为一名中国诗歌和文学批评学者,以及通晓七种语言的比较文学的老师,我放弃了大学教授的职位,开始做一名中小学教师。

    第一年,我使出非凡的能力来教育学生。同一个班里,有的学生只能达到五年级的阅读水平,有的却可以与大学生的阅读能力相媲美。我教的有渴望学习的学生,有抱着“不管不问”态度的学生,还有一些学生明确表示对上学很反感。有些学生得到强有力的资金资助,还有些学生虽然生活在不稳定的家庭环境里,但他们还是尽心尽责。学生们各有所长,又各有所需,但都平等地走进我的教室——因此我的日日夜夜都花在尽力帮助他们的工作上。

    在公立中学教书的复杂程度不是外面的人所能想象得到的。每天,你穿梭于五个不同的班级,规划和进行学习活动,希望满足学生们的要求。同时,还要执行部门、大楼、地区和州立标准。大部分时候你要从早上七点工作到晚上九点,只在吃饭的时候能休息一下。尽管睡眠时间越来越少,你还得保持与学生相等的精力,以及记得在教室里保持大人的样子。你必须不时地提醒自己,不论好坏,你都要拥有能够影响孩子们的力量。你不能粗心、冷漠、伤害感情、虚假、健忘(休息日在成人世界里你可能会那样),因为孩子们绝对不会原谅你的。