IB is exactly what I have always wanted to teach. When I imagined myself in a class, this is how I always pictured it. The things we read (The Handmaid´s Tale, Frankenstein, A Streetcar Named Desire), the things we talk about (Feminism, the significance of words on a group of people), and activities (re-writing scenes from a different perspective, debating racism in literature) are all exactly what I wanted in my ideal classroom. Not only that, but I feel like I am good at it. I think that my students learn a lot from me. I also think that my class has value.
It is a struggle sometimes, though, because I know that teaching my classes absolves me of many behavioural issues that plague my peers. It feels almost like it is cheating having the best of the best. It makes me worry sometimes that maybe my "goodness" is negated by my inability to reach the lower learners, the struggling students, and the academically challenge youth. There isn´t a right answer to that though, and there isn´t a whole lot I can do to stop that.
A derby teammate of mine, back in Atlanta, has posted often of her struggle with anxiety and the Imposter Syndrome. The more I read her posts, the more I suspect that I deal with that to some degree (the latter, not the anxiety.) I can probably guess that, no matter what I do in my career, I will always have that nagging doubt surrounding my ability. I do hear often that my questioning of my ability is what makes the difference. That perhaps the one with less introspection are the ones we should worry about in the classroom. I can´t speak to that, but it makes a lot of sense.
Then I have days like the one I had last week. My students were asked to read 4 articles: one was in defense of the n-word, one was why we shouldn´t use the n-word, one was on the power of words in wartime, and one was on the role of profanity in literature. They were asked to read all 4 in preparation for a round table discussion. Once they got to class, I put the following question up on the board:
"Often times the defense someone gives for using racist, sexist, or homophobic language is that they are ´just words´. Using your articles, explain your stance and your reasoning surrounding it."
They then had an inner-outer discussion surrounding their views. My role for the whole thing is to take notes, but I never join in. It is completely student-led. And just listening to them discuss how the articles made them view their own racist slangs against indigenous people, and listening to them articulate how context does, and doesn´t, impact the power of words, just made me tear up. It made me hope that having the discussion could make a difference in behaviour or world views. Or at least make them question and consider previously held beliefs they may have. And that discussion on race and language, is hands down one of the best I have had in a long time. Not because the ability of my students is different/better/stronger or whatever, but because it gave me new insight. They were able to, in defending their own cases, explain how one group of people can struggle with their own culture, race, and history. They talked about race in a frank way that is often too uncomfortable for young adults.
And it made me proud. For a brief moment, I thought, "this is it. This is why I do everything." Of course it was only brief because then I worried "what if this isn´t valuable to them? What if they feel that this is a waste of a lesson because it is only tangentially connected to the works." So, for now, I am going to have to just focus on the brief moments of "alright, I am doing good things." And all the other ones will just have to fall by the wayside.