What I Know Now


Back when I started teaching, at an urban middle school in East Oakland, it was important to me that I be seen as a "teacher".  I was fairly young and would get stopped by the security guards for my hall pass! I wanted respect, from the more experienced senior staff, from the administrators, from the students. I came in ultra-prepared;  up-to-date on my pedagogy, a tight classroom management plan, carefully-designed and engaging lessons. That was what mattered to me.

In the past 27 years, teaching has taken me to Indonesia, Guatemala, Hungary, Mexico, India and back to San Francisco, and I have taught learners of a variety of ages and backgrounds. That careful attention to detail in my early days gave me a strong foundation and has helped me build my craft.  I now have a sizable toolkit. What experience has truly given me is agility.  I feel confident wherever I am dropped in to lead a class. As an experienced teacher, I can now read the room in an instant.  And I now have an understanding of the urgency of presence.

As a teacher, what is the quality of my presence? How am I showing up? How am I feeling? What shall we explore today? What is happening in this moment with this collection of iearners? What do they bring to the day's session? What new information do I need to provide? Where have we been together and where are we headed? What is the energy of the room? How are the dynamics between people?

What I bring now is my whole self. Not "teacher" me, but me fully present in this moment, with an eye to "Is this helpful?" "Is this working?" "Is this interesting?" What I know now, that I didn't know then, is that what truly matters is that I show up, fresh, curious, undistracted. What truly matters is that I be encouraging, warm, responsive. What I didn't know then is how much joy I would feel, teaching 27 years later, and that I'd still be having so much fun.