Artfully Scientific

Open notebook

During a professional development meeting about seven years ago, I started doodling in a black and white composition notebook. I don’t remember what the presenter said that made my mind race, but a torrent of ideas spilled themselves all across that notebook page. I created a list, a drawing, a diagram, a mess of tangled lines and arrows and bullet points.

The list was my attempt to define my role. That meeting took place at a point so early in my career, I was having trouble orienting myself in the classroom as the teacher. I felt unsure of my role and what felt like the many hats I was having to pull on and off in the course of my day. The longer I have been a teacher, the more roles I acquire.

I am a coach     mentor     doctor     lawyer

therapist     mother hen     model citizen     manager

police officer     judge     architect     artist     expert

musician     counselor     defender     designer

scientist     statistician     researcher     technology guru

peacemaker     writer     poet     cheerleader     librarian

…the list goes on.

I may embody each role for only a fraction of a moment as I interact with students, my colleagues, or parents. In the community I am a spokeswoman, an archetype, a strawman, a figure carved in marble, a selfish ineffective drain, or an earthly saint. Each of these roles, too defies easy borders and the labels stick firmly.

I eventually put my list away, but every so often I open my old notebook, trace the inked lines and ask the one question that won’t leave me alone: Is teaching an art or a science?

This blog, a brand new venture for me, is my attempt to grapple with this question at a time when education reform depends on it. The calls for merit pay and value-added assessment won’t mean a thing if they’re suited for a job description that doesn’t match what I do. In my heart, I believe teaching is both an art and a science and if we ignore or devalue one of those aspects, we weaken and devalue what it means to be a teacher.

For anyone who may read my ideas, please understand that I’m bringing my personal philosophical struggles into the public sphere and I may, at times, say things that appear contradictory or uninformed. All I can do is ask you to share your insights with patience and quote American poet Walt Whitman: “Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes.”

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