One wonderful thing about my new setting is that I live close enough to school to walk to work each day. My morning commute has thus been transformed from the quiet 395-to-66 D.C. carpool, with quick stopover in the short solo suburban pre-dawn drive, to (now) a nice 12-15 minute walk downhill in the brisk California morning air. I find myself listening to podcasts of every variety to pass the time, and the confluence of physical and mental activity starting my day means I arrive awake and a bit more at ease with the transition from slumber-self to work-self.
It also means a lot of my footwear is no longer appropriate for daily wear. In my first year of teaching, I invested in a couple of awesome, neutral, comfortable heels that I generally relied on to set off a maybe-not-quite-fashionable-or-even-close-to-matching outfit. It also lent me the advantage of height over my students in early years – those heels meant “I’m the teacher, you’re the student; I’m tall and I know what I’m doing.”
Here, I’m wearing flats. As I work hard (and it’s hard work!) to move into a much more student-centered space, I find it doesn’t make sense to rely on those extra 3 inches of height, literally or metaphorically. As groups of 3 or 4 students work together to puzzle through warmups, groupwork, or homework review, the better move is to get close, crouch down to desk level, wait a bit, and listen. It’s a blessing that I can see this modeled by colleagues who are experienced and thoughtful, and that students coming to me from others’ classrooms are used to looking to each other as they grapple with new ideas instead of turning to the tallest voice in the room.
There’s still more nuance here. I’m working to establish classroom norms that were hard to talk about upfront as a newcomer to the community. Every one of my classes is in a different place in terms of what parts of class are working well and what parts need work. And yet, every day feels like forward motion. One step at a time, one (comfortably outfitted) foot in front of the other.