Sunday, June 1, 2008

So, what's all this "trenches" stuff about?

The "Teacher Trenches" title is a reference to a conversation I had with another teacher during my first week on the job.

I don't know her name, not even sure I remember what she looks like. In fact, all I remember from our one conversation, as we walked into the parking lot (well, she's walking, I'm trudging forlornly) were six words: "So you’re in the trenches now."

It was my third day on the job as a high school teacher when I heard the "in the trenches" metaphor for the first time. I pretty much haven't stopped hearing it since.

From journalists to pundits to bloggers to teachers themselves-- everyone seemingly wants to equate education with life "in the trenches." Listening to these folks, you'd think I was grading essays on the Western Front.

I'm definitely wink-winking when I called this blog/shameless act of self-promotion “Teacher Trenches.” Personally, I don't equate teaching with life in the trenches. In fact, when I actually have time to step back from it all, I think teaching is one of the most noble, most gratifying jobs out there. I've inspired people, and they've inspired me right back. And that's what this site is, mainly: products of all the times that teaching has somehow fired my muse. A lot of stuff on this site has to do with teaching and the students I teach. Other pieces have nothing to do with teaching or teens, but I've included here because... well, who's going to stop me? (Hey, I think I'm liking this blog stuff!)

Incidentally, I do have the mandatory heart-warming postscript to my “you’re in the trenches now” story: A few months after my parking-lot conversation with Mystery Woman, I was talking on the phone to my friend Annie about my struggles with high school teaching. At some point, I told her about the “trenches” line. “I don’t want to be in the trenches!” I whimpered. “People get killed in the trenches!”

Then she said something that turned the whole metaphor around for me: “Yeah, but the trenches are where the war is won.”

Now, literally, I don’t know if that statement is at all true. Maybe real wars aren’t won in the trenches. But figuratively, metaphorically, I'm going with it.

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