I’m a horrible backseat driver. Or perhaps I’m actually very good at backseat driving which just makes me a horrible nuisance? At any rate, I blame my mother; I definitely inherited the trait from her. “Are you taking the highway?” “Do you see that pothole?” “When was the last time you changed the oil?”
Now that you all know that you never want to have to chauffeur me, allow me to explain what this has to do with teaching.
One of the many roles I’ve had to play as a teacher is that of the backseat driver. I’ve had the opportunity over the years to lead many service trips. The first trip was to Mexico. I, along with four other teachers, took a group of juniors and seniors to build a couple one-bedroom houses in Matamoros. Four walls, a concrete floor and a roof – that was our mission. The students were nervous feeling the magnitude of their responsibilities. They were building a home for a family and they wanted to get it right. Although I am the least handy person ever to live, I had done some volunteer work for Habitat for Humanity and I was eager and ready to lead my students in the charge.
But I didn’t touch a hammer. (Instead I counted them at the end of the workday to make sure that we didn’t leave any behind.) I didn’t climb a ladder (though I spent a lot of time holding the base of one while spotting a student). And when they brought out the circular saw and asked for a volunteer to run it, I stood to the side and prayed as I handed the student the 2×4.
There are times when the most important thing a teacher can do is to let the students take the wheel and to just be a presence along for the ride. This is what I mean by being a backseat-driver teacher.
Today was that type of day for me. The freshmen orientation days were wrapped up with a service project. We walked to a nearby cemetery and spent the morning mulching, raking, mowing and weeding – well, the students did at least. I spent the morning picking up work gloves that were left behind, finding extra supplies and entertaining the girls while they worked.
It was a great day. The students accomplished much and the time flew.
A couple of highlights from my day.
Me: I have that new Taylor Swift song stuck in my head.
Senior: Ugh. Once I had a Taylor Swift song stuck in my head for like, three days. By the end of it, I just wanted someone to hit me in the face with a shovel.
Freshman who had only heard part of the conversation: I have a shovel!
Me to a student wearing a shirt from my grade school: Hey! I went to ThatSchool, too!
Student: Really? No way!
Me: Yeah. Did you have Ms. HappyApple?
Student: Yes! I can’t believe you had her too! I knew she’d taught there for a long time, but I had no idea it was THAT long!
4 hours today.