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Teaching in the present tense

I have been working on building my educational writing portfolio for over a year now and am struck by how ed policy ebbs and flows. When I was asked to come up with a title to identify my blog-identity, I realized that the best way to describe myself as a teacher was to think about what it means to teach in the present tense.

Ed policy often lives in the past or the future. It is designed to reform past policies and exists as a collection of hodge podge efforts of implementation created by stakeholders far removed from the classroom. Unfortunately, the changes that are hoped also seem stuck firmly in a future that is far off.  All too often fantastic ideas that could rock our profession get stuck in the red-tape of the process and never come to fruition.

So, where does that leave those of us in the classroom? We are left in the present tense, working to do what is best for our students each day. They need us to be present for their success.

Some may argue that it is too idealistic to seek the balance necessary to focus on what is happening in the here and now. But teaching in the present tense does not mean ignoring what has happened and what will happen in our system. It means looking to the past and learning from what has worked or been ineffective while also looking towards the future with hope and vision.

Teaching in the present tense means focusing each day on the students in my care making sure that each of them is receiving the best possible instruction I can provide. Teaching in the present tense means being aware of all levels of the system and being involved in conversations that impact my ability to be the best teacher I can be for my students.

Teaching in the present tense means being active. I work with my students on improving their writing voice by making their verbs active. I can improve my teaching persona in the same way. I am reading, writing, speaking, leading, learning and teaching every day, seeking to actively improve my practice and my profession.

Teaching in the present tense requires focus, hope and confidence that each day matters. It requires that we are constantly thinking about the students in front of each day and working hard to make sure that decisions made are in their favor. It requires us to participate in the conversations of policy reform knowing that it takes time and energy to truly promote the expertise of teachers as leaders of their professions.

To do this, we must understand in tangible ways that excellent teaching is in the here and now.  We have the power to do what is best for our students and our profession if we stand firm in our place as teachers in the present tense.   

2 Comments

Ariel Sacks commented on April 23, 2013 at 10:27pm:

Great concept!

Jessica, this is a great concept--present tense teaching.  And you're so right about reforms being past and future-oriented, but teachers making impact right now. This post really makes your nlog name clear. Love it!

Brianna Crowley commented on April 24, 2013 at 4:32pm:

Presentness

Jessica, 

Thanks for taking the role of reminding me to be present-focused today. As the school year ends, my anxiety rises for squeezing in all my curriculum while maintaining my own standards for quality teachign and learning. On top of that, I have a bad case of the "I-can't-wait-for-summer-so-I-can-fix-everything" mindset (does anyone else get that?!). Your blog reminds me that every day I need to focus on doing what I need to do that day. Tomorrow will work itself out (somehow). 

It is also comforting to think about teachign in present tense because the future can feel so uncertain. Will our funding for technology get cut? Will my new hybrid role exist next year? Will my student's scores on our state tests reflect well or poorly on my own teacher evaluation? These fears and thoughts can distract me from the one thing that has the power to bolster my confidence: teaching the students that are in front of me. 

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