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The Rookie

Up until this semester everything has followed the traditional school path. Go to class. Attend the lecture with notebook and pen answering questions, participating at an acceptable level of activity and turn in the homework, essays and reading responses. Do those things and you have a excellent chance at passing the classes. Fall 2016 promises to be anything but those things. The rubber meets the road. The gauntlet is thrown. The moment is at hand. I’m no longer Bilbo on a epic journey of discovery. I’m Frodo facing down the path required to Summit Mount Doom. To accomplish the dream of teaching, I’ll need to toss everything I know out the window and journey into the unknown.

I’m the rookie in this situation. Mind you, it’s also a wonderful film by Disney starring Dennis Quaid and there are similarities between myself and the grizzled character. We’re both older. We’re both discovering our hidden talents and realizing that the possibility of living that dream is possible and real. There’s plenty of struggle ahead and enough stress to down five elephants but there have been travelers down this path before. The summit has been conquered by hardy students of yore. And there’s a few fellow older rookies who are here with me.

It’s a four class semester and I’m tempted to compare to the alarm levels ascribed to home or business fires. You’re probably thinking in your head, “Four classes? Wimp!”. Well, it’s the first barrage of teaching classes. The classes where they take us pieces of lumpy soft clay and forcefully form us into competent teaching candidates. The classes where your entire worldview is upended, tossed around by an intellectual form of The Incredible Hulk. The classes where you must relearn everything you think you know about teaching. Oh, and it’s not light work. It requires you to take the simpering brain matter you have and apply it in nearly superhuman fashion between readings, essays and a bevy of assignments. But this is why this is the way it is – to push you to do better, to know better and to teach better. It’s a way to power wash the washouts from the field in hopes that the hardy and dedicated will remain.

We know this is a mixed bag result because we know bad teachers. We’ve been instructed by them. We’ve had to console our children that you just have to deal with it and get through somehow. And we’ve had to wrestle with the fact that somehow they’re still employed in their respective districts. But we know it succeeds as well. There are reasons why Teacher of the Year exists as an award. People remember the influence of teachers, the knowledge they dispensed and how they helped them grow from a student to a grown adult.

So I know that I’m the rookie on the mound this semester. I’m nervous for the first time I’ll take the field. I’m hopeful that first ball I throw won’t go wild and bounce off the backstop leading to nervous laughter and a stare down from my coach / professor. I’d be happy with a ball. But I’m striving for a strike. I’ll have all my fellow School of Education students watching and encouraging me. I’ll have my experiences to guide me, my schooling to assure me it’s ok to take risks and my desire for teaching to stoke the fires of encouragement. Being the rookie is a necessary thing but the consolation is this – nobody stays a rookie forever.

Tomorrow is day two of my classes. There’s plenty to read, loads to work on and a goal in mind. Bilbo Baggins has retired to White Shores. It’s time for Frodo to take up the journey of discovery and challenge. As Jack Sparrow would say, “Bring me that horizon.”

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