- It’s a new school year!
- Even though your curriculum may be the same, the students will be new.
- Look forward to all of the new relationships and experiences you will be encountering.
It happened again! I just completed another epic kayaking adventure through Desolation Sound in the Pacific Northwest. This is a body of water that Captain George Vancouver declared to offer nothing of any value with no redeeming qualities. Mind you, he arrived in November of 1792, a time notorious for rain and fog. He should have arrived in August like I did!
The trip was filled with time for reflection, rejuvenation, and rest (despite the 85 kilometers or about 53 miles of paddling). Glorious sunshine, blue water, and mountain views were shared with good friends and my wife, Sheryl. It was just what every teacher needs before heading back to school in the fall.
This was my third time exploring these waters so it’s reasonable to suggest that there was nothing new to see. However, it dawned on me that although I was in the same place geographically, there was much that was different. The conditions were different, as wind and waves are always morphing. The sounds of nighttime were different as the animals migrate and the tides ebbed and flowed. Even the people I was with were different, so new conversations and emotions were shared, unlike any of my previous trips.
A New School Year
This made me think of the new school year. For me, it will be my 30th year as a teacher, so it would make sense to ask me how it has stayed fresh after so many years. My recent kayak trip supplied me with the answer. You see, although I’ve been a teacher for 30 years, the upcoming year will be my first with this group of students. I may have taught chemistry many times before, but I have never taught it to these people so everything about it will be new!
This is how I have always approached a new school year. I’ve always felt that it’s not the curriculum that I teach, but the people. I may have “paddled these waters” before, but never have I done so in the year 2022. Nor have I done so with the human beings I get to meet in a few weeks.
Here’s a point of view that I would like to share. Look upon teaching as an interaction with people and situations. It’s not about the coursework. Nor is it about photocopying. Teaching is about the relationships and the stories of our lives that enrich, enlighten, and envelop a classroom. It will always stay new and exciting if we put the people first and the “job” second.[scroll down to keep reading]
If I go back to Desolation Sound for a fourth time, there will be some familiar sights and sounds. But it will be filled with a whole new set of circumstances that will lead to new stories that for now remain unknown. Teaching is like one of these adventures. And for me, I look forward with great anticipation to the unknown experiences yet to be seen. I hope for you that your approach to the school year will lead you further from the daily routines and closer to the stories waiting to be told.
About Tim Stephenson
Tim has been teaching in Langley, British Columbia for over 25 years. He’s a science teacher, particularly astronomy, which is a course he has developed into a full-credit senior science course. In his school, he is known as AstroStephenson. Way back at the beginning of his teaching career, he wrote a book, really to himself, that contained his teaching philosophy. It was a project that would define his career. He is a possibility thinker, a dreamer and a doer, an innovator.
From the very beginning, he knew that he wanted to teach by putting students and relationships ahead of content, and putting experiences and emotions ahead of curriculum. The result has been a long career of rich and rewarding experiences for both himself and his students, the pinnacle being in 2018 when he was the recipient of the Prime Minister’s Award for Teaching Excellence.
Now Tim would like to share with you his thoughts and experiences on teaching with the hope that by reflecting better, you will feel empowered to try new things, teach in new ways and see the possibilities that are there for all of us in the teaching profession.