The hardest thing I do in the classroom is time travel, or, actually, remembering to do the time travel thing. In almost every class, it seems I am put upon to enter this little time machine that I keep beside my desk at the front of the room, push the yellow, green, red blinking lights, flip a few switches, and settle back for a trip into my past. Actually, the trip only takes a split second, and the students in my class, thanks to time shifts, space expansions, wobbly continuums, galactic warps—or whatever ( I teach social work not physics), never realize I was gone. But I go—most of the time anyway.
Here is an example of how it might happen: time to hand in homework. A student says that she did not get the assignment done. There—that’s enough. The little thrust burners ignite on the time machine. I smell the smoke from the little combustion chambers. (If I do not smell the smoke or hear the machine rattling, then something is wrong—not with the machine but with me.) So, before I can make an unfavorable comment to the student, I jump into the machine.
A voice immediately says, “Remember when you were a student? Thank you. We hope you enjoyed your memory.”
(Wow—more than once I did not do what the teacher expected of me. And I think more than once I had some teachers who also did a little time travelling for my sake….)
And I jump back out of the machine and say to the student, “OK, I understand. Try to get it to me later today.”
That machine has helped me to be a better teacher. Sure, there are times when I forget it is there at my disposal. And some of those times I have not done too well in an effort to understand a student’s challenges. Most of the time, though, that little time machine has helped me think right and speak right.
By the way, as intricate as that machine is, it cost me nothing….