I was going to say, "the more things change, the more they stay the same", but that's not quite what I mean. Things are both changing and staying the same, at the same time, but somehow, it is the melding of both that is really interesting.
I am enjoying being back in spaces and and times where I can interact with students and really teach them stuff. It is just like riding a bike, in that I am finding it very natural to be in the role of guide and catalyst, and at times it seems that the intervening 9 years have little or no meaning in terms of my skills and abilities being unpracticed. When I need them, there they are.
And I remember all the reasons why I enjoyed teaching then, because they are the same reasons I am enjoying myself now. (And while there were many reasons why I didn't want to return, they now seem to be far less relevant...) I see students who are engaged with their education, both the what and the how; I can teach stuff which has meaning for me, which makes what we are doing far more interesting for both my students and myself; and I can see those lightbulbs going on, hear them say "that was really interesting", and know that each little step brings confidence. I love being a catalyst for enthusiasm.
This all sounds extremely pink and idealistically fluffy, which is not at all what I intended.
Because / And yet, the reason I am able to be the kind of teacher I always want to be is that the context is so different.
I am learning the value of students understanding their own learning. They know what they are doing and why they are doing it. Now I have to learn to tap into it within my teaching.
I am learning about co-teaching. The why of it is just so awesome and yet entirely sensible at the same time - practical, real-world application, anyone? - that it makes sense to me inherently. The how of it is where I am definitely still in baby-steps; so far I can manage the turn-taking type strategy, where we are both on the same big thematic page, but we each have our own text boxes ... the other models are still on the way.
In some ways, I think it is easier for me to do this learning than it might be for other more established teachers. There are a couple of reasons for this. Mainly, as the school is establishing itself, it is a big adventure for everyone, not just for me, and we all have that feeling of new and different. Once the school has a full complement of students, and teachers have been teaching in this environment for a longer period of time, the adventure atmosphere will inevitably wear off, simply because there will be experience to fall back on. This will also make it harder for teachers new to the school to assimilate, I feel. At the moment, I am on a huge learning curve, but so is everyone else, and so I don't feel as out of place as if I were the only one.
Also, because I have been out of the game for so long, I fully expect to be doing a lot of learning. Someone who is simply making a career progression will not necessarily have that same mindset, as they will of course feel confident in their abilities and knowledge, and so to head back to not-quite-but-nearly the beginning will be a lot more demanding. Because I presume it will be challenging, at least I have a mindset to meet that challenge.
I'm not entirely sure this was where I originally intended on going with this. But I do know that it is because the context has changed, that I am able to place landmarks using the things I know already. To go back to the cycling analogy, I still have all the skills of riding a bike, only now I am taking it off-road and along mtb trails rather than sticking to conventional roads.
Hopefully I won't crash as often within the metaphor as I do when I literally go out to the forest...