I wish I had more time. I wish I had more time for friends, for my wonderful wife, for my family. I wish I had time to mend fences. I wish I had time to teach - at least to teach in a way that would make history interesting and fun.
I just finished reading a section from my students' U.S. History textbook, which is a good one as these things go, and I was bored. Bored to freaking tears. Allowing for the fact that I was in the process of drinking a third glass of Chardonnay, and my adult ADD, I was still incredibly bored. My mind wandered, thirsting for the possibility that was hinted at in each cursory sentence. Mind you, I was not reading with haste, but those sentences seemed written with haste in mind. As if too much detail would permit its reader's mind to wander in the wrong direction. Yet wander my mind did.
The state of Ohio requires my students to learn, to master, so much in the course of their 8th grade year that I have little time to focus on certain things that might light a fire of interest in their hearts. It's a wonder to me that anyone majors in history at all upon reaching their college years. I know that if I were allowed some leeway I could ignite a passion, or at least a mild interest, in the hearts of my young pupils to continue studying and learning about the history of mankind. As it is I am left with brief summaries, perhaps the occaisional anecdote, to hold their interest, which might allow them to further explore and develop an understanding of the past that shapes our humanity and culture.
Take, for example, Magellan. Allowed a half-page in our textbook, here is a man whose crew that, in the end, were the first to circumnavigate the world. Of the 240 men that set sail, 18 finished the journey. They faced battle, new cultures, starvation, and uncertainty in the course of their travels. As it is, I am left with, allowing for questions, restroom breaks, and the other three explorers I need to discuss that day, about 10 minutes max to relate this tale of peril and triumph. At best I can ask my young students to briefly close their eyes and imagine as well as they can, using whatever experiences their thirteen year-old lives have accumulated, what it must be like to be among the last of 240 men to survive a three year journey around the world, arriving at their home port of Spain, wondering what their wives and children and friends have been doing. Wondering if they have anyone to return to at all. How can I communicate all of that in ten minutes. How can that understanding be assessed in that time, let alone by some graduation test that looms three years in the future?
I suppose that given a time frame, teachers must decide what to emphasize, and what should be allowed to slip by. I realize there is much that needs to packed into my students' young minds. I just wish I had more say. And more time.