I realize that McDonald’s is one of those choice topics that my fellow Antiochians immediately get up in arms about. By the end of my first week at Antioch, I understood that hearting McDs was a blasphemous statement. The second-year Antioch student I befriended warned me about the looks she received for using a paper Starbucks cup instead of a reusable travel mug and for going to Starbucks in the first place instead of a local joint. But McDonald’s was the ultimate outlaw. This warning was accurate. Even a staff member re-enacted a scene where he wore a fully hooded balaclava so he wouldn’t be recognized while eating his McDonald’s fries.
After driving for an hour in full darkness with only white flakes in my high beams for company, I approached the entrance of the school and saw a McDonald’s on the corner of the street. It was the first day of my student teaching internship. All the nagging doubts I thought about during my commute—like what business do I have teaching or will I get eaten alive on Day 1—fled my mind as I stared at the golden arches. This vision triggered some memories from Antioch: the feeling of hope Antioch had given me; the encouraging, motivating professors and fellow students; our meaningful conversations about social change. And I thought about how much I had learned. As I pulled into the school parking lot, I thought about a metaphorical question my professor asked us during one of our last classes: Is seeing the harvest a goal for you as a teacher or will you be satisfied if you’re only able to plant the seed.
Harvesting means seeing your work with students come to fruition. The question seemed rudimentary because I understood that the impact of a lesson on a student is firstly a case-by-case response that belongs to each student individually and secondly, may not become apparent for perhaps years.
I carried the question with me throughout the first day as I met a hundred new students whose names I needed to learn in a week. On top of that, I wanted to get to know these students as individuals. I hoped to share my passion for life and learning the way my Antioch professors had shared with me. Somewhere in those overwhelming first moments, the question I had found so rudimentary reformed itself in my mind: What if all I get to do is plant seeds?
What if that is all I have time for? What if the soil – the fertility of their minds, the watering – the reflection and reinforcement, even when you plant seeds, is not up to you?
I came into my first day thinking I could do more than just plant seeds. But, heart-wrenchingly, I had to adjust my thinking. There were two reasons for this. The first I’ll call the system.
The second is simply time. The system in my case is a fundamental pedagogical difference with my cooperating teacher. However, before I got on my Antiochian soapbox, I realized the issue didn’t begin and end there. My cooperating teacher is subject to curriculum, team teachers, the principal, the school, the community, the district, the state, the NCLB law, and so on. She has found a way that suits her to work within these circumstances.
Though my thoughts and ways regarding education were profoundly different, I realized that somewhere on that list, even if not with my cooperating teacher, I would have come up against a contrary pedagogical approach. So for now, my objective must be to honor those with years of more experience than me, learning where I can. I hope to build enough trust so that there is a foundational relationship for when I want to do a different kind of teaching, cultivating what I hope is the most fruitful circumstance for seeds of knowledge to grow into deep understanding and eventual application.