You spend a lot of time around young people and you can’t help but do a lot of analysis of how you were as a young person. By far the biggest difference I see in myself and my students is how local their field of view seems to be, at least in my observations. When I say local field of view, I mean a lot of their time and energy is spent on the present and some handful of hours ahead of the present. What’s happening next week? month? year? You wouldn’t know they were concerned with such things.

And that’s not a bad thing, kids should get to be kids and only worry about the here and now as much as possible. Planning their next meal with friends or scraping together $10 for an impulse purchase is what youth should be about. Yes, college or post secondary plans, but kids are just so good at living right now.

Somewhere in the last 15 years, my brain got bored with right now. Or perhaps, with enough experience, you can handle the right now so well that it just doesn’t require a lot of effort?

Just off the top of my head, school related things I happen to be processing and their due date:

  • logistics for laser tag (7 months)

  • approximate sales expectations for my upcoming Varsity Math merch line (1 month)

  • is summer camp happening again? how many might go? (9 months)

  • painting a wall in the school visitor entrance (3 months)

  • National Honor Society induction logistics (6 months)

  • approximate AP testers (5 months)

  • AP benchmarking ideas (2 months)

  • TMC 2019 (10 months)

  • TMC 2020 (22 months)

  • does Varsity Math have a logical conclusion (20 years)?

Stuff like what am I teaching tomorrow? what should I eat today? what game/show/movie should I get into? just aren’t interesting questions. Have I just solved those problems too many times?

Is this why I tinker with curriculum so much? To keep my own attention?

I still very much like planning what I’m teaching tomorrow and what I should eat today, but they just aren’t a source of concern. I started noticing this about 3 years ago when I passed an experience milestone.

As friend Rachel put it the other day, it’s like I’m just in a constant state of playing tug of war with the future. As one long term project ends, another steps in to take its place. The never emptying to-do list.

Does this stress me out? No. It’s bizarre really. I just really like working long term problems. I mean, I’m still in the middle of my longest problem to date, improving AP effectiveness. We’re at 4.5 years and counting with only preliminary results.

You might be tempted to call me a workaholic or something. Some have before. I just don’t see it that way. For one, I don’t see it as work. I do “non-work” things, whether you hear me talk about them or not. I haven’t gone to “work” in 10 years. I’m solving interesting problems, something it turns out I really wanted in a career. Teaching offers fascinating logistic problems that I really really really like. It’s probably the biggest thing I liked in engineering school, mapping out plans to get stuff done, forged in a (now demolished) dorm basement as I figured out what it takes to pass exams. Secretly, I don’t really care for summer break anymore (though it is still a nice respite, and I mean, duh, TMC is the greatest), as there aren’t as many problems to solve.

It’s almost a bit of a game I play with myself, “bet you can’t figure out how to start a company” being the latest.

All this to say watching kids is just fascinating stuff, it helps me try to remember what it was like before whatever switch flipped in my head.

AuthorJonathan Claydon