This site isn’t really about me. It’s not really even about my students. It’s about the intersection between their paths and mine. Sometimes I’m the driver, sometimes I’m the path, sometimes I’m a road sign, sometimes I’m just scenery passing along in the distant background. Sometimes we collide, sometimes we merge amicably, sometimes we honk at each other and experience road rage, sometimes we slow down and enjoy the ride. Sometimes I use too many metaphors. In the end, we always diverge and hope that everyone has become better because of our time together.
My students probably get tired of hearing me repeat what we’re trying to accomplish through the courses that I teach. My two overarching goals for my students are for them to take greater charge of their own lives and to make good decisions on purpose. I think that these two goals imply a lot of sub-goals and deeper questioning. Each of these goals is taken on by students in different ways, at different rates, and different times. Each becomes somewhat of a personal mission statement for my students as they work to identify the influences on their lives and to engage with them in order to shape their own futures.
As mostly ninth graders, my students have more-or-less been told what to do with every minute of every day, with very little independence to make, let alone learn from mistakes. But, at some point, they will be responsible for themselves and for the choices that they make. I want my students to be prepared for the independence and autonomy that lies ahead, to have a sense of direction (and self-direction), and to be well-practiced at making decisions and anticipating consequences.
I’ve never been very comfortable talking about myself. I dread the self-introduction assignment that has so often been asked of me at the beginning of each semester. Trying to define myself as a teacher and a person poses somewhat of an existential crisis, if a relatively minor one. Once it’s written down and it’s “out there,” it becomes somewhat inflexible, less adaptable. Less like me, more of a narrow idea of me. Some pithy lines intended to make others assume the best about me—my titles, roles, relationships, influences, history, etc.. The story of my life.
If you want to know me, then spend some time with me. Click around. Read my work. E-mail me. Get to know me.
Jesse Downs teaches Global Civics and World Politics at Providence Day School in Charlotte, NC. He lives in Matthews, NC with his wife and two kids and enjoys reading, baseball, and playing with Legos.