Teaching with the Nest in Mind

Posted by Sooz on Sunday, February 20, 2011 | 5 Comments

This month we are celebrating Teachers. We whole-heartedly applaud them for all they do to change the world. Our guest writer for this post has been a teacher for over thirty years.  Her name is Debbie, and she is one of the most inspiring teachers I have ever known. What makes her stand out is that she not only conveys the subject matter she teaches with great skill, but she also conveys to her students that they are individually and uniquely important. Here’s her story…

The other evening, I was watching a popular television program set in a suburban high school. This particular episode focused on the angst of a new teacher ostracized by both colleagues and students. At one point, a sympathetic colleague remarked, “Ever stop to wonder why we would go through the angst of the teenage years, go to college, and then come right back to this place to relive high school? That’s nuts.” Interesting observation. It made me think about why I love my job.

Thirty-plus years ago, I walked into the classroom, anxious to impart important lessons about English and foreign language. I learned quickly that some of the kids in my class had to focus much more on personal and family issues than worry about the finer points of grammar.

As I “grew up” as a teacher, I began mentally overhauling my original lesson plans. “Objective: The student will be able to list the subject pronouns” became “The student will begin to realize that he’s more than the score on a standardized test.” “Activity: The student will complete a series of (in my students’ words – mind numbing) worksheets” became “The student will learn to laugh at himself and understand that it’s okay to make mistakes.”

Teaching high school students is a challenge. Convincing kids that homework trumps texting can be tough. Even tougher is convincing them that they are unique individuals who matter…and that not everyone fits the mold of “the traditional student.”

The issues our kids have to deal with today are, well…overwhelming at best. But one thing I’ve learned is that kids yearn for acceptance (don’t we all?), and they’re searching for authenticity (ditto). They can spot a “fake” a mile away. What I strive for, beyond excellence in instruction, is to show my students that life is do-able, and that I’m in their corner.

Like the teacher on T.V., I’ve come back to the “angst” of high school. That’s not nuts. That’s making a difference in the lives of kids. And the payoff is seeing the light bulb flicker above a kid’s head – not just the “Oh! I get it – adjectives describe stuff” light bulb, but the light bulb that shows that he’s learning to live in his own skin – and that he understands that I’m pulling for him.

A “Good” Idea:

Think about the teachers that have influenced your life or the lives of your children. Take a few minutes and jot a thank you note to one of them.  A few minutes of your time can make a permanent investment in that person’s heart, while feathering your own nest with goodness.

5 Responses

  1. Sooz says:

    It seems to me that the heart of a student is just as important as the mind of a student. Debbie’s way of teaching addresses both, and the outcome is a stronger better student. Statistics say that it only takes one person who truly believes in you to change your life – it can be anyone. What an opportunity we all have to make a difference. Even if you didn’t have that person in your life, you can BE that person in someone else’s life. Thanks for the inspiration Debbie

  2. Celesta says:

    howdy, great weblog, and a great understand! just one for my book marks.

  3. Melanie Hall says:

    I have had the blessing of working in two separate school districts in the suburbs of Kansas City. I worked in the library at one school and I worked with special needs children at the other school. I truly feel that those years of my life were where “I” was blessed the most. There is something about children running up to hug you everyday and responding to even the smallest thing that just warms my heart. I feel so blessed to have had the opportunity to be a part of the school system. Debbie, thank you for your love and dedication to your students. Being a mentor and being that teacher that “made a difference” not only blessed them, but blesses YOU! Keep up the good work!

  4. traci bailey says:

    debbie, teachers like you should be treasured like gold in our world. i was a troubled teen who had not one but two teachers who actually noticed, out of all the students at the public school i went to, that i wasn’t really a “bad” kid, just adrift in a sea of self-doubt and they, especially my ffa sponser, took me under their wing and kept me from falling through the cracks. i’ve been in touch with both of them on several occasions after high school and they were both pleased to see that i was alive and not incarcerated, lol. they also know how much they are appreciated. thanks to teachers like you, you not only may be helping kids learn english, you may just be saving a life.

    • Debbie says:

      Traci, thank you! Regardless of the hat each of us wears (and most of us wear multiple hats on any one day!), our words, our actions, our responses to others so often have a profound, and sometimes unseen, impact on those around us. Sobering thought. So good of you to keep in touch with those two special teachers in your life–I’m sure they appreciate knowing that their encouragement made a difference!

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