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.