Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Today I am Teaching

Today in class, before we moved into the reading of the first Act of Hamlet, several of my students mentioned the hardships they are having with a young, less experienced substitute teacher they have been working with for another course. Now, I do not allow students to gossip or to bash other staff members in my presence, and yet they seemed to need to share this frustration they are feeling. I listened to what they had to say and I told them that, although I did not know the substitute in question, I felt the need to come to the defense of this young woman who I know has had an incredible amount of work placed on her inexperienced shoulders in a very short period of time. My students listened to my point of view but insisted that this young teacher’s attitude was in need of attention. “She doesn’t like kids!”, my students exclaimed. “She’s mean to us!” We moved on with our lesson for the day but I got to thinking about that poor dear who is clearly struggling with her students. She is a substitute and clearly that is a tough position to be in as students wait for the return of their regular teacher. I got to wondering however if perhaps the young teacher isn’t trusting her students enough or perhaps she isn’t giving them the benefit of the doubt. In her attempt to keep order in the classroom, maybe she is giving her students the wrong impression of who she truly is and what she believes to be important in regards to the day's lessons. Whatever the case, I cannot judge. I am only hearing one side.

I thought of how much I have learned in my 20 years of teaching. I surely made mistakes in my younger days and continue to make some now, but I do know that one thing is for sure, I have worn a consistent smile in my classroom and I work hard to show my students that I do have a sense of humor and that I enjoy seeing the same within each of them. I foster this sense of play and friendliness when I teach. I did this 20 years ago and I do it today. It's who I am as a teacher. Indubitably, it allows me to push my students harder and to expect more from them by being more congenial and fun to work beside. It is not something artificial manufactured however, for I am the same in my home life. Chores are typically done while we all sing and dance to music blasting on the stereo. Help with homework is provided and yet directives or guidance is sometimes given with silly voices or accented speech. Even when I am annoyed or completely stressed out, I tend to talk more quietly or with a slow controlled pace. I have grown to be better at helping my children and my students and even their parents relax when they are frustrated. I assuage fears well and I do well to avoid if not to eliminate drama.

I teach from an honest place. I prepare my lessons carefully and I spend hours upon hours correcting student work. Despite my best efforts however, I am not always on top of my game the way I wish to be by my high standards. Still, I am present in the moment. I take each class of students that enters my room and I say to myself, “Let’s do this. Let’s make this a good class”. It’s about being observant of those teens. It’s about reading their needs. I am not punching the clock. I am not resting on my laurels, as if I ever really could... I am here to teach and to administer instruction but more importantly, I am here to listen and to guide. I am proud of the work I do each day, even if it is exhausting. I prod, I entice, I challenge, I try and I try again. I may not be able to continue doing this for another twenty years, for I find myself very low on sustained energy these days, but I will give as much as I can for as long as I can.

Each year, when I am feeling a drought of energy, I find students who have uplifting and positive energy that sustains me for a little while longer. I can never predict which class will produce students who will become an incredible delight to work for, or who will renew my own energy, but when I almost forget why I continue to do what I do, day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year, the faces of these students appear. And suddenly I am smiling and laughing from a place deep inside of me. This happened today. Several times. Today, I am teaching and the joy of that is as it should be.

1 comment:

  1. Wow, 20 years teaching.
    I applaud your dedication.
    Those lucky students!