“Education is not the filling of a pail but the lighting of a fire.” –William Butler Yeats
It is hard for me to write about what happens in my classroom every day. Of course you have that nuts and bolts that make up a day. Attendance, discussion and just general classroom procedure. But what truly happens is magic. They grow and change from high school writers to college writers. Some do it better than others but most don’t leave my class without a transformation. I get to witness that. What a honor and privilege. I have a soft heart for all of my students but none more than the ones that come into my classroom thinking they can’t and won’t make it.
This is my third semester teaching and my third time already dreading letting them go. I admittedly have grown thicker skin and let a lot less of the BS they can sometimes give me go. I try and keep myself from getting too attached because I have learned the attachment is always more on my part.
Every semester though I find myself attaching to that one student who is “on the margins”. In academia and composition that simply means they aren’t your typical student and maybe times might be picked to fail according some statistic or some label they carry. They walk into my classroom every semester doubtful of their ability to become a college writer. They come in something very different than they are when they leave.
In public they act like they hate my discussions and homework. But in private they email, journal and free write about what they feel like my class does for them. They meet me in the hallway and talk about writing and come to my office hours and talk some more. In someone else’s class of a larger amount or with a different teacher they might even be lost in the crowd.
As the weeks tick past I get to witness them change as a student. I seem them gain confidence and I search for the right words to encourage that. Just like children I see them grow and change and eventually start to think about life outside my class. I offer up help and assistance whenever I can, but they begin to see they can do it on their own now. I would like to think I pulled them back into the margins but really they did it on their own. They just needed someone to say, “See you can do it. You are a college writer.”
Inevitably, the semester ends every semester and I struggle saying good bye. They feel it too. But differently. They think, “She will always be here…” but I know something different. Once they leave my classroom for good it just changes. When and if I see them it will be different. They have grown up and passed me. Sometimes they make their way back to see how I am and to tell me how they have been. And I truly cherish those moments.
But sometimes there are those students who truly move on. You see them shuffling to their classes the next semester and you make eye contact. Sometimes you get a short little nod. Sometimes you get an awkward smile. Sometimes they don’t even notice you. But I remember each and every one of them. I do it [teach] for them.