Teaching is an amazing thing and I pretty much love every moment of it. When I walk into a classroom or a teach a lesson I realize I have found my niche in life. I know I am where I belong. I never doubt my being there in that moment and having something to offer the students I teach.
But there is a part of teaching that I struggle with. It isn’t something that I can be taught. It more or less is like anything hard in life to deal with. I have to accept my boundaries and limits and move on. It is the moving on part I struggle with. It is the reality of teaching. You know the not being able to predict what type of personality might be staring back at you. What your students are coming in with on their shoulders. Or better yet what it means to work with students who choose to fail.
I have a hard time not internalizing that. There are no parents to call and no notes I can send home. I have “the talks” and I truly believe when I am having these talks in using positive reinforcement. I believe that if the students decided to hang in there and let me help them that together we can achieve the goal that we both set out. And I know that sounds like a greeting card. And maybe it is but I have lived it. I have given those students who might be picked to fail the time and positive reinforcement that I thought they needed and magic happened. I truly believe they just needed someone “anyone” to have faith in them. Someone to say, “I knew you could do it.” And I give them that.
But what happens when I give that and they still choose to fail or to fall into that stereotype? I was one told by a wise prof that I have to allow students to fail if that is their choice. In logic, I know this to be true because really short of driving to their house and making them do it what can I do? But when that situation plays out and you see a student with so much potential and ability and they fall out of line I take it hard and personal.
I have tried the distance yourself approach or tough love and truth is: I suck at both. As well, I know I am naive. I am naive as a teacher and I am naive to the “hardness” sometimes my students have to live. At my campus there is such a diverse group of students that it will be nothing to have the richest of rich students sitting next to the poorest of poor with everything in between. The hardships most of my students face I am probably clueless about. I find myself surprised every semester by a “drug” situation, or a “homeless” situation because then I have the student who is going to Julliard after that semester or the student who is pre-med clearly a successful student and did all the hard work it took for those successes again with every other thing in between. And I want every single one of them to have that Lifetime movie ending. The one that says, “I did it. I made my life a success.” I don’t even need credit for that success. I just want to see them do it and see themselves do it.
I guess I want that because that is what people did for me. It was Mrs. Capps in 2nd grade who nominated my story for a Young Author’s Award, Mrs. Meadows who pushed me hard with grammar and writing, Mr. Donovan, my 11th grade English Teacher, sparked my love of literature and tried talking me into going to Ball State even though I consistently ignored him for what I believed to be something better. WW., Ernie R., Dr. B, Dr. W-S and Dr. R. The list could go on. All it took was a little faith in me and I did the rest of the work.
But alas, students aren’t always like me. Sometimes they are there for the wrong reasons, or it is the wrong time and I have to try and let that go and let them fail. I am the person who shouldn’t have made it. But I did. I have been told a few times it is because I need to be tougher. And maybe that is true. I don’t know. But I don’t believe it. I am tough when I need to be. I guess I give my students respect unless they disgrace it and maybe that is what they mean. But that is me and that is my personality and I am not really interested in changing that. I always throw out a hand first. I like to believe that people are good people instead of doubting that they are and treating them as such.
So I guess the point of this post is to wax poetic about teaching and that need to embrace it as a realistic dream. I know I belong in a classroom. I love it and I love how it makes me feel. I am not sure if that is how my life will pan out as I look toward the future. But I know I am a good at it. I know I am capable of it. I know I have accomplished my dreams and goals. I am not sure what that final and ultimate goal is, but I do know that it will involve me continuing to do what I love and finding some way to get paid for it. No one can ever accuse me of not living my dream and wearing my passion and the classroom and teaching is only a meager piece of the pie that makes up my dreams.