Early in the fall my school system had a speaker. It was a speaker that was meant to inspire and teach and make us want to feel ready for this school year. I hate to call myself bad names but I am pretty easy. I can find inspiration in the wind blowing outside and find a way to relate it somehow some way into something better. Some of that is my personality and some of it is just the way I see the world.
Back to my story, our district hired Prinipal Kafele who was an amazing man. But I remember in the first 15 minutes of his introduction fighting the urge to run up and hug him. It was someone who was a kindred spirit who gets it. He gets education the way I get education. I can't talk about it or my hopes and dreams related to it without a tear in my eye. That isn't dramatics. It is pure passion.
Almost everyday I feel in a battle to protect that passion as if it were my most prized possession. But to verbalize what that actually means is something Principal Kefele said better than I could. He pointed out that it is so important that we see our kids (students) for what they will be and not what they are right there in that moment.
Last year I ran the weird line of figuring out my boundaries and how to make those boundaries work for me to be a respected and a beneficial teacher. I know I know my stuff (aka English). I specifically got my degree in English so I could be an expert in English. It is the teacher part that I am working on. And no this is not some sad confession of my poor teaching.
But I haven't always been the best and I am not too proud to reflect and critique myself because I am new to this gig. But last year two things happened. I walked in there clueless of how to teach high school kids and I wanted kids to like me so I let walk all over me. But I had one amazing component. I saw their future and potential. I saw it more than they could usually.
I genuinely see the good in people even if all they are showing is bad. Sometimes it is a blessing and sometimes it is curse. But this year my weaknesses are my strength. I have created those much needed boundaries that demand respect but I have also adjusted to life teaching high school students.
That doesn't mean my classroom is all flowers and sunshine. But it does mean my students know where they stand with me at all times. I am not their friend. I am not there to be their favorite. I am there to see them in their future. And to do that I gotta push where it is needed and I gotta be that shoulder when the time comes.
And as I sit back on my day and I look at the interactions I had with my kids (students) today I realize in every single conversation I had I mentioned their future selves. Not the demanding pressure of you must go to college. Instead, the quiet murmur of a reminder that they have the power and the potential to be amazing and that I see it. Or the forceful nudge of, "Where do you want to be four years from now?" I had some semblance of this conversation 6 times today. 6 times I had one on one interaction with students that had more value than any grammatical lesson or novel lesson I could teach.
Sometimes they get mad at me and wonder why I push them or demand their best. But then one magic moment always happens. This is what I deam a Mrs. E moment. I force them to look me in the eyes and I tell them, "I see you later" or some version of it that equates to "You will do this because I believe you will." I ask them to deny that they know I feel this way.
Not one single student has ever told me that they believe that I don't believe in them and that is because I make them see it. I make them see that I see it. So while Prinicipal Kefele inspired and put into words what I do. I recognize that this is what I am doing. This is a fire that has burned within me since I could verbalize what I wanted to do with my life. To teach, to inspire and when I do it isn't for a year, a semester or a grading period. It honestly is never ending.
The funny thing is that if you would have asked me a year ago if I got it or my kids got it. I am not sure I would have felt this way. I had some struggling relationships last year because of the above stuff I mentioned. But I held strong and even the kids that resisted and told me I didn't care and didn't believe I truly did. I proved to them I did. I still do every day. I remind them as we pass in the hall or in conversation about their days. I told them, "I am not gonna let you turn in crap and call it good. You are better than that and we both know it. I see it, can you?"
Some are not even students of mine this year and they still come and see me and thank me and ask for that reminder that they CAN and will in fact be successful. That isn't just my high school students but my college students. And that is what teaching is to me.
The English stuff I get. The teaching stuff I was born with. Sure it doesn't come by way of a methods class or papers about public education. Instead, it comes from my heart. It comes the teachers in my life that wouldn't let me give less than my best. It comes from co-workers who push me to be better and see them positively.
Teaching isn't easy and it isn't always "Freedom Writers" as some would like to believe. It is hard out there. Being a kid is hard too. For me we gotta find a way to meet in the middle and do this thing called education. We can while about test scores (trust me I want to) and politicians who do not get it. We can complain about poor Johnny who wasn't given a fair shot. Or we can chuck all that into the wind, get back into the classroom and fight for what matters.
Seeing them later.