Thursday, January 26, 2006

The Joy of Teaching

At least one thing happens every day at school that makes me joyful about teaching. Some days, like today, it's something so memorable that I'll never forget it.

This 5th grade kid (a new move-in this year) totally made my day. I'll call him Dylan. When Dylan first arrived he really got under my skin. To be honest, I could hardly stand the kid. He's a little bitty thing with a loud nasal-sounding voice and the thickest most hickish accent you could possibly imagine. Just totally annoying. He'd blurt out in the middle of my teach or raise his hand and then ask a question about something totally unrelated like the make and model of the truck outside the window. Just a kid beggin' a teacher to get all in the middle of him.

Really good teachers know EXACTLY what a kid like Dylan needs. But, you sometimes have to take great deep breaths and fake yourself into acting like you care before you can get to the point of doing what's best for a kid. Which I usually always do. I'm not going to lie and say I'm a perfect teacher. But with Dylan, at least, I did the right thing. I began to establish a personal relationship with him. I'd check on him now and then and compliment his efforts, then stop at his table and chat about whatever he happened to be talking about as he worked. He's always talking so he made this process very easy. Some don't. Over about a months time, (they only visit my art class every 3rd day) I'd established a really nice rapport with Dylan and I actually began to look forward to seeing him and wondering what funny comment he might come up with next. There'd even be entire class periods when I hardly noticed him. This is a GOOD thing, if that makes sense.

Today, we were working on posters for a Sons of the American Revolution Contest and Dylan comes up to show me the latest item he'd completed to put on his poster. It was a piece of paper, crumpled and dirty looking with a few red dots here and there, some writing, and what looked like wet spots. He read it to me. He'd created a fake letter of a soldier at Valley Forge writing home to his family. Then he continued, "See, I put these red marks on here because he was dripping a little blood and I rubbed it on the floor to make it a little dirty. Then, I thought of the saddest experience I've had in my entire life and let my tears fall on it." As I looked more closely at him I could see that he had indeed been crying. It was such a sweet moment. I complimented him, of course, and told him how pleased I was that he'd go to so much trouble to make it look authentic. I hesitated to do so, but then I went ahead and asked him what his saddest experience had been. His eyes welled up a little more and he said, "My Grandmother passed away last year."

I always wonder if the "great cloud of witnesses" we are surrounded by could be those who've gone before. I'm certainly not a theologian so I'm just blindly guessing. If it IS, then I hope Dylan's grandmother was filled with as much joy as I was by his actions today.


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rw said...

Aw, that was incredibly sweet. My sister finished her final practicum in December, and she had a boy who sounds pretty similar to this Dylan.. long story short, from what I heard, he became one of her favorite students and was so eager and ready to learn once they had established a friendship.

em said...

That's such a great story, Grace. Thanks for sharing it with the rest of us... I'm sure Dylan won't forget you, either. There are teachers that most of us can still remember who showed us something of what it means to be loving and caring. Good to hear that is still going on... :-)

grace said...

Thanks Rob and Emery!

I still have days when this thought actually crosses my mind "I can't get anything done for all these kids in here!" haha! On those days I must remind myself over and over "The interruption IS the job." I do love it, though, that's the key.