Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Good kids? Good teacher...

Teachers are frequently asked about their students. It’s pretty common for us to hear “How are your classes?” or “How are your students?” I’ve come to realize that the answers we give to those questions say a great deal more about us than our students. The fact of the matter is that my kids and my classes are, for the most part, a reflection of me.

Oh sure, we all get the random psycho kid now and then who doesn’t respond, or responds in a completely off the wall manner, to our very best efforts. I taught a 2nd grader, or maybe I should say I “housed” him in my classroom that year, who would, on occasion, curl up in a ball under my desk and growl at me. This was actually a preferred behavior to many of his other quirks, some of which would make a sailor blush. I shudder to think what’s happened to him. That was well over 10 years ago so he’s probably either graduated early from college or is serving time. He was the sort that was going one way or the other to the extreme.

For the most part, however, my students are as good as I am. When I’m happy, content, and well-mannered with them, they tend to reflect that manner back to me. When I’m in a foul mood (it happens sometimes) and I’m abrasive and short with them, they reflect that as well.

Kids appreciate boundaries that are put in place with respect and dignity for them as individuals. Respecting kids builds trust and yes, it does take longer to build trust with some kids than with others. But, I can guarantee that if kids don’t feel safe and able to trust a teacher, there will be acting out. Every time. I could talk for hours and write reams about this. But, I’ll shorten it all down to this: Trust and relationship are the components that set the great teachers apart from the adequate ones. And those are the reasons that great teachers can never be replaced with online study or computer generated lessons.

It’s a sad truth that even the great teachers don’t reach every kid every time. Or, it doesn’t appear that we do. I have had kids come back to visit me or email me to tell me that I made a difference for them, and many times it's one with whom I’d never felt a great connection. And it's not just me, I hear about this happening a lot among my colleagues who are also great teachers. That sort of thing motivates and inspires us to keep slogging along and giving it our best every day with every kid. And you know, I guess I've taught long enough that I don't mind admitting that I'm good at it. I mean, I'd have to hope that if I weren't any good at it by now, I'd find something else to do.

As far as teacher pay goes, well yeah, it sucks. And the suckage in Oklahoma really does seem to be the force that keeps Texas from falling into the gulf. But, here’s the deal with that; great teachers could never possibly be adequately compensated for what they do. And, even though I’d love it if the world would wake up and at least try to adequately compensate us for providing a place for every single young person in this country to go and spend time every day, let alone educating them while they’re there, I’m pretty sure that’s not going to happen any time soon. If I’m working at top form there’s no amount of money that can buy what I do.

So, how are my classes? How are my students?

They are incredible.

View Current Blog


Norm! said...

I know this sounds harsh, but I haven't been around kids much and sometimes forget that they are people with personalities too -- not just loud, sticky creatures. :) I have a hard enough time with adults that I can't imagine trying to figure out (nevermind teach) kids. You're right though, the teachers I fondly recall the most were the ones that treated us with respect even if we were crazy and disrepectful.

Liz said...
This comment has been removed by the author.