I Love My Students, But…
(A love letter to my students)
As a teacher, I am supposed to be passionate about my job. It is a “calling” they say. After the last few years of teaching during the pandemic, I’d say it is more of an exercise in resilience.
All that aside, I want to make it clear that the entire reason teachers do what we do remains, as it has since our student teaching days, is to help change lives-your life even. Maybe.
We design creative lessons and spend hours of time and research just to have you roll your eyes upon giving the introduction to what we thought to be a very engaging unit. Still, we persist. We watch as our carefully planned lessons go out the window when we are told last minute about a change in the schedule for the day. Watch us as we adapt! But something we have trouble with, quite honestly, is when students start to lose their passion. That is not something we were prepped for in our training or have the tools to fix. Teachers get a lot of their inspiration from watching students’ excitement to learn new things, concepts, and ideas. Most of all, we get energized by seeing those “aha moments” you have-the look in your eyes when you get excited about understanding. When that disappears, we have trouble conjuring our own excitement.
When you trash us on social media or in the halls, we hear it. But we can take it because we know what we do matters. Doesn’t it? I mean, you may not ever see a use for algebra, but problem solving is a useful like skill. It is my job to equip you with the technique and mindset to identify and solve problems as they pop up in your world. Not simply to get you to pass a test. The test is only part of it. You have to understand that. Maybe I have never told you that before. Maybe I have never communicated the “why” behind me asking, assigning, or testing. But I do have one. And you can ask me. (Politely and respectfully please.)
If I ask you to read something, even if I will not quiz you on it, I picked it because it contains useful information that will help you with the next steps. Trust that I have the long-run picture in my mind when I assign it. And know that I expect you to read the assignment. In college classes particularly, in the back of my mind I realize that many students are fresh out of high school mode. I respect that you are transitioning into adulthood. That being said, I expect that you begin to act like an adult, which means doing reading and tasks that are not for points, but rather, for your own growth. It means not resenting me for the task but appreciating the information because you understand/trust that it will benefit you not only in class, but also professionally and personally.
When I ask for class discussion and you look at your shoes or pretend to be interested in the poster on the wall, I get frustrated! I may have to call on you to get you to participate but I am not trying to single you out or put you on the spot. I am interested in your opinion, and I am gauging your understanding. I am hoping that you understand the benefit of learning not just from me, but from your peers. When we put our minds together, we can accomplish amazing things and not just benefit ourselves in class but even the world around us.
If I ask if there are any questions and no one says anything, I am supposed assume you all understand. But I know that is not the case. You have questions-maybe many. But you are worried that if you ask, I will keep you longer, or that others might not appreciate your asking. Ask anyway-please! If you can help me pinpoint where I need to spend more time explaining it will benefit you and your entire class There is someone sitting in the class that needs the answer too but doesn’t have the courage to ask. Be their strength at that moment. I understand that is difficult to make yourself do, but please help me with this, it is important.
There are many other things I do that you don’t understand my “why”. You can ask me. But I also need you to trust me. That may be hard if you have had people in your life who have not always had your best interest at heart. But I promise you, I want nothing but the best for you each and every lesson I plan, test I hand out, or correction I give. I thrive on seeing you succeed!
So while thingsin the world may have gotten dark and dreary lately, please understand that you can help me just as much as I can help you. If we both try to understand each other a little more, appreciate all the work we put in, and ask each other about our “why”, we can both re-energize and get excited about school again. You may forget my words, theories or vocabulary in the years to come, but today I want to see your eyes sparkle.