A Realistic Glimpse at the Reality of Teaching Real Students

Several months ago, a friend from high school shared a video of several teens who made a public statement of what they would like, deserve, and should be taught.  They were well spoken, honest, and forthright… and the teacher-part of my heart broke for them, got angry for myself and at the situation, and became frustrated because there is no easy solution.

I responded to her with these words:

        I’m torn. I see them, I hear them, and I believe them. I feel their frustration, and much of it is mine, but I’m also one of the ones teaching them some of these lessons. I don’t know how to fix the problem, much like I don’t know how to fix the problems that exist within my own classroom, where earning an 8% on the latest test is seen as acceptable among peers and I am the one who is expected to put in more effort to ensure student success… They [the girls in the video] are fearless, and I feel powerless.

Being an amazing woman, my friend replied, assured me of my worth, and in the first conversation we had really had in years lead me to respond with the following:

        Thanks for the words of encouragement. The video hit on a day that I was already feeling low. I am finishing a semester with some of the most unmotivated seniors I have ever seen. They are nothing like we were, and so the caliber of many of my lessons is far below where it should be.

        The most amazing feeling is when they get it, really get it. Last week, my honors kids got it. We were reading “The Highwayman,” and as I finished the room was silent. Not the silence of confusion or sleep or way too many things consumed the night before, but the silence of understanding, and awe, and sorrow. They got it… and then they went to their second period classes and were replaced by my eight percenters, who honestly don’t give a damn. And a part of me died.

        The video you shared grabbed that part, and I cried. I want to be like our great teachers were, and some days I am! Then there are the days where I struggle to get them to care at all. I’m stuck between what great education is and should be and having to justify why I have students who expect to play college ball but can’t even crawl their way through my class- all while knowing there is an even greater message to be taught.

She again replied with words that every teacher needs to hear.  She assured me that I was doing what needed to be done.  My students are receiving what I am offering them.  They may chose not to act on it, but it will impact them in some way, at some time.

Our conversation was so simple, so heartfelt, and so real that it prompted us to say things that may have never been said otherwise.  We talked about teaching and motherhood and feeling like we are failing at what we both love to do.

And I was inspired.

Maybe others need to hear that I feel frustrated a great deal of the time.  Perhaps they feel frustrated, too.

So, here’s to us who teach where our words are not often heard.  Here’s to us whose students love us, or hate us, or somewhere in between.  Here’s to us who give of ourselves and the lessons we craft, for teaching truly is a craft, a gift, and a skill.

And here’s to Devon, for helping me to remember that, to see my self worth, and to remember that my words are of value.  Here’s the blog I promised all those months ago.

Twas the Night Before Finals

‘Twas the night before finals; I was stuck at my table.
not a student was studying, even though they were able.
My printer was buzzing, there’s no ink to spare,
for I’ve waited too long and am pulling my hair.

My exam must be edited, for typos abound,
and my kids have been threatened: If they make a sound…
This Mama is tired, there never is rest,
and the bed will be calling if I just finish this test.

The scantrons are placed on the desk in my room.
I’m daydreaming of students whose minds are in bloom.
The pencils are sharpened, and all is in place,
If now this one teacher could just finish this race.

At the end of each school year, I must admit,
I’m filled with the urge to throw hands up and quit.
Just a few days more patience and dealing with creatures.
I can do this, I won’t scream- For I am the teacher!

Big Fish/Small Pond: Student Entitlement

Eleven years in, there are still some things that just floor me. Looking at the general population of students at the small school where I teach, from the bottom of my heart, I know that they are good humans. They will grow and mature, become vital members of our community, and someday raise families of their own. There are some, however small that minority, who are so assured of their status in this world.

They make me cringe.

My filter, which is always worn thin by this point in the school years, has great difficulty not reminding them of who they are and where they are (and sometimes where they come from). I manage to refrain.

When, oh when, did we- a civilized group of human beings- start raising a group of children who are so lost in their own expectations of entitlement that they forget to see the value of work and sacrifice, or even determination?

Why do they assume that they get to roam the halls just because they feel like it? In groups of seven or eight? For thirty minutes at a time?

Why do they get to use the bathroom in another building just because they don’t “like” the one only a few feet away from my classroom door? When did their trips start involving being gone for twenty minutes or more, and what do they think they need to do with a cell phone while they are there? When did the expectation become that teachers are to be ok with this? Teachers, who are lucky to get a two minute bathroom break, are expected to sacrifice the content and context of a lesson so that students can take good care of their colon and their Facebook/Twitter/Instagram/Snap Chat account.

When did it become an assumption that deadlines don’t matter? Work can be turned in at random, partially completed, and we are expected to simply put a check on it, log in a perfect score, and return it without complaint.

Who made the rule that only certain students need to monopolize classroom discussions, as if their peers have nothing else to say? Or that they should determine the topic of said discussions? And the duration, volume, and intensity?

Why is it assumed that I will award extra credit for being a good student, or following the rules, or being a human being?

Most importantly, what will become of these individuals who suffer from big fish/small pond syndrome when we are no longer around to support their delusions?