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How to *Try* Being the Teacher They’ll Never Forget
I am *that* teacher. Good students hate or love; there is no in-between. The one the students think is way too emotional for her own (professional) good, or the one who can get so mean they can’t believe she’s allowed near them in class, depending on what the situation requires.
I am *that* teacher, yes. I can give you a pep talk one minute, then throw an eraser at you the next if you’re not careful in my class. The one nicknamed ‘Boot Lady’ and ‘Mom’ at the same time. I’m passionate, caring, stern, and endowed with a wicked (and I mean wicked) sense of humor. So no, I don’t have an in-between, it’s one or the other.
I spend hours trying to think of ways to make learning new and exciting every time, and I rage inside when things don’t go the way I planned. I worry excessively about students not being interested in what I’m teaching, but I’m also the type to look them straight in the eye and say, “Listen, you all have to pull your socks up. and leave. , when I think I need it. That’s the kind of teacher I am.
I’m told that I’m remembered for all kinds of things and yet, every trimester, my biggest fear, and the fear I’ve never told others about, until now, is of being forgotten. as soon as my students finish their learning journey with me.
You’d think that with so many of them coming through that revolving door of education, I wouldn’t mind so much. You would think I would have had so much to think about and deal with, with each new term, with each group of enthusiastic new faces, that it’s something I never think about. But I do. I wonder if they’ll go back to the lively group chats, the constant laughter, the occasional heart-to-heart conversation, the well-meaning scoldings. I wonder what they’ll take away from it and pass on to the next generation, if they even allow our memories to cross their minds. I wonder if I was too hard on them, if I completely prevented them from learning, and what they can say about me to their own children/young parents.
This overthinking has become a greater burden than I can bear, and I have decided to throw it off my shoulders and into the proverbial box, to be locked away in the recesses of my mind. I also decided to tell you what I think has really helped make so many of my relationships with my learners a lasting one. These are based on my own teaching (and learning) experiences:
1. The benefit of the doubt
It’s so much easier to tag a student, especially if they seem to be just disappointing you. Again and again. The key word here is “advantage”. It is remarkable how well some of these young people are able to hide their painful life experiences. They seem unfazed on the outside, even distant. Approaching them once may not do it. You may need to keep pushing on the surface (gently, of course, and with genuine compassion) until they finally open up to you. The minute they do it and realize you’re there for them, that’s the minute you’re etched in their memory.
On the other hand, some just don’t. It’s not you, it’s them. And they’ll appreciate you understanding their need for privacy, whatever the reason. You tried, and you must back down. They know where to find you if they decide they need you.
You can’t always be “mom”. You need to be a friend, a mentor, a cheerleader, a source of objective criticism. What I mean is that sometimes you have to be firm. It doesn’t pay to be “buddy” all the time. You must recognize the importance of balance. They will appreciate you for being the one to push them when they needed to be pushed. Even if it takes them years to realize it.
3. Listen, listen, listen.
Few things are more powerful than simply listening. You must be fully prepared to listen to what they have to say, without judgment. It seems like that would be common sense. Surprisingly, however, people don’t understand the difference between listening and hearing. You can hear what someone is saying, but you may not be listening. Give not only your ear, but also your heart.
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