I had a student today ask me why everyone comes and talks to me. I said, "because they know I love them" in a flippant, quick way. But when I thought about it I DO think that is one of the reasons some of them come to see me even when they don't have class with me. I have kids in my room from the moment I open my door in the morning (sometimes earlier if I forget to lock my door the night before!); they come just to check in and say good morning, or to vent about something bugging them in their life, sometimes occasionally to even turn in a late assignment! I have lunch in my room because I share that time with students, too. I often share my prep blocks with students who 'need somewhere to go.' Students often bop in while my current students are working, to check-in, grab a lollipop and reset themselves. At the end of the day when they could be running to hang with their friends, they come in and tell me about their day, their life and then bop out saying, "Have a great night, Gabs!" (No wonder I am always behind in my grading!)
When I look at my Katharina and I look at her horrible test scores on her neuro pysch evaluations I know that what is absolutely KEY for Kath is for her to have a teacher who is so tuned into her and her way of learning that she (most of Kath's teachers have been female) can guide her along her path, not just lead her, but allow Kath to set the pace at times, nudge her other times and sit back at others. Alex works differently...show her the path and she gallops down it with occasional looks back to make sure she's going on the right path. So my goal this year is look at each one my kids (I consider my students my kids), even the ones who I can't get to sit still for 10 minutes at a time, and try to figure out how they learn; how they think; then to figure out how can I guide them to go-at-their-own-pace. How can I make it so they can understand who they are at their core and where they want to fit in in this world?
I'm not sure exactly how I will do this without being completely exhausted. I have just about 100 students in my English classes and another 45 in my study halls. I found this year that even my study hall kids need me. One student said to his friend who was confiding a rough life history to me, "Why are you telling her all of this?" "Because she listens," was my study hall student's answer.
I think I am pretty good at teaching grammar, teaching literature meanings, teaching writing. But I think what my students get the most from me is...me. Old fashioned eye contact. An ear that listens. A smile that warmly says, "Hi, how are you?" Then patiently waits for the answer.
I don't think I'm special or different. I think having my own kids and not doing the 'right' stuff over the years has taught me a little about how to do things better. I think I'm a better teacher now than I ever was. I wish I could recall those students from the past 14 years and try again. I think having my children in two sets has helped me to have time to learn hard lessons. I think having a child with a different-abilitied life in front of her has made me try to think differently about how I approach all children. It impacts how I approach the ones who walk past me in the hallway and those who stop to talk and those who I teach English to...and those I corral in a study hall.
I am trying to be the teacher I hope my own daughters get as educators. The kind that shows 'care' through the teaching. The kind that embraces the child in front of me, not the ideal student I wish I had, the ones who listen and learn fast and easy. I want each student to feel success, have a goal and be ready to step out, even if it is not in my subject matter. I want each student to be ready to find their place in the world, the place they want to be in, not what others have relegated them to.
I want the students in my life to find their voice, their callings, their joy just as much as I want the Katharinas and Alexandras to find their places. This world will be such a great place if each person could find a place they feel good about themselves. And I try to be the mother and the teacher who helps my kids try to find that place.