Wednesday, March 29, 2006

First Person Educat

So Go Away is functioning well with my friend.

I am so happy for my friend that she isn't dealing with the crap I had. Go Away enrolled in a former "problem" class. While my problem was the mean girls, my friend's problem was dorky boys (And how is it that mean girls all want to be sophisticated while boys just make fart noises? And how is it that these girls who want to be 25 also want to be with boys who want to be 11? Sociologists, at your marks!). Go Away might have just learned that she has now so disgusted 1/2 of our English II teaching staff that it's time to work on learning.

This is really good news.

BUT, it brings an age old teacher conflict. If you ever want to loose friends on a faculty, approach a teacher by declaring that "I am so surprised to hear Go Away isn't doing well for you. I never had a problem with her!". We'll start planning ways to poison your coffee, I'm not joking. My friend and I joke about this phenomenon and she's loved poking at me over lunch. "I think Go Away will be my best student. I'm recommending her for AP next year."

You know why that joke is funny? Because teaching is personal. This same friend of mine teachers honors for 10th grade. Honors kids are a joy in many ways but they carry with them the added burden of children who have been told their entire lives that they're brilliant. They have to remind you of their brilliance and they do. Early and often.

So my friend finds herself arguing the relevance of testing. For her honors kids, "because this is what the curriculum demands" isn't enough. "We've been identifying motif since the third grade!" they cry (even though they're presently failing the class) "this isn't what we need!". I talked with one of those kids later that same day. He let me know how frustrated he was with testing and I let him know how frustrated I was with his attitude. "Geez," he scoffed, "you can't take that personally.".

You want this to be personal. Imagine if it wasn't. If I didn't personally care about you and your interest level and your learning, you wouldn't stop by to say hi. If it wasn't personal, I wouldn't seek you out for scholarships and encourage you to apply for essay contests. Personal teaching makes both of us care. Your personal learning keeps me going every day. When you volunteer for a local candidate or attend political rallies or just for kicks attend a poetry reading, you give me a reason to keep excelling at this job, which makes me teach personally and makes you learn personally, and and and ...

Kids like Go Away thicken my skin a bit. Sometimes I need that extra layer. But joy comes when those kids come by to talk about learning with me, the person.

1 comment:

the anonymous teacher said...

Ugh!! I hate when a student tells me not to take it personally. I have one who's notorious for it. I feel that it's my job to take it personally. To paraphrase you, if I didn't care, then to be completely honest, I wouldn't be a good teacher. I wouldn't be vested in my students' successes and failures. It would be a whole lot easier, but what's the point of getting paid a crappy salary to work crappy hours if you don't care.
Sorry for the mini-rant. I haven't quite developed the thick skin yet. I've got some kids who are working on it though.