Some days it is tough to remember the things I love about teaching. I just finished covering a class–for students with multiple and severe disabilities–and the soul-crushing futility (or so it could seem) of reaching and teaching some of these students is depressing. And I was only in there with them for a single period. One child howls continuously, with each breath, as if she is being tortured. Others just sit and rarely if ever even respond to their teacher’s or aide’s voice. Here the sense of meaninglessness is more apparent, more obvious than when dealing with other “regular ed” students.
Sometimes in my own classroom despite my best efforts teaching feels like throwing spaghetti at the wall to see what sticks. I’ll try anything to get the kids to learn the material and skills. High-tech, low-tech, discussion, silent writing, read aloud, read silently, modeling, think-pair-share, on and on… then the scores come in. And the “paranoid teacher” voice rings in my ears. Did I teach it right? With enough depth? Did they need more practice? Was the assessment constructed properly?
What mistakes did I make?
Thankfully most days go well. The students work hard. My assessments work as designed. And all is right in room 146.
But that’s not what I love about teaching. When I was a new teacher the thing I loved most–like an addict–was that “lightbulb moment.” A student would finally and suddenly get it and his or her eyes would widen, and they’d say something like, “Oh, I see.” It was an emotional high for me as a professional.
However, living and teaching for those fleeting moments was unsustainable. It’s not a lightbulb moment, but more like lightning. It’s a short, sharp shock. Ephemeral.
Things I love about teaching:
- Learning new things. I’m a nerd, and I love to learn new things. Some things are pretty easy to learn–like using the iPad–and others are more difficult–like using Final Cut Pro–and others are well outside my background and natural gifts–like learning to watercolor paint. However, all of them are rewarding to various degrees.
- Humor. There’s nothing like a little humor to liven up a half-dead class right after lunch. And it is quite true that “kids say the darndest things.” I’ve laughed so hard I cried in my classroom (many times) before.
- My colleagues. We don’t get to collaborate as often or as much as I would like(or we really need), but when it’s working… I mean really working… it is so much work and so much fun!
- My students. As frustrating as they might be at times, I really like seeing them mature as students and people. Especially gratifying is catching up with former students after they’ve gone off to college or wherever and finding out they are doing just fine. That squirrel of a kid worked out his issues and settled down… and look he’s got a good job and is living a decent life. That girl who was quiet as a mouse is a confident young woman. I know I was not the only one to help that child become a upstanding young adult, but I did my part, and I’m proud of that.