Now that the final semester in my current position is under way, I can't help but reflect back on my years of teaching at Guffey. Certain personalities and events stand out, but what strikes me most is what I've learned from my students. In the interest of keeping this post under several volumes long, I narrowed my thoughts down to the top 3 lessons learned.
Lesson 1: It's OK to cry.
I remember the first time I cried in front of my students. I remember the church-like silence that settled over the room as my kids sat and stared while I tried to hide my tears. Since that day, there have been other tearful moments in the classroom. I cried while reading The Cay. (Ok, ok, I cry every. time. I read The Cay.) I cried while packing up the belongings of an expelled student. I cried when I had to tell my class that a grade partner was very sick with cancer. I cried during a class meeting with a rough group of students.
Each time I've had an emotional moment with students, I've learned something. I've learned that my students care about me. I've learned that the things I cry about publically are nothing compared to what they cry about privately. And I've learned that it's OK to be vulnerable and human in front of students.
Lesson 2: Respect is earned.
Not long ago, I taught my 2nd roughest class. I felt like I was the only teacher in the building who gave them chances, who went to bat for them, and who cared about their character and their success. Truth be told, I fought tooth and nail for those kids every. day. I fought to keep the focus on learning in our classroom. I fought to get quality work from them. I fought to protect several of them from unfair discipline.
And at the end of the day, although they were an exhausting class, those kids knew how much I cared and how hard I was trying to get the BEST from them, and they respected me. In fact, I was the only teacher to whom they showed respect. They respected me because I had earned their respect. I was real, honest, patient, and tough with them (when it was warranted). That class taught me that respect really is earned.
Lesson 3: If it's broke, fix it. Together.
My first few years of teaching, I had no idea how to address conflict between students or a whole-class issue. I fumbled around with this technique and that strategy. Some were box office hits. Some were total flops. There is struggle in learning, though, and I'm proud to say that now I feel confident in my ability to help students with interpersonal issues. I also feel skilled at addressing whole-class beefs, so to speak.
Whether it's a private hallway conversation or a whole-class meeting, my students have taught me that if something is broken, we have to fix it, and we have to fix it together. I've learned how important it is to let students talk and be heard. I've learned that privately discussing a situation is better than calling everyone's attention to it. I've learned that students need to be involved in the problem-solving process. It's our classroom community. If it's broke, let's fix it, but let's fix it together.
I know there are countless lessons yet to learn as I leave Guffey and further my career as a Middle School teacher. I look forward to what my future students will teach me.
My name is