As many may know if you’ve been following my musings for a while that I do in fact teach high school in an urban setting that I frequently relate and connect to the film Dangerous Minds. This year has most certainly been a better teaching year for me in many respects in comparison to the type of year I had last year in the classroom. Doesn’t mean life got better or that I stumbled onto a load of money I just started looking at my time in the classroom from a different angle. And every year in the spring time I do a legacy unit that I’ve tweaked frequently based on the audience. I started this unit last week and began my “If You Really Knew Me” lesson by having the kids write about whether it was truly possible to know someone else or to know themselves.
I’ve done this activity before but the answers I got from these kids this year really were eye opening. I get caught up sometimes playing just the teacher role and forget that I should be open to what they’re able to teach me. At 25 years old, my 16-17 year old students taught me that you can never truly know someone else because you never even truly know yourself. Since we are constantly changing or attempting to change we are too busy learning and adapting to ourselves to give enough time and energy to learn all of the changes occurring in someone else, no matter how well or how long you’ve known them. Their views on the topic wasn’t something legendary or something that I hadn’t thought of before. What struck a chord with me were my low expectations and the reality of their responses. They had an innate ability to internalize and articulate their views on such a grand topic that even people my age can not often times put into words.
I was proud, and interested to see how much further I could get them to go without vocally pushing. It was at that moment that I truly stopped hearing them and really started listening. I don’t say this to play off of the cliched teacher role that we see on TV or read about in the papers. Teaching isn’t glamorous by any means, and most of the time it isn’t all its cracked up to be. However with the experiences I’ve had with my students this year I started to see many things differently beyond the classroom setting. We’ve faced great tragedies and great successes within the time span of this one year that were truly unparalleled to anything I’ve heard or had to deal with in my four years as a teacher. My personal struggles increased while my professional triumphs followed suit.
I carry each and everyone of my students with me when I walk out the door. And while some may see that as unhealthy, I see it as what needs to be done to improve the education system that is crumbling day by day. The value that is placed in teachers is so thoroughly disgusting to me. Why? Because without the presence and prevalence of my career in the world many things would be different, incomplete, and unstable. Am I a life saver? Yes. I will not belittle what it is that I do because people equate my career to having “summer’s and holidays off”. I am also not going to go into the long tirade of proving that my value is more than the measly salary I am given. I can not afford to sustain a life on my own because the value of a successful independent life is way higher than the numbers on my check.
However what I will do is always continue to strive for excellence for myself in relation to the continuous growth that is needed to be a successful adaptable teacher in a world that is unkind to people that look like my students. I will keep being the eyes and ears that they need in society when everyone else has turned their backs on them. I’m not saying I am a hero or that what I do is better than what anyone else does. I just like to remind others as I remind myself on daily basis, that what I’m doing matters without a doubt, to the structure and sustainability of the future world. That the way I treat these kids, talk to these kids, and look at these kids will leave a lasting impression far beyond what I could even begin to imagine. And that is something that no textbook or seminar could teach me. That is something that has been cultivated through experience and I can only hope to continue to do what I do… and to do it well.