25 October 2011

Educational Matters

Sometimes, education doesn't matter.

There are days I get so wrapped up in how I'm going to present new concepts, or cover all the required material, or "get that kid to get it," I forget that sometimes giving a student an education is my second job.

Just this week I was bemoaning the fact that my classes are behind according to the curriculum map. I even told a friend, when he asked what I can do about it, "Well, just stay behind I guess." I was thinking how absurd it is to rush my students on, and especially, how sorry I was feeling for myself because of all the daily challenges I face - besides simply being behind.

Then one of my students told me, "I've been gone because my mom's boyfriend kicked us out, and we'll be moving in two weeks." She's new to our school district this year. This won't be her last move. To top it off, she's behind as far as reading skills, which puts her behind in most of her subjects. When she moves again, she'll have to "catch up" with her new teachers, and the cycle begins again.

Getting her to read every day, adding words to her vocabulary, and explaining new literary concepts and text characteristics to her, all those things that are important to her education, seem a pitiful cause when compared to her life with her broken family.

(I started this post on Wednesday, the 19th, and today, the 25th, she's gone. And the most jarring thing is that the office didn't tell me she was leaving this week - she just vanished from my roll page. I pray she won't vanish from my mind.)

Another student of mine is starving for respect; his father is in prison, and his behavior is historically poor. There are days he does well in my class, that is, when I make the time to reach out to him, and there are days it doesn't seem to matter what I do. I asked him why he acts that way, one day performing at his potential, the next day not hearing anything I say. He said, "I don't know, sometimes I just don't want to."

But the look in his eye tells me a different story. I see a boy trapped by behavior that gets him what he wants, and distracts his teachers from what he doesn't know. He wants out, I can see that in his eyes, as deep as it may be, but where do I start? When I do make the time for him, he often acts as though he doesn't care by shrugging his shoulders or looking away. Yet, on those "good" days, he shows me he heard what I said by doing what I've asked him to do. And doing it well.

I can be upset by his lack of respect, his acting out, his inability to focus - or I can show him respect. Before he has earned it. Even if it doesn't work every day, I know it's the right thing to do. Maybe in that way I can show him I care for him no matter how he acts on any given day.

Both of these students are teaching me what it really means to be a teacher, and when I think of these two, it hurts. And as much as I love words and reading, my first job is to love my students.


Anonymous said...

What a powerful reminder of what really matters no matter what our "job" is.

Chris Phillips said...

I was so that second kid. Keep sawing wood.

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