What do I know about teaching? I know it’s hard, if you really care and really want to do your best every day, every hour to reach students. I know I should work smarter than harder and I do, in some ways, better than I used to anyway.
I know that it means so much for the students to know that you really want the best for them. I think I have students who work harder for me because of this. I don’t know for sure because I don’t see them in other classes.
I know that it’s hard to balance academics with life. I wonder if my empathy gets in the way of their education. I want to treat them like adults, or as much as I can anyway. So I let them go to the nurse if they have a headache and the bathroom and the water fountain. I take late work because I want them to do it. I can deal with the annoyance of late assignments since it means they are doing something rather than nothing. I wonder if I didn’t take late assignments if they would pull up their bootstraps and get it in on time. Am I shooting myself in the foot?
I know that they appreciate that I like teens and that I care about my job. I know that I have fewer discipline problems because of it. I think they are affected when I say things like, “I’m just trying to do my job right now. Can you respect that?”
In the 174 forty-eight minute classes I have with them, I want to help them understand a little more about who they are so they can choose a fulfilling life instead of an empty one when those important choices come up in the next few years. I want to help them be better writers in all ways: fluency, creativity, analyzation, and organization. I want them to learn to think critically and be able to pull apart an argument, an article, a commercial and see what’s inside, what makes it tick. I want to give them a vision of a future they are in charge of, to a point. They have to deal with restraints of time and money as we all do but they can travel or go to college far away if they want it bad enough.
I know on many days I feel like a failure, like I didn’t do enough or plan well enough or research enough but life goes on. Some days are good. I see progress in someone. I do my best for them and still try to have a semblance of a life outside of school. The family needs attention, some food will be consumed then there will be dishes to deal with and homework to ask about, some exercise, reading, or writing might take place and there must be some time in there to just sit on the couch and decompress. Another 48-minute chance comes up tomorrow so I go on and I pray and I hope and I try again.
Kim Blevins is a teacher-consultant with the Greater Kansas City Writing Project.
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