Saturday, January 27, 2007

Teach

NEA Today magazine ran a special about teacher blogs.

This is sort of a teacher blog except for the fact that I rarely talk about my teaching.

Which is strange because it is really a huge part of my life. When I come home, stopping thinking about school is my first item of business. Sometimes I have a hard time with it.

I teach ESL. The majority of my students speak either Russian or Ukrainian or Spanish.

I teach Health. Am I a health major? No, but I am a bit of a post graduate student of paying attention to the decisions related to health that I make. I used to never think about this and wonder why anyone would. This is where my students are now, so I feel some level of success at having reached them because so many respond positively to the class.

Because I have taught this subject for five years now I have actually had the chance to improve the curriculum and come to know what is reasonable to expect, what will bore them to tears, what they will do, what they will do if I teach it right, and of course, what they won't do because either they aren't capable of it, or they just don't see the point, or they flat out don't get it. I can't say I have had as much success in my reading class, though it does get better and better.

This semester I have a student named Steven. He is the brother of another kid I had who was a sparkling standout. So, it is hard for me to not feel some level of comprehension of Steven and his family, I know his dad, his mom, his uncle and two of his brothers. They are sincere, smart, fun and funny as a family.

Steven however, though he is 18 and should probably have graduated last year, has really low written and speaking skills in English and often just sits more than he gets down to work. This finals I think was hard on him, though he won't say it. I can tell when he writes the vocabulary sentences, they all revolve around other people's opinions of his intelligence and work ethic and his refuting of their judgement of him as lazy or not very smart.

I know Steven is smart. I know he is a good person. And because I know his whole family, I actually think about what I could say to him to drive home the fact that his future is at stake here. Something inside me is seeking these perfect golden words that will change his life. If only, I think.

And another, larger part of me knows that like how I was at that age, Steven has his own choices to make. But I remember wishing that someone could have spoken to my heart to keep me from making the wrong choices. But who would that have been?

I think, in my soliloquoy (you spell it, then) to Steven I would tell him this, and pretend I had his ear.

I know you feel like you cannot see how these little things we do all day long connect to the bigger picture that is your future. But your future, which only you will live, depends on seeing that connection. It depends on it because your education, your english, will direct what kind of work you have. What kind of work you have will be how much money you have each month. To survive, to put food down for a girl you love, or whether she will support you. Whether or not you will be able to afford that winter coat for the child you will have some day. What food you eat, where you live, whether you can afford to have vacations, or even enjoy your work...all that will depend on your job. And your job will depend on your education, and that will depend on what you do now, every hour you spend in these doors.

I know that high school isn't for everyone. Maybe you should go take some classes at the community college and see how that works for you. Will you understand enough? You're smart, will you pick it up over time? Possibly. But if you aren't working here, what will motivate your passion enough to work? If this isn't the place for you, then go find where it is that you feel is a useful way to spend your time.
Basically I want to say poop or get off the pot. I feel for Steven, I have been in his shoes. I think alot of young men are where he is. Making a connection between learning cancer vocabulary and why it is important enough to actually work on it, well that might as well be the Grand Canyon.

In the end, I lose no sleep over Steven. I have had enough Stevens, I know it is his life, and I don't need to be a savior. I guess sometimes I just challenge myself with a mind game of "what could I say to get them to change." It is a futile game, but alas. It makes me a better listener, actually, if you can believe it.

Finals over, in my fifth year I am so glad because I stress about 5% what I used to in my first year. I was perpetually in fear of being canned then. Not that I did anything wrong, but because I was so happy with my job I just figured that it would only stand to reason I would get canned. So much for my optimism, there. The longer I teach the more I know where I will be lenient and where I won't budge. The less I worry about everything because I know that every day is a new chance to forget stupid little mistakes, or really stupid big ones.

I recently had a former student come back and interview me for a final project. The interview went horribly. I was in the middle of administering test makeups, and there was a club meeting also happening in my room at the time. Plus I had to prepare for the next class, and it was lunch and I was starving. Her questions were very, very good. My answers were mostly me rambling thinking about too many things at once and trying to find something that wouldn't get me in trouble and still rang a little true. I wished I could have seen the questions beforehand, I respect the girl and her family alot, I have had two of her brothers as well in my class. Good people. I was disappointed in the quality of the interview. I had no pearls.

So teaching. I suppose it isn't for everyone, but I do love it. I guess my greatest aspiration would be to have an answer to all of those really hard situations...I know there is alot that is up to the students and how they feel about the teacher. So I guess it is being the teacher that they won't mess with, not out of fear, but out of respect.

3 comments:

happychyck said...

Thanks for stopping by about the NEA thing. I actually am a member, too, so I have copy. I didn't discover it from the magazine but from all of you. I can't imagine my reaction had I actually read myself. Serves me right for never checking my mailbox!

My blog is and isn't a teacher blog. I would like to talk about more academic things, but mostly I just end up writing about things that pop into my head. It's a LIFE blog. Like everyone doesn't have one, aye? I am much like you in trying to let my teacher life go when I come home. Sometimes it isn't easily done. I'm not as in-touch with my students as I was when I first started teaching. Now, I am not so intense, not so insecure, not so patient with teen angst, AND I have a life of my own. That life of my own takes up a lot of time. I know I touch a few students here and there, but mostly I just want to be a consistent teacher--good or bad. Mostly good, I hope. I know you can relate...

Mrs. T said...

You've both said this so well.
The funny thing is that I never set out to be a teacher and I even quit a few years ago. And now I love my job. I don't love everything about it, but I do love it. I've learned how not to be stressed by every little thing and to let my Stevens go, as well.

sarah said...

I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.

Sarah

http://www.thetreadmillguide.com