Before I lay me down to sleep this evening, I am going to say a prayer of gratitude for all the crappy teachers I’ve had and known. That’s right — for the really stinky ones. Why? Because, if you pay attention, you can learn as much from a poor teacher as you can from a strong one… at least in a few very specific ways.
Through being treated like a just another factory widget by some of my cynical, jaded, been at this job way-too-long type of teachers back when I was in middle and high school, I’ve learned how important it is for me to make sure that I make all my students feel welcomed into my class, respected and of individual value. As a current teacher I actively try to view my students as singular, unique people with likes and dislikes, aptitudes and challenges, different histories, different previous experiences and different emotional teenage baggage. By experiencing (hurtfully) the stuff that far too many teachers never offered to me, well… it makes me sensitive to how important this can really be to a child.
Through listening to to teachers in the lunchroom complain, moan, gripe and whine I’ve learned that if I want something positive done, I have got to be the first to pick up a shovel, roll up my shirt sleeves and start to break ground — otherwise, I am just another dissatisfied bitch-er bemoaning all that is wrong without putting in the sweat, initiative and work it takes to be a force for the change I want to see.
By seeing the teachers that ridicule and belittle our students as young people who are never going to be squat in this world, I see why it is so important for me to remain compassionate towards our “lowest achieving” kids. After all, who needs more help than the kids who need the most help? (Why we demonize these kids instead of embrace them is beyond me… yet, face it, we do.)
By seeing how some teachers refuse to budge in terms of their grading policy, I have learned to remain open to the reasons why my students may need more time, assistance and guidance — especially when I make the extra effort to find out what’s going on at home in their lives. When you teach in a community of high poverty, you realize that darker things go on in this world than anything I myself ever had to face when I was a student… and to not recognize the challenges for a kid to do well in school when they have issues like alcoholism, drug abuse, violence, sexual abuse issues and so on happening after they exit campus to deal with… well, remaining a humanist about other human beings strikes me as being more important than being a stickler about assignment deadlines.
By seeing how peers being rude to other peers on campus demoralizes all of us, I make an effort to show common niceness to others. (Even the idiots I can’t friggin’ stand! LOL!)
Of course, there’s more. But the bigger point is, by seeing that which I loathe, I get to see that which I can embody — at the opposite end of the spectrum.
All it takes is me paying attention to what I can learn when the people who are charged with the teaching fall woefully short of what I would hope that they would be.
So thank goodness for the duds… they are a professional development session all unto themselves.