Saturday, November 10, 2012

I Make a Difference

Guest Blogger: Lindsay Kennedy, PHS English/Language Arts teacher
Contact Info.
He says the problem with teachers is
What’s a kid going to learn
from someone who decided his best option in life
was to become a teacher?

Being a young teacher with fewer than five years of experience, I am often asked the age-old question “Why do you teach?”  It’s a thought provoking question. Why did I put myself through five years of college and chalk up twenty-six thousand dollars worth of debt? I think part of me thought I would never be where I am today. Asking an eighteen-year-old to decide what she is going to do for the rest of her life is a huge decision, and these decisions rarely ever play out the way anyone hopes they will. I guess I got lucky, which is why I am here deciding to answer the question, “Why do I teach.”
Trained to be a team player in high school
Truthfully, I ask myself this question every day, rhetorically, of course. For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to be a teacher. At first, it was because in my six-year-old mind I loved the idea of being the “boss.” Nothing sounded better than forcing my imaginary students, or real students depending on who I could convince to be yelled at, to do fake homework and fussing at them for refusing to participate. 
As I progressed thru middle school and high school, the fact that I actually LIKED to learn influenced my decision to pursue teaching in college, along with having some pretty amazing teachers along the way. I think the thing that is the most appealing about teaching now is I am still learning. Yes, I attend workshops where we are taught about which methods work best in certain classrooms. I read through articles where research shows method X is most helpful in situation Y with students 1, 2, and 3. I sit through lectures where I’m told that evaluations count for 50% of my total score, 35% comes from my students’ test scores, and 15% comes from different aspects of professionalism.

I make kids work harder than they ever thought they could.
I can make a C+ feel like a Congressional Medal of Honor
and an A-­‐ feel like a slap in the face.
How dare you waste my time
with anything less than your very best.

I make kids sit through 40 minutes of study hall
in absolute silence. No, you may not work in groups.
No, you may not ask a question.
Why won’t I let you go to the bathroom?
Because you’re bored.
However, learning doesn’t always have to do with facts found in textbooks or this week’s best research-based practice article. Every day we as teachers are given the opportunity to learn about our students. Situations always present opportunities to get to know students a little better every day. Without this, the chances drop of having a successful classroom. But, the effort has to be made in order for this learning to take place. I wouldn’t know that quiet girl in the second row who played the flute in the marching band without going to the game on Friday night. I also wouldn’t know my class clown scored a touchdown, or that over half my class enjoys standing on the bleachers to watch a basketball game. 
New team, but always a team player
I love being able to strike up a conversation with my students because we share common ground. Eventually, struggles at home, requests for extra help emerge from the students who have seen me as something more than just a classroom teacher. Just when the progress has begun, the semester ends and I start all over with a new class. Once again, I’m faced with my own new learning because I barely recognize any of the new names on my roster. When the new students start to pile into my room,  my anxiety begins to recede because I recognize faces. I know that kid from watching the band.  I saw that kid sing in the Christmas program.  Those kids were at a few of the basketball games. It doesn't take long to earn their respect and trust simply because they recognize me. They all seem to "know" me from our common ground.

And you don’t really have to go to the bathroom, do you?
I make parents tremble in fear when I call home:
Hi. This is Mr. Mali. I hope I haven’t called at a bad time,
I just wanted to talk to you about something your son said today.
To the biggest bully in the grade, he said,
“Leave the kid alone. I still cry sometimes, don’t you?
It’s no big deal.”
And that was noblest act of courage I have ever seen.
I make parents see their children for who they are
and what they can be. 

This is learning at its best every day.  It’s simply taking the time to learn about the students who belong to me. It makes for a much better classroom atmosphere, better lessons, fewer discipline referrals, and lifetime connections. It allows a kid to know his teacher cares about him.
My Graduation card to my all of Seniors
 All in all, this is why I teach. I do it for the kids, the things they can teach me about other kids, life lessons, and as selfish as this sounds, I do it for what they can teach me about myself. Education isn’t life-long learning about core subjects. It’s life-long learning about life. All of that other stuff just fills in the gaps.

Here, let me break it down for you, so you know what I say is true:
Teachers make a difference! Now what about you?
~Taylor Mali, "What Teachers Make" 

Poem excerpt from:
 Mali. Taylor. “What Teachers Make.” What Learning Leaves. Newtown, CT: Hanover Press, 2002. Print. (ISBN: 1-­‐887012-­‐17-­‐6)

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