Courage to Learn

In the spirit of transparency, I’ve considered leaving the teaching profession many times this year. This year is hard. I’ve read a lot of teacher comments from groups online, and it’s a global struggle for educators, so I take heart that I’m not alone in this. I’m still doing my best at my job.

It’s hard for my students too, though. I’ve watched so many of them struggle with missing skills that didn’t take root in the chaos of the past two disruptive educational years. I’m pulling out all the stops I can to help them shore up and scaffold gaps, but it’s still hard to see what difference I’m making some days. I see these bright, resilient, courageous students struggling with fatigue, confusion, and anxiety. I want to help; I try to help.

This week had me floundering for ways to get students engaged, and it had me discouraged when I spent two weeks prepping students for a test and still had three emails the day before asking when the test was and what would be on it. I’ll admit, I was caught off guard by an encouragement from one of these precious students just before the test Friday. One student had emailed earlier in the week asking to have lunch with me. I had no idea what to expect from this quiet student who’d told me the first week of school that her favorite movie is Rambo but rarely speaks up in class. I’ve taught long enough to know quiet students are not equivalent to disengaged, but I also have not had opportunity to build individual rapport with this particular student.

I was completely blindsided when she sat down on Friday and excitedly spouted, “I think you’re so cool, and so many people have told me how cool you are, and I just wanted to talk to you more, and I think I want to be a teacher because I want to help people.”

The important connected thoughts there were that she came to me to know more about how to become a teacher because she sees evidence that I help people. Some days, I can’t see the evidence, and I was particularly moved by the reminder. I also had an alumni from several years ago stop by my house for tea after school to reiterate that same sentiment. I don’t do this job for the accolades, but I do continue to do it because I want to help people. I’m not perfect at it, but there are some people who I have helped along the way.

There are also plenty of people who have helped me along the way. I couldn’t do what I do without the prayer support of those who love me and check in with me. I also work intentionally to develop my skills as an educator so that I can help as many students as possible. I was reading a professional development article while my students took their test Friday afternoon, and it referenced a book called The Courage to Teach. I did a quick library search and found BFA had a copy in the stacks. I checked it out immediately, and I’m half way through already.

Palmer’s premise is that the educational profession needs to walk a series of paradoxes as we enter the classroom to present content objectively to students we care for as individual subjective humans. I was reinvigorated by the first few chapters, and I know I can keep growing as a teacher so that I can help more students. Students who sit quietly in class absorbing what’s going on who learn how to help others themselves.

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