|Credit: Brooke at Grace and Light *|
Teaching is extraordinary. By that I mean, that it produces some of the most interesting relationships, particularly the teacher-student kind. This type of relationship is a paradox, which in a sense is a phenomenon.
In these past few weeks, I have become keenly aware of the risks of teaching. As teachers, we learn students' strengths and weaknesses, their preferred learning styles, how to promote their positive behavior and how to deal with their negativity (sometimes it is an on-going challenge), and so much more. The journey begins when teachers meet students for the first time, whether it is on the First Day of School or a rainy Tuesday. Then after days and hours of being together, that time is over and goodbyes and 'see you laters' must happen.
The in-between stuff that is when the contradiction takes place and can lead to tough endings. I have found, that I can get so caught up in wanting a child to succeed that I start speaking a different language. I start talking with the student as though I am a part of their work and success. I start saying "when we.... then we.... we will... maybe we will... we can...." and so on. Sometimes I don't verbalize the message of we but it becomes apparent the more I am passionate about the child jumping over their hurdles. Kind of like at a football game when the crowd is cheering together, there are times when the game gets so intense it feels like WE are with the players-- the we are on that field too.
But really, who is the one that will win the game?
It's the boys in the uniforms on the field, the runners on the race track, the swimmers in the pool, the quilt artist in a county fair...
In school and everywhere else, it is the child who is responsible for their success. That doesn't mean there won't be failures and glitches but when it comes down to 'winning'-- they are the ones that own it all.
I am the supporter. My place is on the sidelines, some days as a coach others as just a facilitator so they have someone there while they practice.
I don't see this big picture all of the time when I am helping students. As a matter of fact, on Thursday night when I was tutoring a very difficult student (one of those highly resistant middle schoolers that has no structure at home) I could barely stop myself from saying we. She created quite a power struggle and the more tense it got, the more I started saying "and we could fix this part of your essay to sound kind of like this...." I did correct myself several times and tried to say "I think you might want to do this...." or "I think your ideas are great here..." but boy I just couldn't help it. We. we. we.
Why couldn't I stop it?!! Because I cared so much and I still do. This student is writing a wonderful essay about powerful women in history and with some finishing touches, it could be quite thought provoking piece of writing. That night she lacked in interest and dedication to her topic and that caused me to fill in that empty hole. I cared because I wanted her to care.
But it is not about we. I am the supporter and she is the game player.
The language of we can be ever so tricky, especially when it is time to separate. For my reading practicum, I had to do a case study on a struggling student. I spent lots of time working with this student for about three weeks. I was with him so much I actually felt like an aide. I didn't necessarily use the 'we' verbal messages but after all of our work together-- sounding out letters, practicing listening skills, writing letters, saying the name of letters, participating in the ERI (Early Reading Intervention) group in the afternoon, reading books together... we sort of became a we. On my last day, I was surprised in some ways that I got so emotional. I didn't realize how close we had become over that those weeks. I wanted him to succeed and he knew that I was there to help him along. I will really miss that kiddo.
It's no easy thing, this relationship between a teacher and a student. I think the hardest part is accepting the fact that WE are not we but merely individuals that are going through experiences together. From start to finish, I am on my own and so are you. Not to sound terribly sappy but what is shared, for always, are the memories whether they be good, bad or mixed.
I just hope that for every student I form a bond with, they will remember I cared about their well being and want nothing but the best for them. As each of us puts one foot in front of the other, on separate ways, it is comforting to know that nothing can take away what happened in those hours and moments that were spent together.
*her heart garland tutorial is at this link... something I want to try!