Teaching is hard.
When I first started teaching, ten years ago, I thought the most important part was ‘what’ I taught – the content. It didn’t take long to realise that was not the case. After hearing so many heartbreaking stories of what some students lives were like, I realised it wasn’t ‘what’ I taught but ‘who’ and ‘how’. I believe content is important. Content gives you knowledge on topics and that is carried forward into different aspects of life. However, for some students, school is not about content. School is a safe place, a calm place, an escape from home life, a place where they can breathe.
As a high school teacher, students tend to ask me the same question “Why do I have to learn this?”. I reply “Stop thinking about it as ‘what’ you are learning but ‘how’ you are learning it”. Not every student learns in the same way or at the same rate. I love working with students to help them figure out their own unique rhythm in the classroom. I strive to help them recognize that just because they learn, understand and remember things differently that it doesn’t make them any less likely to succeed and it certainly does not make them any less of a human being.
I feel that some of the most important ‘lessons’ I have taught has been when I am being my true authentic self. If I am having a bad day – I am honest about it. If I don’t know the answer to a question – I tell them I don’t know. If I make a mistake – I own it, I apologize for it and I correct it the best I can. As teachers we are expected to have all the answers and be bright and happy all the time. It is not reality and it is not showing the students that it is okay to not be okay. By bringing my human self into the classroom, it allows the students to do the same. It teaches them they don’t need to pretend or hide.
Students aren’t necessarily going to remember the content you taught them. They are, however, going to remember how you taught them. How you helped them understand, how you created a safe environment, how you showed them your real and imperfect self and how that made them feel okay with their real and imperfect selves. They will remember how you caused them to feel like somebody, how you made them realize they are worth it and how you made them realize they can achieve.
My wholehearted reason for teaching is simply to teach – in whatever capacity the students need in order to learn and be successful at all levels.
My passion within teaching is to create an environment where students feel safe enough to recognize, build and maintain a strong sense of self. To build resilience and practice acceptance. To learn the life skills that can carry over into adulthood and allow them to live instead of just exist.
Teaching is hard.
Teaching is absolutely worth it.