This is what being a teacher looks like?

So it’s week 2 of the New Blogger Initiation – I was having trouble getting inspired, until I read ngildersleeve’s post Things I Wish I Hadn’t Learned the Hard Way.    I really related to the post, and it got me thinking about my own experiences learning not just to teach science (and now math), but learning to teach kids – whole kids.

Consequently, here I am, responding to Sam’s third prompt:

3) What do you wish had been part of your teacher training or mentoring? (All new teachers should learn ___ before entering the classroom.)
My first full time teaching job was at a small, community-focused boarding school, and I was a part-time dorm parent, so the social/emotional stuff was a huge part of my job, and my daily life.  But even now, teaching middle schooler’s who go home to their parents at 3:30, so much of it is about helping them learn to live and interact in a world full of other people.
The other day, another teacher and I were talking and she was saying how sometimes her friends accuse her of treating them like a kid when they’re having a disagreement.  “No!”  She says in her own defense, “It’s just that I’m so used to helping kids work out their problems in productive ways, it’s how I do it to!  I tell you what’s wrong, I ask for what I need, and I’m open to hearing what you need from me…”
I totally knew what she meant.  All this time and energy spent helping my students learn to work well with others has changed the way I relate to people as well.  And when it doesn’t work quite the way I expect – let’s face it, most adults aren’t used to working things out this way – I’m both surprised and disappointed (But I was so clear!  I used I statements!).

In many ways though, as hard as it can be to wade through the drama to the heart of the matter, it’s one of the very best parts of my job.  It’s an honor to be someone kids trust, who they come to with their confusion and sadness and insecurity, who can offer them reassurance, perspective, and the occasional bit of advice.  But it’s scary, too – a huge responsibility, and one that there’s really no way to prepare for (other than life experience – finally, my torturous 7th grade year is worth something!).  I suppose it would have been helpful though, if someone had said to me what I know say to others (especially my students) – Middle school is about learning content, sure, but it’s also a lot (mostly?!) about learning how to be a human who has to interact with other humans, and that’s a really hard thing to do!  And really, that’s why I’m here, and all these other great adults are here, to help these kids learn how to do it.  Because without the adults who helped me survive adolescence… who would I have grown up to be?

2 thoughts on “This is what being a teacher looks like?

  1. Great post! I often felt like I needed a counseling degree to accompany my teaching degree. Who knew kids would come to school with so many problems? And that those problems would lead to even more problems once they were at school? I did my best, but at times I felt woefully unprepared to help some of my students.

    Eventually I changed my way of thinking away from trying to “help” them per se. I’m not a counselor, and even if I was, I can’t do that while surrounded by so many children at once. That would be like a doctor trying to treat 20+ patients all at the same time. It’s not possible. Instead I focused like you did on relationship building. Even if I couldn’t help them solve their problems, I was at least an ear who would listen. I would show my support for them as individuals and help make them as successful as possible in our classroom setting.

    • Thanks! And thanks for the reminder that the best thing we can do is listen, and be supportive, rather than try to “fix” it for them.

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